|By Jake Grovum, Stateline.org|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
The two illustrate how widely inequality is spread around the country, and how the issue presents itself in different ways. The far-reaching problem was a driving force behind a raft of proposals in the states this year, as lawmakers looked to address persistent wealth gaps exacerbated by the Great Recession and the subsequent years of halting economic growth.
Polls show inequality to be a growing public concern. A
Those differences carried over to the states, where responses in blue versus red states seemed at times as vast as research has shown the wealth gap itself to be. This year, lawmakers sought to do something about inequality, from giving tax breaks to individuals and businesses to bolstering safety net programs and clamping down on corporate pay.
"Our economic divide has become so stark, inequality is so off the historical wall, it's almost forced itself on the country's attention," said
Others worry the focus on inequality can lead to proposals – targeting executive pay, for example – that won't directly help those who have less.
"Inequality has distracted attention from the bottom, where it needs to be," said
Inequality cuts across state lines and pervades every corner of the U.S. It also dovetails with a decline in economic mobility: A
The areas with the worst inequality show how the problem presents different challenges in different places.
The second most unequal was
Some patterns emerge from the inequality data:
Among the top 10 most unequal counties, six are in the South, including two in
Eighteen of the most unequal 25 counties are in the South;
Three are in the area around
This year Democrats in two coastal states floated a pair of novel proposals that sought to tie state power of the purse to inequality. Experts and the bill authors said it was the first time such measures had been introduced to address inequality.