We recently looked at the most unequal cities in America. Here’s a different way to look at inequality data.
The Census Bureau used data from their 2008-2012 American Community Survey to estimate various measures of income inequality. One of the most common inequality measures is the Gini Index. This is a number between 0 and 1 that indicates how far an area’s income distribution is from a completely flat distribution.
A totally equal distribution, in which everyone has the same income, has a Gini Index of 0, and a completely unequal distribution, in which one person has all the income and everyone else gets nothing, would have an index of 1. The higher an area’s Gini Index, the more unequal that area.
There are a couple interesting patterns on the map. Along with traditional enclaves of wealth like Greenwich, CT and Beverly Hills, CA, a large number of college towns, like West Lafayette, IN (home of Purdue University), and Athens, OH (home of Ohio University).
FiveThirtyEight’s Ben Casselman pointed out in a post earlier this year that the fact that many college students either don’t work or are working only part time means that, by the Census Bureau’s measures, they have very low incomes. This winds up skewing measures of income distribution and income inequality for places with large numbers of students. The percentage of college and postgraduate students in the population was higher than 20% in 20 out of the 50 towns on our list, and so this skew may have a big effect.
Here’s each of the towns, along with their Gini Indexes, and the income shares for opposite ends of the income distribution:
We also made an alternate ranking, looking only at non-college towns, or places where less than 20% of residents were college or graduate students. Towns that were are new to this list are shown below in blue: