Income inequality is an increasing problem in the United States and has been for several decades now. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), back in the mid-1970s, income inequality reached its lowest point after incomes grew rapidly over the years from the late 1940s to the 1970s. Also, incomes increased at about the same rate for different households all along the income ladder. Then, beginning in the 1970s, economic growth slowed, as dramatically demonstrated by the 16-month recession from 1973-1975, the longest recession at the time since the Great Depression. Ever since then, income inequality has been on an inexorable rise.
Income Inequality in the U.S. Today
Unfortunately, the trend is continuing and doing so at a steady pace year over year. The Gini index or Gini coefficient is a measure of income inequality in a specific geography, which could be as large as the U.S. overall or down to the level of a ZIP code. The scale of the Gini index goes from zero to one, with zero representing total income equality and one representing total inequality. Thus, the higher it goes, the greater the extent of income inequality.
The Gini index or Gini coefficient is a measure of income inequality in a specific geography, which could be as large as the U.S. overall or down to the level of a ZIP code. The scale of the Gini index goes from zero to one, with zero representing total income equality and one representing total inequality. Thus, the higher it goes, the greater the extent of income inequality.
According to the latest released Census data, the 2018 American Community Survey five-year estimates, the Gini index of income inequality rose to 0.4822, up from 0.4815 is 2017. Here’s the progression of the Gini coefficient since 2010:
- 2010 Gini index: 0.4670
- 2011 Gini index: 0.4695
- 2012 Gini index: 0.4712
- 2013 Gini index: 0.4735
- 2014 Gini index: 0.4760
- 2015 Gini index: 0.4787
- 2016 Gini index: 0.4804
- 2017 Gini index: 0.4815
- 2018 Gini index: 0.4822
Regions With the Worst Income Inequality in America
Using data from the Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey, we analyzed every U.S. city with a population of over 1,000 in terms of their Gini index and the mean incomes for each quintile of households. That is, the mean income for the lowest earning quintile of households (the bottom 20%), the second quintile (20%-40%), the third quintile (40%-60%), the fourth quintile (60%-80%), the fifth quintile (the top 20%) and the mean income of the top-five percent of households.
Based on these criteria, the region with the worst income inequality is by far the U.S. South, as designated by the Census Bureau’s geographic categorization for the country. Out of the 50 cities with the worst income inequality, 29 of them are located in the South.
U.S. Cities With the Greatest Income Inequality
Below is table detailing the top-50 cities with the worst income inequality in the U.S. Included are the latest population figures, Gini index and the mean incomes for each quintile of households.
50 Major Cities With the Worst Income Inequality
Since the cities with the worst income inequality tend to be fairly small, we also generated a list of the top-50 cities with populations of over 100,000 with the great income inequality. While these major cities have Gini coefficients that are lower than the list of small cities, their income inequality is nonetheless worse than the country’s overall rate.
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