The States with the Widest Gap Between Rich and Poor

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5. Florida
> Gini Coefficient: 0.474
> Median Income: $44,409 (15th lowest)
> Households Earning $200,000+: 4.1% (20th highest)
> Population Living Below Poverty Line: 14.9% (16th highest)

With an unemployment rate of 11.3% in 2010, Florida has had trouble creating the jobs necessary to eliminate its sizable income gap. Though 8.1% of Florida households earn at least $150,000 a year, 12.4% of the state population remain on food stamps. Many Floridians live in extreme poverty, as Florida has the third-largest number of households — in excess of a quarter million — earning less than $10,000 a year. Yet the opposite strata of the income distribution is also well occupied. Florida has the fifth-most households earning more than $200,000 annually.

4. Massachusetts
> Gini Coefficient: 0.475
> Median Income: $62,072 (6th highest)
> Households Earning $200,000+: 9.0% (4th highest)
> Population Living Below Poverty Line: 12% (13th lowest)

Massachusetts has the fourth-worst income inequality in the U.S. — worse than its 10th place in 2009. Median income has increased considerably from $59,373 in 2009, while the proportion of households earning more than $200,000 remained in fourth place. More households have slipped below the poverty line as the poverty rate has increased from 10.3% in 2009. Massachusetts’ top ranking in the country with the highest percentage of individuals over 25 holding a bachelor degree may exacerbate the income disparity.

3. Louisiana
> Gini Coefficient: 0.475
> Median Income: $42,505 (10th lowest)
> Households Earning $200,000+: 3.5% (tied for 23rd lowest)
> Population Living Below Poverty Line: 17.7% (5th highest)

Though Louisiana’s 2010 unemployment rate of 7.5% was lower than the national average and the lowest on this list, Louisianans face other constraints limiting upward mobility for the majority of households. A sizable portion of the population has not completed their high school education — only 82.5% of residents older than 25 had a high school diploma, while only 21.8% had a college degree. Additionally, though much of the population may be employed, 15.3% of residents received food stamps, and the state’s median income is lower than all but nine states.

2. Connecticut
> Gini Coefficient: 0.486
> Median Income: $64,032 (4th highest)
> Households Earning $200,000+: 10.3% (2nd highest)
> Population Living Below Poverty Line: 10% (5th lowest)

Connecticut has the second-worst income inequality in the U.S., with a 0.006 jump in inequality since 2009. Median income has increased from $63,851 in 2009. Slightly more households have fallen below the poverty line since 2009, but Connecticut maintains its position as one of the states with the smallest number of residents living in poverty. As much as 36% of Connecticut residents over 25-years old hold a bachelor’s degree, which is the fourth-highest rate in the country and helps explain why Connecticut enjoys some of the highest rankings of high-income households in the country.

1. New York
> Gini Coefficient: 0.499
> Median Income: $54,148 (14th highest)
> Households Earning $200,000+: 7.4% (6th highest)
> Population Living Below Poverty Line: 14.1% (21st highest)

New York is the state with the highest income inequality, though its Gini coefficient has decreased from its 2009 level of 0.502 to 0.499. Median income has increased significantly from $50,216 in 2009 to $54,148 in 2010. Also, the number of households earning $200,000 or more increased from 6.15% in 2009 to 7.4% in 2010. The population living below the poverty line has decreased slightly. Despite dropping from a Gini coefficient above 0.5, New York still has a long way to go.

-Michael B. Sauter

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