December 16, 1997

Pulling Apart:
A State-by-State Analysis of Income Trends

Alabama Hawaii Michigan North Carolina Utah
Alaska Idaho Minnesota North Dakota Vermont
Arizona Illinois Mississippi Ohio Virginia
Arkansas Indiana Missouri Oklahoma Washington
California Iowa Montana Oregon West Virginia
Colorado Kansas Nebraska Pennsylvania Wisconsin
Connecticut Kentucky Nevada Rhode Island Wyoming
Delaware Louisiana New Hampshire South Carolina  
Dist of Columbia Maine New Jersey South Dakota  
Florida Maryland New Mexico Tennessee  
Georgia Massachusetts New York Texas  


Inequality has been increasing in the United States for nearly two decades. This can be observed by ranking all United States families with children according to their income level, dividing them into five groups (or fifths) of equal size, and calculating the average income of each fifth of families. This analysis shows by the mid-1990s:


The Long-Term Trend

Since the late 1970s, income inequality has increased in the United States. The long-term economic growth of the past two decades was not shared evenly among the poor, the rich, and the middle class. Instead, the top fifth of families with children fared substantially better than other income groups.

The gap between the top fifth of families and the bottom fifth of families grew by 65 percent since the 1970s.


The Recent Trend

Over the past decade, income has increased in the United States. While the average incomes of poor and middle class families with children have stayed about the same or decreased since the mid-1980s, the average income of the richest fifth of families has increased.

The gap between the top fifth of families and the bottom fifth of families increased between the mid-1980s and the mid-1990s. The gap between the rich and the middle class also increased.