WV Center on Budget and Policy > Press > News Releases > Income Inequality Between Top 1% and Rest of Working West Virginians Among Nation’s Highest

Income Inequality Between Top 1% and Rest of Working West Virginians Among Nation’s Highest

February 19, 2014

Contact: Ted Boettner, 304-720-8682, tboettner@wvpolicy.org

[Charleston, WV] – While the West Virginia legislature considers whether or not to increase the state’s minimum wage, a new report shows that the state’s top 1% of income earners captured over half of all the state’s income growth between 1979 and 2007.

According to “The Increasingly Unequal States of America: Income Inequality by State“, released today by the Economic Policy Institute, West Virginia has a lopsided economy where the top 1% average income is 17.7 times greater than the average income of the bottom 99%.

“West Virginians are working harder and producing more, but are receiving a smaller piece of the pie,” stated Sean O’Leary, fiscal policy analyst with the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. “Raising the state’s minimum wage is one step we can take to not only help workers but boost the state’s economy.” A bill recently passed by the West Virginia House of Delegates would raise the state’s minimum wage to $8.75 an hour by January 1, 2016, affecting 127,000 West Virginia workers. The bill is awaiting action by the West Virginia Senate.

“West Virginia cannot have a strong economy without a strong middle class,” said Ted Boettner, executive director with the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. “Instead of making harmful budget cuts that hurt our state’s economy, the state needs to reform our lopsided revenue system and recommit to investments that will build a state where all future generations benefit. This can happen with a rock-solid education system, the opportunity to go to college, and an economy where everyone can prosper.”

“The levels of inequality we are seeing across the country provide more proof that the economy is not working for the vast majority of Americans and has not for decades,” said Mark Price, an economist at the Keystone Research Center, and one of the report’s authors. “It is unconscionable that most of America’s families have shared in so little of the country’s prosperity over the last several decades.”

West Virginia joins 14 other states where the top 1 percent captured between half and 84 percent of all income growth between 1979 and 2007. They are: Arizona (where 84.2 percent of all income growth was captured by the top 1 percent), Oregon (81.8 percent), New Mexico (72.6 percent), Hawaii (70.9 percent), Florida (68.9 percent), New York (67.6 percent), Illinois (64.9 percent), Connecticut (63.9 percent), California (62.4 percent), Washington (59.1 percent), Texas (55.3 percent), Montana (55.2 percent), Utah (54.1 percent), South Carolina (54.0 percent), and West Virginia (53.3 percent). See West Virginia fact sheet.

“It’s clear that policies were set to favor the one percent and those policies can, and should, be changed,” Doug Hall, director of the EARN program said. “In order to have widespread income growth, bold policies need to be enacted to increase the minimum wage, create low levels of unemployment, and strengthen the rights of workers to organize.”

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The full report is available at http://www.epi.org/publication/unequal-states. The West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy (www.wvpolicy.org) is a public policy research organization that is nonpartisan, nonprofit, and statewide. The Center focuses on how policy decisions affect all West Virginians, especially low- and moderate-income families.