2014-11-13

Where Does The 1% Live?

A map breaking down the income levels in each state shows where wealth congregates. Guess what? It’s where the deciders live.

If nothing else, the Occupy Wall Street protest have solidified the theme of income inequality in America. With their calls to vilify the 1%, the protests, whether you supported them or not, have gotten people thinking about where wealth in this country goes. A semi-rigorous study by Politico found that the number of news stories mentioning income inequality skyrocketed from less than 100 before the protests started to more than 500 by the end of October. And with a new infographic, Mint shows how income is broken down across the country.

The infographic first breaks the country down by median income. There are few surprises here. The Northeast and the West coast are much wealthier than the rest of the country, with the exception of Illinois, which, of course, has the benefit of having Chicago. New York State is surprisingly low, showing that a lot of poor people in a massive city can quickly lower the median income even when counter-balanced by a handful of the enormously wealthy.

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Where the graphic gets truly interesting (though harder to read) is where it breaks down—by state—the levels of income. In this view, you can see what percent of people make less than $25,000 a year, and what percent make more than $200,000. Amazing as it seems, keep in mind that making $200,000 a year doesn’t quite get you to the 1%. You have to earn a little more than $500,000 in a year for that. But still, seeing which states have the largest percentage of high earners and which have the highest percentage of low earners says a lot about where the money is going in this country.

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Where do people who make a lot of money tend to congregate? You might guess New York, or even California, and both of those states do have large percentages. But—in support of a lot of Occupy Wall Street’s arguments—money seems to coalesce around the capital, where the money can be put to the most use influencing policies to keep the money right where it is. Washington, D.C. and Virginia are two of the states with the largest percentages of the highest income group. (Also included is New Jersey, which beats out New York. If you’re so wealthy, the thinking seems to be, why live in the city?)

Does political power give people an opportunity to enrich themselves? Or do wealthy people position themselves near the seat of power to make sure they can exert influence? It’s probably a little of both. (It’s certainly not the nightlife. Zing!) Either way, Occupy Wall Street’s argument that money and politics are hopelessly intertwined is true on a larger level than just campaign finance or corporate political donations: There is a lot of money in D.C. Check out the full infographic below or go here.

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8 Comments

  • Gregory Green

    "New York State is surprisingly low, showing that a lot of poor people in a massive city can quickly lower the median income even when counter-balanced by a handful of the enormously wealthy."
    Also, half the population lives in 'priced like a Southern state' Upstate NY. Remember, only half of the state's population lives in NYC proper (I know some also live in expensive downstate counties, but I'm far too lazy to look any of that info up).

  • Kate

    Thank you Gregory Green, I was about to comment on the same thing.  What's remarkable is not the number of poor in NYC that offset the rich there, its that it takes the number of poor and average earners in NYC AND Upstate to offset the extreme amount of wealth congregated in
    NYC. 

  • Gcobalt

    Natural resource exports, proximity to foreign countries, wide open space for you to build ridiculous houses.  And of course the general population really doesn't care what you do as long as it doesn't affect them immediately.  Alaskan politics are nothing short of amazing

    Personally I love my home state.  That said, well, how should I put this... Palin is one of the nice ones.

    I know that sounds terrifying, but for us it's business as usual.  Always has been, no one pays attention to us because we're always a red state and hold fewer electoral college votes than Hawaii.

  • MITDGreenb

    It's an interesting set of charts.  However, it is not corrected for cost of living and therefore does not say anything about quality of life.  For instance, a $1M home near Raleigh or Atlanta is a lot bigger, and on a lot bigger property, than a $1M home in Silicon Valley or the Route 128 Corridor (Boston). I'd really like to see the map and chart reformulated to be about buying power, that is, adjusted for geographical cost of living.

  • Adelas

    That was the first thing that came to mind here, as well. If the cost of living is so high in L.A. that a 1br 1ba house there costs the same as a 6 br 4ba house in Texas, then even if your maid in L.A. is making as much as an exec in TX, she's still not able to get a house big enough for her family of five, and shouldn't really be considered "well-off."