In a capitalist economy, like that of the United States, some level of income inequality is to be expected. In recent years, however, the increasing consolidation of wealth in the hands of a few has gone beyond what many Americans deem to be justified or morally acceptable.
According to a recent report published by the New York-based financial firm JPMorgan Chase, the wealthiest 10% of American households control nearly 75% of household net worth. While no single factor is causing the growth in income inequality, trends like stagnant middle class wages and skyrocketing executive compensation certainly contribute. There are currently over a dozen major publicly traded companies where CEOs make 1,000 more than their typical employee.
While statistics like these help illustrate the problems associated with income inequality, for many Americans the phenomenon is largely conceptual as housing market prices and other forces tend to divide cities and neighborhoods by socioeconomic status. There are parts of the country, however, where the rich and poor live side by side. In these places, income inequality is a palpable and defining feature of daily life.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed the Gini coefficient — a standard measure for the distribution of wealth in an area — for over 3,000 U.S. counties and county equivalents to identify the 25 counties with the widest income gaps.
The counties and county equivalents on this list are concentrated in the South — but also dot the Northeast and western United States. They include both urban and rural counties, and more often than not, income inequality is driven largely by a concentration of poor residents (all but two counties on this list have a higher poverty than the 14.6% national poverty rate) rather than a concentration of extremely wealthy households. Still, many of these same counties fall within the limits of the 25 richest cities in America.