Last week’s release of the American Community Survey (ACS) data contained more than just poverty statistics. It also contained some interesting information about income trends in West Virginia. As we noted last week, one of the reasons poverty has been slow to fall, despite economic growth, is income inequality, with little of the past three decades of economic growth reaching the poor and middle class (for more on that topic read this).
While we’ve covered growing income inequality before, the ACS data provides a fresh view on the extent of income inequality in West Virginia and its growth. According to the Census data, the richest 1/5th of households in West Virginia, the top 20%, take in nearly half of the income in the state. And their share has been growing in recent years.
The trend is even more pronounced when looking at the top 5% of households in West Virginia. In 2013, the top 5% of households in West Virginia took in 21.1% of the state’s income, up from 19.8% in 2006.
The top 20% of households took home an average of $138,603 in 2013, compared to just $9,205 for the bottom 20%, and $41,253 for the household in the middle. Those in West Virginia’s top 5% had an average household income of $235,421 in 2013.
These numbers from the Census serve as yet another reminder that with growing income inequality, economic growth alone is not enough to help the middle class or lift families out of poverty. Without public policies like raising the minimum wage and expanding the EITC, more and more struggling West Virginians will see their slice of the economic pie shrink.