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Monday, July 23, 2018

Rhode Island’s rich get richer and, you guessed it, poor get poorer

By Will Weatherly in Rhode Island’s Future

report released by the Economic Progress Institute (EPI) on July 19 put a spotlight on income inequality in Rhode Island, declaring that the country has entered a “new Gilded Age.”

According to the study’s findings, the top 1 percent of Rhode Island residents earned 18.2 times more than the rest of the state, according to an analysis of data from 2015. 

In order to qualify for the 1 percent income bracket, Rhode Islanders would have to earn $346,657 or more annually; the average income for the top percentile was $928,204 annually.

Rhode Island fell around the middle range of income inequality in New England states. 

Maine had the lowest ratio of incomes between the 1 percent and 99 percent at 15.4, and Connecticut came out with the highest at 37.2. Within the state, Bristol County had a remarkably higher ratio than Rhode Island at large: 30.2.

The state’s ratio still falls below the national average, where the top percentile earned 26.3 times as much as the 99 percent. The top percentile earned around 22.03 percent of all income in 2015, only 1.9 points below the historic peak of 23.9 percent in 1928.

“Rising inequality affects virtually every part of the country, not just large urban areas or financial centers,” commented EPI director of economic and fiscal policy Doug Hall

“It’s a persistent problem throughout the country—in big cities and small towns in all 50 states. While the economy continues to recover, federal and state policymakers should make it a top priority to grow the incomes of working people.”

EPI executive director Rachel Flum pointed to policy reform as one path to narrowing the yawning wealth gap in the state and across the country. 

“There’s actually a great deal we can do at the state level to reduce inequality – things like ensuring access to post-secondary education, increasing the minimum wage, and putting policies in place that allow workers to share more fairly in the wealth they are generating,” she said in the release. 

“We need to return bargaining power to Rhode Island workers, and boost public investments in child care, education, health care, and housing.”

Will Weatherly is a contributor to RI Future and a senior editor at the College Hill Independent. He lives in Providence, RI. You can follow him on Twitter @willbweatherly.