There are different ways to measure a country’s wealth. For example, the World Bank ranks the United States first in total gross domestic product but 13th in per capita GDP, below such other wealthy countries as Switzerland, Ireland, and the United Arab Emirates.
Nevertheless, the U.S. is undeniably an immensely rich country. It tops the list for the number of both high-net-worth individuals, generally defined as those whose financial assets exceed $1 million in value (5.9 million of them, according to global consultant Capgemini) and billionaires (724). (Here’s how much you need to make to be in the top 1% in every state.)
At the same time, the U.S. continues to suffer from the worst income inequality of any rich capitalist democracy. A 2017 analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis shows income inequality in America to be “very close to the average” of that in the African countries that were included in the study, and far below its peers with similar per-capita incomes, like Sweden.
To identify the states where the richest 5% earn half the income, 24/7 Wall St reviewed the aggregate share of income by quintile from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey for 2019. Also from the ACS, we reviewed poverty rates, median household income, and the Gini coefficients for 2019. The Gini coefficient (or index) is a statistical measure developed by early 20th-century economist Corrado Gini, representing income or wealth inequality within a given group. A Gini coefficient of 0 means that everyone has an equal income, while a coefficient of 1 indicates maximum inequality (i.e., one person or group controls all the wealth).
While extreme poverty can coexist in proximity to immense wealth anywhere in the United States, from rich “blue” northern cities to poor “red” southern counties, the concentration of income — a significant measure of income inequality — isn’t equally distributed among the states. Nor is there any obvious correlation between the political leanings of a state and its level of income inequality. For example, liberal California ranks much higher than conservative Alabama in income inequality — even though Alabama is among the poorest states in the country. (Compare America’s richest and poorest states.)
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