While it may shock some people, and come as no surprise to others, a recently released think tank study has shown Franklin County not only has the highest degree of income inequality in Florida, but is among the leaders nationally when it comes to the enormous gap between the very rich and the rest of us.
According to an Economic Policy Institute (EPI) report released in June, Franklin County ranks seventh, behind New York City, two Texas towns and ones in Connecticut, Wyoming and Colorado, when it comes to the enormous ratio between the income of the top 1 percent and the remaining 99 percent.
Based on 2013 data, the research by Estelle Sommeiller, Mark Price and Ellis Wazeter showed the average annual income of the very wealthy in Franklin County, about $1.8 million, was nearly 73 times greater than the average income of the other 99 percent, which was calculated at $25,102.
Topping the list was Teton, Wyoming, overall a pretty wealthy area, where the top 1 percent earn on average $28.3 million a year, about 233 times the average income of the other 99 percent, which is still a healthy $121,000 a year.
Right below that, the ratio is about half that, 125 times, in La Salle, Texas, where the top 1 percenters earn on average $6 million per year, compared to the rest of population, who make on average about $48,000 annually.
In Shackleford, Texas, the very rich make about 117 times more, $4.6 million, compared to $39,165 for the 99 percenters, and in New York City, it’s 116 times more, with the top 1 percent averaging $8.1 million annually, and the remaining 99 percent about $70,468 a year.
From here on down, the ratios are all under 100 times, with fifth-place Custer, Colorado, posting an average of $3 million per year for the top 1 percent, and about $35,000 for the rest of their population, a ratio of about 87 times.
Just above Franklin County is Fairfield, Connecticut, where the very rich average $6 million a year, and the remaining 99 percent a little more than $82,000, a top-to-bottom ratio of about 74 percent.
One reason that Franklin County is so high on the list is that the sample size for the county is among the smallest in the state. So, for example, if there are just 11,000 people living in the county, a rough estimate, than the top 1 percent would only include about 110 people.
To be considered among this top 1 percent within the county, a family would have to make only about $343,398, with the average for this top 1 percent greatly enlarged by just a handful of people with incomes far in excess of that.
“Income inequality has risen in every state since the 1970s, and in many states is up in the post–Great Recession era,” wrote the authors. “In 24 states, the top 1 percent captured at least half of all income growth between 2009 and 2013, and in 15 of those states, the top 1 percent captured all income growth. In another 10 states, top 1 percent incomes grew in the double digits, while bottom 99 percent incomes fell.
“For the United States overall, the top 1 percent captured 85.1 percent of total income growth between 2009 and 2013. In 2013 the top 1 percent of families nationally made 25.3 times as much as the bottom 99 percent,” they wrote.
“That’s the broad takeaway,” said Dan Crawford, the EPI’s media director. “This is a national problem, it’s something states and cities have to grapple with. We do see a lot of inequality in these vacation areas.”
The Economic Policy Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank, describes itself as being created in 1986 to include the needs of low- and middle-income workers in economic policy discussions.
On its website, EPI writes that it “believes every working person deserves a good job with fair pay, affordable health care, and retirement security. To achieve this goal, EPI conducts research and analysis on the economic status of working America. EPI proposes public policies that protect and improve the economic conditions of low- and middle-income workers and assesses policies with respect to how they affect those workers.”