Economy

Here's How Much the Top One Percent Makes per State

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders opened the debate Tuesday by discussing income inequality in the U.S., one of the major talking points of his campaign. In particular, he drew attention to the fact that more Americans are "working longer hours for lower wages," as the top one percent continues to accumulate a disproportionate amount of the country's wealth.

"[I]t is immoral and wrong that the top one-tenth of one percent in this country own almost 90 percent—almost—own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent," Sanders said. "That it is wrong, today, in a rigged economy, that 57 percent of all new income is going to the top one percent."

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To be sure, the top one percent is a recurring theme of the Democratic platform, especially this presidential election season, and it is important to understand how income inequality affects the labor force, wages, and middle class. But it is often difficult for those on the outside to conceptualize how much money the top one percent really earns.

This map shows what you'd have to make to be in the top one percent of each state.

top one percent

"Between 1979 and 2007, the top one percent of taxpayers in all states captured an increasing share of income," the Economic Policy Institute wrote. "And from 2009 to 2012, in the wake of the Great Recession, top one percent incomes in most states once again grew faster than the incomes of the bottom 99 percent."

"The rise in inequality experienced in the United States in the past three-and-a-half decades is not just a story of those in the financial sector in the greater New York City metropolitan area reaping outsized rewards from speculation in financial markets. While many of the highest-income taxpayers do live in states like New York and Connecticut, IRS data make clear that rising inequality and increases in top 1 percent incomes affect every state."

There are a range of factors that have contributed to the widening of the income gap in the U.S., including tax breaks that have benefited the wealthy. And because recent economic crises such as the Great Recession affected the lower and middle class more acutely than those on top, the trend cannot be easily reversed.

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It would take aggressive tax reform measures and the closing of loopholes that have allowed the system to be rigged by the very wealthy, as both Sanders and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton noted at Tuesday's debate.

"Right now, the wealthy pay too little and the middle class pays too much," Clinton said. "So I have specific recommendations about how we're going to close those loopholes, make it clear that the wealthy will have to pay their fair share, and have a series of tax cuts for middle-class families."

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