A new report published by the Economic Policy Institute finds that all 50 states have experienced widening income inequality in recent decades. This, following a report released by Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families (AACF) that highlighted the growing wealth disparity in Arkansas.
The EPI report focuses on new data that shows the top 1 percent in Arkansas raked in nearly one-third of all the state’s economic growth from 1979 to 2007. According to their report, income in Arkansas grew 35 percent between 1979 and 2007. In this case, however, it was the top 1 percent earners who saw a 121.6 percent growth in income, while the bottom 99 percent saw a 25.6 percent growth.
Unfortunately, the Great Recession did little to balance the economic differences. The report shows that the top 1 percent is recovering, with a 2.9 percent income growth from 2009 – 2011 while the bottom 99 percent saw an income drop of .5 percent. Due to this extended period of lopsided income growth, the share of income held by the top 1 percent in recent years has approached or surpassed historical highs. Looking at the colored graph, not since before the Great Depression were income levels so separated.
To help visualize this inequality, and to bring attention to what Arkansans can do to close the gap, AACF created and are spreading an infograph showing the difference between the wealthiest Arkansans and those at the bottom of the economic ladder.
“Our state’s current economic policies clearly benefit the very top of the income scale while doing very little for every other Arkansas family,” said executive director of AACF, Rich Huddleston. “Arkansas does better when everyone participates in the economy. Lawmakers need to enact policies that help working Arkansans — like an Earned Income Tax Credit — rather than passing massive tax cuts for the wealthiest among us.”
So much for wealth “trickling down,” as they say. The good news, said AACF, is that we can work to fix the problem. By jump-starting upward mobility by investing in early education, refueling the economy with an earned income tax credit, fixing the broken tax system so everyone pays their fair share, and making sure there are protections for Arkansans who lose their jobs or when times are tough. This ensures everyone can contribute to Arkansas’ economy, which in turn makes everyone rich, they said.
For the full report from the EPI, visit www.epi.org/multimedia/unequal-states-interactive. For the full graphic and more information from AACF, visit aradvocates.org.