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Inequality

The Wealthiest and Poorest County in Every State

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The Wealthiest and Poorest County in Every U.S. State

The Wealthiest and Poorest County in Every U.S. State

View the high resolution version of today’s graphic by clicking here.

The average U.S. state is made up of 62 counties.

With so many counties spread throughout each state in the nation, it’s not surprising that we can find counties that exemplify almost any part of the American experience.

In this case, we’re comparing county-level data to look at the differences in economic opportunity within each state. More specifically, we are looking at the range of median household income, which is one proxy for the difference in economic status between counties.

Disparity by State

Today’s infographic comes to us from TitleMax, and it looks at the wealthiest and poorest counties in each individual U.S. state based on the measure of median household income.

Here are the five states with the biggest disparity between rich and poor counties:

1. Virginia: $102,800
Loudoun is about an hour’s drive to D.C., and it also happens to be the richest county in the U.S. in terms of median income. Further west in the state, bordering Kentucky and West Virginia, lies Buchanan County, which has a median household income of just $31,800.

 County NameMedian Income
Differential$102,800
RichestLoudoun$134,600
PoorestBuchanan$31,800

2. New Mexico: $86,500
In Los Alamos, known as the birthplace of the atomic bomb, median household income has exploded to $114,700 – meanwhile, along the Mexico border lies Luna, the poorest county in the state.

 County NameMedian Income
Differential$86,500
RichestLos Alamos$114,700
PoorestLuna$28,200

3. Colorado: $85,200
Just like the Colorado has a difference in elevation, it also holds a large difference in median income. Folks in Douglas County, which lies between Denver and Colorado Springs, take home $112,400 in income on average, while folks in Costilla bring in about $27,200 per year.

 County NameMedian Income
Differential$85,200
RichestDouglas$112,400
PoorestCostilla$27,200

4. Maryland: $80,900
Howard County, which lies between Baltimore and Washington D.C., has the highest median household income in the state. Meanwhile, it’s Somerset County at the south of the Delmarva Peninsula that has the lowest.

 County NameMedian Income
Differential$80,900
RichestHoward$119,400
PoorestSomerset$38,500

5. Tennessee: $79,700
Just to the south of the Music City sits Williamson County – a wealthy part of the state with $107,900 in median income. Hancock County is the poorest, and it’s tucked away in the northeast corner of the state.

 County NameMedian Income
Differential$79,700
RichestWilliamson$107,900
PoorestHancock$28,200

A Note on Cost of Living

While median household income can help point to disparities between counties, it is just one indicator.

It’s worth noting that the cost of living can often be cheaper in counties with lower median incomes, and this can partially offset the difference in some instances. For example, while Trinity County is the poorest county in California by median income, it’s also far away from San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Sacramento, and has a much cheaper cost of living and a different way of life.

In some ways it is comparing apples to oranges. Trinity County is completely rural, holds zero incorporated cities, and holds just 3,600 people in its largest community (Weaverville) – a far cry from the urban sprawl of L.A. or the booming Bay Area.

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Economy

Visualizing the Extreme Concentration of Global Wealth

A data-driven snapshot of global wealth distribution. The average person around the world is doing better, but big-picture inequality is still staggering.

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In recent decades, extreme world poverty has declined significantly and many millions of people have joined the swelling ranks of the middle class – particularly in China.

While these economic shifts are positive, it’s the other end of the global wealth spectrum that attracts the most attention. A high degree of wealth creation is amassed by those at the top of the economic pyramid.

The Top-Heavy Wealth Spectrum

Today, slightly less than 1% of the world’s adult population occupies the $1M+ wealth range. Despite their small numbers, this elite group collectively controls 46% of the world’s wealth, valued at approximately $129 trillion.

Concentration of Global Wealth

On the flip side of the equation, 70% of world’s population fall into the sub-$10K wealth band. This majority of people around the world collectively control a mere 2.7% of the world’s wealth.

Even as “the rich get richer”, there is good news for the majority. The percentage of people in that lowest wealth band has been shrinking over the years.

Moneyed Metropolises

Not only is money concentrated among a small portion of the population, those people tend to gravitate towards global cities such as London, Hong Kong, and New York.

In fact, 70% of ultra high net worth individuals (UHNWIs) – persons with investable assets of $30 million or more – reside in just ten cities around the world.

global wealth concentration map

According to Credit Suisse, emerging markets now account for 22% of growth in the UHNWIs category – up from just 6% growth in 2000 – with China alone adding over 16,000 UHNWIs to the mix. Many members of this elite class may generate their wealth in emerging economies around the world, but as we can see from the map above, the world’s richest people end up very concentrated, geographically speaking.

Global Wealth, by Continent

As the visualization below demonstrates, wealth accumulates in Europe and North America. This trend is so pronounced that it only becomes evident once the scale is adjusted to see the detail in the upper percentiles.

wealth distribution by continent

One thing is for certain – the world is changing quickly, and just as this graph would have looked very different 20 years ago, global wealth will almost certainly look different in 20 years time.

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Demographics

The Geography of America’s Distressed Communities

While the U.S. economic picture remains quite rosy, things change quickly when you zoom to the local level. This map shows the country’s distressed communities.

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distressed communities map zip codes

Despite a recent slump in the markets, the U.S. economy is still putting up strong numbers. Unemployment is at its lowest point since the 1960s, and the U.S. manufacturing sector is thriving.

Looking beyond these big picture gains, many communities in the United States are struggling. Check cashing stores outnumber McDonald’s locations, the opioid epidemic rages on, and tens of millions are living in poverty around the country. It’s becoming more clear that the recovery from the financial crisis has been highly uneven.

The Data Behind Distress

To understand the disconnect between struggling counties and a high-flying national economy, researchers at the Economic Innovation Group (EIG) created the Distressed Communities Index:

 

To calculate the “health” of communities around the country, the Economic Innovation Group (EIG) looked at everything from vacancy rates to median income ratios. When visualized, a picture emerges of an America divided into superstar regions and broad expanses of struggling communities.

Distressed and prosperous ZIP codes […] represent two almost diametrically opposed experiences of living in the United States.

– Distressed Communities Index Report (2018)

Community Quintiles

When communities are divided into quintiles, stark patterns emerge. In the most distressed zip codes, over 40% of “prime-age” adults are unemployed, one-in-five adults did not graduate high school, and the housing vacancy rate is nearly double the U.S. average.

DCI quintiles chart

As well, deaths related to substance abuse and mental illness are 64% higher in distressed communities.

Struggling States and Cities

The DCI data reveals that those living in the lower half of the United States are more likely to call a distressed community home. In Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and West Virginia, one-third or more of the population resides in the bottom quintile of zip codes.

distressed communities states map

On the flip side, in Colorado, Minnesota, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Utah well over 40% of the population live in prosperous zip codes.

Zooming in beyond the state-level, a geographical trend becomes clear: many of the struggling communities in the index are classified as rural. Between 2007 and 2016, nearly a third of all rural zip codes were considered “downwardly mobile”, compared to only 16% of those in urban areas.

Though rural zip codes tend to fare worse than their more urban counterparts, there are exceptions to that trend. One example is Bakersfield, California, where almost half of the city’s population lives in a distressed community.

DCI cities map

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