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.
In a nation as large as the U.S., varied levels of income inequality may be expected. While some parts have wide income gaps, other parts of the country are defined, at least in part, by their relative income equality.
Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 50 U.S. counties with the smallest income gaps. Counties and county equivalents 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.
Among the counties on this list, Gini scores range from 0.331 to 0.379 — well below the national Gini coefficient of 0.482. Half of the counties on this list are located in the Midwest. However, Virginia is home to six of the counties and county equivalents with the lowest levels of inequality, more than any other state.
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.