The Bulletin

Income inequality jumps in Virginia, household income drops

By: - September 26, 2019 7:49 pm

(Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

Virginia is one of nine states that saw income inequality jump last year, according to a report released today by the U.S. Census Bureau that showed the nationwide disparity between rich and poor hit its highest level in decades.

That’s despite a growing economy and low unemployment, notes NPR:

The most troubling thing about the new report, says William M. Rodgers III, a professor of public policy and chief economist at the Heldrich Center at Rutgers University, is that it “clearly illustrates the inability of the current economic expansion, the longest on record, to lessen inequality.”

When asked why the rising economic tide has raised some boats more than others, Rodgers lists several factors, including the decline of organized labor and competition for jobs from abroad. He also cites tax policies that favor businesses and higher-income families.

The Census Bureau tracks income inequality using the Gini index, which, according to the Bureau “summarizes the dispersion of income across the entire income distribution. The Gini coefficient ranges from 0, indicating perfect equality (where everyone receives an equal share), to 1, perfect inequality (where only one recipient or group of recipients receives all the income).”

The Washington Post reports the indicator has been rising for decades: “When the Census Bureau began studying income inequality in 1967, the Gini index was 0.397. In 2018, it climbed to 0.485. By comparison, no European nation had a score greater than 0.38 last year.”

Virginia clocked in at .475 this year, up from .467 in 2017.

The eight other states that saw increases are Alabama, Arkansas, California, Kansas, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Texas.

The same Census report shows median household income in Virginia dropped 1 percent, from $73,155 to $72,577, while the country overall saw a modest increase.

That’s still above the national median, $61,937.

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Ned Oliver
Ned Oliver

Ned, a Lexington native, has been a fulltime journalist since 2008, beginning at The News-Gazette in Lexington, and including stints at the Berkshire Eagle, in Berkshire County, Mass., and the Times-Dispatch and Style Weekly in Richmond. He is a graduate of Bard College at Simon’s Rock, in Great Barrington, Mass. He was named Virginia's outstanding journalist for 2020 by the Virginia Press Association. Contact him at [email protected]