The United States has some of the highest levels of income and wealth inequality in the world. U.S. Federal Reserve data shows that the wealthiest 10% of Americans control $93.8 trillion, more than double the $40.3 trillion in the hands of the remaining 90% of Americans.
The income and wealth divide only appears to be growing wider. A January 2020 report published by the Pew Research Center found that over the last four decades, income growth for the top 5% of families by earnings has far outpaced income growth for families in lower income strata.
While in a nation as large as the U.S. high levels of income inequality may be expected, there are small pockets of the country in which extreme wealth and extreme poverty exist side by side. Even at the town level, income inequality can be far more pronounced than it is on average nationwide.
Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 50 U.S. towns with the widest income gaps. Towns are ranked by their Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality based on the distribution of income across a population on a 0 to 1 scale — 0 representing perfect equality and 1 representing the highest possible level of inequality. For the purposes of this story, towns are defined as any place covered by the census with populations between 1,000 and 25,000.
Among the places on this list, Gini scores are as high as 0.771 — well above the national Gini coefficient of 0.482. These towns are largely concentrated in Southern states, including six in Florida and five in Georgia.
Causes behind rising inequality are complex and varied. A report published by the National Bureau of Economic Research ties the rising disparity to a range of economic factors, including globalization, technological advancement, a stagnant minimum wage, and the decline of labor unions.