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Wealth & Income Gap Growing Quickly

Income Inequality in West Virginia. Graph from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Income Inequality in West Virginia. Graph from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
November 19, 2012

YANKTON, S.D. - A new study based on Census figures shows the gap between the rich and poor continues to grow quickly. Analysts say it's becoming a serious issue for the economy as a whole.

Elizabeth McNichol, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, says that, by one measure, the distance between the state's rich and poor households has nearly doubled in thirty years.

"Incomes in South Dakota, at the bottom end, dropped by 12.5 percent, twice as bad as the decline on average in the U.S., which was a 6 percent drop."

McNichol says while the those at the bottom dropped, those at the top end saw a rapid rise in income.

"The average incomes of the richest fifth, the richest households, grew by 26 percent."

McNichol says inequality is bad because it makes the economy less flexible. She says people who work hard and play by the rules should be rewarded, and that South Dakota's numbers could actually be worse than indicated in the study, which was based on earlier statistics.

"So, this is before the impact of the recession."

The report says only Mississippi had a bigger income gap.

Economists stress that rising inequality is not inevitable, that the gap between rich and poor actually fell between World War II and 1970, and it also fell for a brief period during the economic growth of the late '90s. They say part of that was due to Clinton-era tax policies and a rise in the minimum wage.

The report is at www.cbpp.org

Jerry Oster, Public News Service - SD