Special Report

States With the Widest Gap Between Rich and Poor

10. Georgia
> Gini coefficient:
> Median household income: $49,321 (17th lowest)
> Households earning $200,000+: 4.4% (20th highest)
> Poverty rate: 18.3% (7th highest)

Georgia has the 10th worst income equality. While many wealthier Americans do not rely exclusively on wages for earning income, the vast majority of American workers do, and a high unemployment rate contributes to lower incomes overall. At 7.2%, Georgia’s unemployment rate is the sixth highest nationwide.

According to researchers at nonprofit research organization the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, wages for the average worker in Georgia have slid 12% from 2009 — the Institute advocates for raising the minimum wage to $10.10 over three years. Meanwhile, 18.3% of Georgians live in poverty, and 15.7% of households rely on food stamps, each some of the highest percentages in the country.

ALSO READ: America’s Richest (and Poorest) States

9. Tennessee
> Gini coefficient:
> Median household income: $44,361 (6th lowest)
> Households earning $200,000+: 3.2% (15th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 18.3% (7th highest)

Tennessee is the poorest among the 10 top states for income inequality. A typical household earns $44,361 annually, the sixth lowest nationwide. No state has a higher proportion of its employed population paid at or below the minimum wage than Tennessee, where 6.8% of workers receive such low wages. Tennessee has above-average shares of its employed population working in retail trade, transportation, warehousing, and utilities occupations, which are generally low paying. According to The Tennessean, a newspaper produced by the publisher Gannett, the plight of low-income Tennesseans is particularly acute for low-wage workers in Nashville, which is undergoing a construction boom and a surging hospitality sector. Since the summer, Nashville construction workers have staged several strikes over long hours, low wages, and unsafe working conditions. At the same time, the wealthiest 5% of state residents earn 23.3% of all income earned in Tennessee, the fourth highest income takes among the top 5% nationwide.

8. Texas
> Gini coefficient:
> Median household income: $53,035 (23rd highest)
> Households earning $200,000+: 5.5% (16th highest)
> Poverty rate: 17.2% (12th highest)

While a number of the states with the widest income gaps are, as a whole, quite wealthy, the median annual household income in Texas is $53,354, in line with the national figure of $53,657. The state also has one of the higher poverty rates in the nation, at 17.2%. Nearly 6.0% of hourly workers in Texas are paid at or below the minimum wage, the seventh highest such share in the nation. Whether a higher minimum wage would lead to economic prosperity is debated among researchers, but the state is unlikely to raise the minimum wage in any case. This past summer, the Texas House of Representatives rejected by a large margin a proposal to let state residents vote on whether the minimum wage should be increased to $10.10.

Unlike most states with poor income distribution, the unemployment rate of 5.1% in Texas is relatively low, in contrast with the national jobless rate of 6.2%.

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