Country's Greatest Income Inequality Is Here In The Mountain West

Jul 30, 2018

Income inequality has risen in every state since the 1970s. That's according to a new report published by the Economic Policy Institute — a left-leaning non-profit think tank. The most unequal metro area is right here in our region.

Places like Wall Street or Silicon Valley might come to mind when it comes to the highest incomes in the country.

However, in 2015, the top 1 percent of earners living in Jackson Hole, Wyoming made 132 times the average income of the bottom 99 percent.

Mark Price is a labor economist who co-authored the report. He said he believes income disparity like this is problematic.

"And if we have another ten, fifteen, twenty years of this pattern where most of the income growth is being captured by folks at the top, we're going to have levels of income concentration that we haven't seen ever in this country," said Price.

He said also concerned with what the growing income inequality could mean for future elections, with money holding a powerful position in elections. Price added that the high-income disparity is creating fewer opportunities for certain families.

"It's getting harder and harder for low-income and middle-income kids who are high-achieving. They don't get the same investment in their skills and abilities," said Price. "And that not only hurts them, of course, but it can also come back and hurt us all in the sense that those apps that don't get created. The surgeons that would have been best don't end up in the operating room."

In the Mountain West, Idaho had the least income disparity with the top 1-percent making seventeen times more than the bottom 99-percent.  

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.