Between 1979 and 2007, the top 1% of earners in America enjoyed the lion's share of increased prosperity. In four states—Nevada, Wyoming, Michigan, and Alaska—the top 1% of earners actually took all of the income increase over that time. The other 99% in those states didn't see any rise in their earnings. Across 15 other states—including Florida, New York and California—the 1% got 84% of the expanding pie.
These are two headlines from a recent report by Economic Policy Institute that explores income inequality on a state-by-state level. Even those states where the 1% fared least well, they didn't do badly, the report shows. The bottom 10 states, including Virginia, Iowa, and Mississippi, saw between a quarter and a third of income go to their highest earners.
The Economic Policy Institute, which focuses on the fortunes of lower and middle class workers, has also produced this tool to break out its findings. Pull down your state, and see how it compares with the rest of the nation. You can also see historical trends going back to 1917.
What's perhaps most interesting is that the report finds that income inequality is a relatively recent phenomenon. Between 1928 and 1979, the share of income drawn by the top 1% actually fell in all states but one. During the recession (2007-2009), those shares declined, before they picked up again in 2009. Then the gaps widened once more. In New York and Connecticut in 2011, for example, average 1% incomes were 40 times the level of the rest of us.
We can argue over the causes, and what, if anything, should be done about inequality. But the numbers speak for themselves. Whether you look nationally or state-by-state, the last few decades have brought a qualitative shift in the distribution of income in America.