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Report: Wisconsin Income Inequality Near Depression Levels

A report shows income disparity in Wisconsin is huge, and the gap is widening. (DeanDrobot,
A report shows income disparity in Wisconsin is huge, and the gap is widening. (DeanDrobot,
June 27, 2016

MADISON, Wis. – Nearly $1 out of every $6 of income in Wisconsin wound up in the bank accounts of the top 1 percent of earners, according to the Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS) and the Wisconsin Budget Project.

A report put out by the two groups says this means the income disparity between the haves and have nots rivals the separation at the time of the Great Depression.

Laura Dresser, COWS’ associate director, says this poses a danger for a lot of Wisconsinites.

"Instead of having broadly shared prosperity, we have some who are gaining from the rewards of growth and many who are being left behind, and that makes making ends meet for those whose wages aren't going up much harder to do,” she states. “It stresses communities and the schools. It's hard for families."

The report says between 1979 and 2013, the average income of the top 1 percent in Wisconsin grew by almost 120 percent, while the average income of the remaining 99 percent grew by only 4 percent.

Dresser says the gap continues to grow, but it's not really a case of the rich getting richer, and the poor getting poorer.

"Well here what we find, I think, is that the poor are holding steady and the rich are getting a lot, a lot, a lot richer, and the closer you are to the very top of the income distribution the more that that's true," she states.

With the top 1 percent in Wisconsin having an average income of $888,000 a year, that translates to 19 times the average income of the remaining 99 percent.

According to Dresser, policy makers need to adopt a new way of thinking about things to improve the situation.

"Thinking about strong education systems, thinking about strong policies in support of people's access to good training and good jobs,” she stresses. “That takes some public infrastructure. It takes some willingness to raise the minimum wage. It takes some attention to the way people are paying taxes."

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI