Income Inequality: The 15 Cities With the Biggest Wealth Gaps
The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. That certainly seems to be true in the United States, where the divide between a tiny sliver of high earners and the rest of the population has gradually expanded into a chasm, according to a report from the Economic Policy Institute.
In 1979, the top 1% of earners in America took home 9.6% of the nation’s income. By 2013, their share had risen to 21.24%, according to Economic Policy Institute, and collectively they were making 25 times as much as everyone else in the bottom 99%. The level of income inequality in the U.S. is now roughly what it was in the 1920s, just before the Great Depression.
Exactly how much are America’s richest people earning? You’ll need an annual income of $389,436 to make it to the 1%. But in some parts of the country, even a healthy three-digit income isn’t enough to count yourself among the elite.
In 109 U.S. cities, you’d need to earn more than $389,000 to get into the 1%. But in some, you’ll need an income of $500,000 a year or more to cross the 1% threshold. Many of these towns also have a vast gap between the richest residents and everyone else, with the top earners taking home 40 or 50 times what most other people make.
Some of the cities with the biggest wealth gaps might surprise you. While a few are big metropolises, others are lesser-known towns with some very wealthy residents, including a famous ski resort and a popular tropical getaway spot.
These 15 U.S. cities had the biggest gaps between the rich and the poor. In one, you’ll need to earn $1.6 million a year to join the ranks of the richest 1%.
15. Hailey, Idaho
- Top 1% average income: $2,226,561
- Bottom 99% average income: $61,404
- What it takes to join the 1%: $690,535
The richest 1% in Hailey, Idaho, earn 36 times the rest of the population, taking home more than one quarter of all the income in the city. The town, which isn’t far from the ski resort of Sun Valley, Idaho, has a population of about 8,000 and an unemployment rate of less than 3%, according to Sperling’s Best Places. Bruce Willis and Demi Moore once lived in the town, which is also home to headquarters of companies, such as Rocky Mountain Hardware, Power Engineers, and Marketron.
14. Port St. Lucie, Florida
- Top 1% average income: $1,393,985
- Bottom 99% average income: $36,015
- What it takes to join the 1%: $415,506
In Port. St. Lucie, a city of roughly 164,000 on Florida’s Treasure Coast, the average 1-percenter earns $1.4 million a year, and you’d need an annual income of more than $400,000 to break into their ranks. The New York Mets play spring training games in this city about two hours north of Miami, which is also home to the PGA Golf Professional Hall of Fame.
13. New York City, New York
- Top 1% average income: $2,156,193
- Bottom 99% average income: $54,895
- What it takes to join the 1%: $672,795
Few will be surprised there’s a big gap between the richest New Yorkers and the rest of the residents of the Big Apple. The 1% in America’s biggest metro area earn 39 times the remaining 99% and earn 28% of all income in the city. Overall, 69 out of the 400 names on the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans were New Yorkers, including Michael Bloomberg (net worth $45 billion), David Koch (net worth $42 billion) and George Soros (net worth $24.9 billion).
12. Summit Park, Utah
- Top 1% average income: $4,008,668
- Bottom 99% average income: $99,468
- What it takes to join the 1%: $1,206,863
Summit Park, Utah, might not be a busting metropolis (its population is just under 7,000), but it does have some very rich residents. The average 1-percenter in this mountain town outside of Salt Lake City earns just over $4 million per year. But the bottom 99% weren’t doing too bad either. Their average income was close to $100,000 a year, nearly double the average household earnings in the overall U.S. Healthy incomes for both the 1% and many other residents made Summit Park the richest small town in America, according to Bloomberg.
11. Las Vegas, Nevada
- Top 1% average income: $1,459,955
- Bottom 99% average income: $35,895
- What it takes to join the 1%: $373,064
Las Vegas is a town of haves and have-nots. The 1% earn an average of $1.5 million a year, while the bottom 99% are taking home just over $35,000 annually. The share of people living in poverty in Las Vegas and its suburbs has risen since the 2008 recession. From 2010 to 2014, the poverty rate in Las Vegas went from 11.9% to 17.7%, with the number of poor residents tripling in some areas, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. The city also has one of the highest populations of homeless people in the country.
10. San Angelo, Texas
- Top 1% average income: $1,645,923
- Bottom 99% average income: $40,287
- What it takes to join the 1%: $388,544
In San Angelo, a town of about 100,000 between Midland and Austin, Texas, the top 1% earn an average income of $1.6 million, while the rest of the population takes home about $40,000 annually. The richest residents earn 29% of all the income in the Texas town. Roughly 4.5% of the city’s residents are millionaires, according to My San Antonio.
9. Glenwood Springs, Colorado
- Top 1% average income: $2,441,991
- Bottom 99% average income: $57,634
- What it takes to join the 1%: $640,277
Glenwood Springs might look like a low-key mountain town, but it’s hiding big riches. The city of about 10,000 is the seventh-wealthiest small town in America, according to Bloomberg. Thirteen percent of homes in the area are worth more than $1 million, and 5% of residents earn more than $200,000 a year. The rich like the weather and amenities in resort towns, such as Glenwood Springs, but their interest has a downside because it can drive up the cost of living for everyone else who lives there. Still, Glenwood Springs is more affordable than nearby Aspen, Colorado, one reason Outside magazine named it one of the best places to live in the U.S. in 2015.
8. Midland, Texas
- Top 1% average income: $3,364,922
- Bottom 99% average income: $75,980
- What it takes to join the 1%: $885,806
Where does all the money come from in Midland? Straight from the ground. Midland sits on top of the Permian Basin, one of the biggest oil reserves in the country. All that oil money is one reason average incomes among the 99% here are almost $76,000 per year, well above the U.S. average. But the 1% earn much more, taking home $3.3 million annually, 44 times the rest of the population.
7. Miami, Florida
- Top 1% average income: $1,789,754
- Bottom 99% average income: $39,778
- What it takes to join the 1%: $511,618
The wealthiest Miami residents make $1.8 million a year on average and earn 31% of all income in the city. But look beyond the glittering ocean-view condos, and you’ll see a very different city. The average household in Florida’s biggest city earns a little less than $40,000 per year. Many middle-income jobs have vanished since the Great Recession, the Miami Herald reported, leaving a greater share of the population stuck with lower-wage work. Housing is among the least affordable in the country, and in some neighborhoods, more than 40% of people are living in poverty.
6. Gardnerville Ranchos, Nevada
- Top 1% average income: $2,054,149
- Bottom 99% average income: $44,529
- What it takes to join the 1%: $553,891
You might not have heard of Gardnerville Ranchos, an unincorporated Nevada community in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, but it’s one of the richest small towns in the United States, according to Bloomberg’s ranking. About 5% of residents earn more than $200,000 a year, and the richest 1% take home $2 million annually on average. You need an annual income of more than $500,000 to count yourself among them.
5. Key West, Florida
- Top 1% average income: $3,193,353
- Bottom 99% average income: $54,615
- What it takes to join the 1%: $773,711
The southernmost town in the continental U.S. also has one of the biggest wealth gaps in the country, with the richest 1% earning more than 58 times the other 99% of residents and taking home 37% of all the money earned in the area. It’s the 13th-richest small town in America, according to Bloomberg’s ranking, even though the average resident earns about $55,000 a year, on par with the national average.
4. Sebastian and Vero Beach, Florida
- Top 1% average income: $2,519,981
- Bottom 99% average income: $39,710
- What it takes to join the 1%: $617,382
Vero Beach and Sebastian aren’t far from another city on this list, Port St. Lucie, but they suffer from an even greater wealth divide than their southern neighbor. In these Atlantic Coast towns, the average 1-percenter earns 63 times the rest of the population, which has an average annual income of less than $40,000. The top sliver of residents also earn 39% of all the income in the area. An influx of wealthy weekend residents has even inspired some to dub the area the “Hamptons of Florida.”
3. Naples, Florida
- Top 1% average income: $4,191,055
- Bottom 99% average income: $57,258
- What it takes to join the 1%: $959,229
The Gulf Coast city of Naples is the third most unequal in the U.S., according to the analysis. The top 1% here earn an average of $4.2 million per year, taking home more in a single week than the average 99-percenter earns in an entire year. One reason for the vast disparity in wealth? The city is home for five of the world’s billionaires, Naples News reported, including Shahid Khan, the owner of auto parts manufacturer Flex-N-Gate (net worth $8.2 billion), and Reinhold Schmieding, majority owner of Arthrex, a medical device company (net worth $4.4 billion).
2. Bridgeport, Connecticut
- Top 1% average income: $6,061,230
- Bottom 99% average income: $82,222
- What it takes to join the 1%: $1,390,965
The Bridgeport metro area is one of extremes. On one side are wealthy communities, such as Greenwich, Darien, and New Canaan, home to hedge-fund managers and well-off Manhattan commuters. On the other is the city of Bridgeport, where 23% of residents live in poverty. The result is one of the starkest wealth divides in the United States, with the richest 1% earning 73 times the rest of the population and taking home 43% of all income in the region.
1. Jackson, Wyoming
- Top 1% average income: $19,995,834
- Bottom 99% average income: $93,891
- What it takes to join the 1%: $1,650,902
No city in the U.S. has a greater wealth divide than Jackson Wyoming. Many of Wyoming’s super-rich live in or near this town of about 10,000 in the Jackson Hole valley, including Christy Walton, one of the heirs to the Walmart fortune, and John Mars, the grandson of the founder of the Mars candy company. Both are among the richest people in the world. The sky-high incomes of some residents mean you’d need to earn at least $1.6 million a year to join the 1%. But the 99% in this town aren’t exactly making peanuts. The average household income is about $94,000 a year.