When you think of “the 1%,” what do you picture?
Maybe you see Wall Street skyscrapers, McMansions, important people in suits cavorting in the cabins of private jets. People with buildings and sons named after them and yachts named after their nieces.
We think of an anonymous 1% as the ultra-rich, the beacon of growing income inequality in our country. We have stats to support that image:
- The top 1% of earners in the U.S. take home 20% of all the income.
- The average annual income of the 1% is $1.15 million, while the average for everyone else is $45,567.
- That means, on average, those in the top 1% each earn more than 25 times what the other 99% earn.
But a shift in perspective can conjure a very different image of the the 1%.
For starters, the average income of the top 1% is skewed by some seriously big earners. The threshold to enter the 1% in the U.S. is an annual income of $389,436.
That’s a hefty income, but it’s not quite the private-jet billionaire we imagine sucking up all the money.
How Much Does the 1% Earn in Your State?
When you break the data down to the state level, the picture gets even more interesting.
Both income and income equality are lopsided around the U.S.
The Northeast shows the greatest disparities. In New York state, the top 1% earns 45 times as much as the bottom 99%.
The Midwest is the least unequal region (a bit of a conditional compliment), including Nebraska’s top 1% bringing in 15 times its bottom 99%.
Alaska is the least unequal state in the nation, with its top 1% earning 13 times that of its bottom 99%. The average one-percenter in Alaska earns $883,117, while the state’s average Joe earns $63,226.
How Much Does the 1% Earn in Your County?
The average income of the top earners in each county across the U.S. paints the most interesting picture of income disparities in the country — and reveals some surprises.
Throughout most of the Southeast, the top 1% of earners bring home an average annual income of no more than $250,000. That’s considered middle class by most accounts!
Along the coast in New England, you see an expected concentration of affluence. There, the 1% in most counties average at least $1 million annual income, many ranging up to $10 million.
When it’s laid out on the map, the regional disparity is obvious — and disturbing.
Not only do you see where the gap is greatest between the haves and have-nots (or, at least, the have-lesses), but you can see where even the top local earners fall well below our imagined “1%.”
Twenty-three of the 25 counties with the lowest incomes for the top 1% are in the South. The lowest — Holmes County, Mississippi — has an income threshold for the 1% of just $96,674.
Just one county hosts a 1% with an average annual income above $10 million: Teton County, Wyoming, where the 1% earns an average $28.2 million per year.
The income inequality in that affluent county is also the highest of any in the nation.
The top 1% of earners in Teton — about 231 people in a county of 23,125 — earn 233 times the average of the bottom 99%.
This oddball county skyrockets above the rest of the list.
Second in income, the top 1% of New York County — a.k.a. the borough of Manhattan — earn an average $8.1 million. That’s impressive, but still just one-third of what Teton’s wealthiest are earning!
Wondering how your community compares with the rest?
To find out where your state, city or county falls, check out the full report by the Economic Policy Institute.
Your Turn: Are you surprised by this report? How does your state stack up?
Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more, attempting humor wherever it’s allowed (and sometimes where it’s not).