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Metro areas with the least income inequality

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Pixabay

Metro areas with the least income inequality

Economic inequality has been rising in the United States for decades, with the income gap becoming more of a chasm. Economists say that what drives that gap are wages that have increased rapidly for skilled workers while others' wages stagnate. Large urban areas like New York City rank among the most unequal, mainly because of a strong demand for skilled workers.

At the other end are cities and regions with far less glaring inequality. These areas tend to have poor economic conditions and weak demand for workers—especially skilled workers who would be high-wage earners. Wage growth is tepid, especially among middle and low-income workers, and many of the least unequal places in the country have lost manufacturing jobs.

The least unequal places are located largely in the Midwest and Great Lakes region, where demand for workers has been weakened by automation, technological change, and globalization, and in parts of Florida and the West Coast.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York looked at some 200 metropolitan areas using 2015 and 2017 data from the U.S. Census Bureau and measured inequality using what is called the 90/10 ratio. The ratio divides the income at the top, in the 90th percentile, by income at the bottom, in the 10th percentile. In the United States, the 90/10 ratios ranged from a high of 8.7 in Fairfield, Connecticut, to a low of 3.9 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, meaning a worker in Fairfield in the 90th percentile made 8.7 times the wages of a worker in the 10th percentile, but in Johnstown, a worker at the top earned only 3.9 times as much as one at the bottom.

The research also found that from 1965 to 2015, average wages in the 90th percentile grew to more than $100,000 from about $60,000, while there was little growth at the bottom and only modest growth in the middle.

Stacker has compiled a list of the 15 U.S. metropolitan areas with the least income inequality, based on the Federal Reserve report. It includes the median household income and the percentage of households making more $75,000 and less than $35,000 in 2017.

You may also like: Metro areas with the most income inequality

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NOAA Great Lakes Envorinmental Ressearch Laboritory // Flickr

#15. Muskegon, MI

- 90/10 ratio in 2015: 4.3
- Median household income: $29,388
- Households making over $75,000: 12.8%
- Households making less than $35,000: 57.2%

This small city on Lake Michigan’s western shore once was an economic powerhouse with thriving lumber, shipping, and manufacturing industries. But those industries declined, and today Muskegon has an unemployment rate that is more than twice as high as the national jobless rate.

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pubdog // Wikimedia Commons

#14. Erie, PA

- 90/10 ratio in 2015: 4.2
- Median household income: $35,802
- Households making over $75,000: 17.7%
- Households making less than $35,000: 49.2%

Erie is the third-largest city in Pennsylvania, situated in the far northwest part of the state on the south shore of Lake Erie. It is a port and industrial center, but its importance in the shipping of steel has declined.

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SchuminWeb // Wikimedia Commons

#13. Roanoke, VA

- 90/10 ratio in 2015: 4.2
- Median household income: $41,483
- Households making over $75,000: 23.2%
- Households making less than $35,000: 43.1%

A city in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Roanoke is home to Hollins University and other higher education facilities. Compared with surrounding areas, its population has been growing of late. One explanation is Roanoke’s redevelopment and investment in its downtown that created new housing.

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Steven Pavlov // Wikimedia Commons

#12. Yakima, WA

- 90/10 ratio in 2015: 4.2
- Median household income: $42,092
- Households making over $75,000: 23.0%
- Households making less than $35,000: 40.7%

Located in central Washington state, Yakima’s economy is based on agriculture. Its orchards of apples, pears, and peaches have long created low-skilled, low-paid, seasonal jobs. The city also has been promoting its growing wine-making industry.

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Pixabay

#11. Columbia, MO

- 90/10 ratio in 2015: 4.2
- Median household income: $47,236
- Households making over $75,000: 33.0%
- Households making less than $35,000: 38.4%

Columbia is home to the University of Missouri and two smaller colleges, and its largest employer is the education industry. Unemployment is low, as is the city’s cost of living.

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Gamweb // Wikimedia Commons

#10. Deltona-Daytona Beach, FL

- 90/10 ratio in 2015: 4.2
- Median household income: $47,351
- Households making over $75,000: 19.4%
- Households making less than $35,000: 46.5%

The Deltona-Daytona Beach, Fla., region is among the most popular retirement spots in the nation, according to a 2019 study by MagnifyMoney. But the Central Florida cities also have one of the nation’s highest housing foreclosure rates: one in every 929 housing units.

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Bob Jagendorf // Wikimedia Commons

#9. Clarksville, TN

- 90/10 ratio in 2015: 4.2
- Median household income: $51,164
- Households making over $75,000: 28.3%
- Households making less than $35,000: 32.1%

Much of the economy in Clarksville, northwest of Nashville, Tenn., along the Kentucky border, is linked to Fort Campbell, a U.S. Army base. The city has seen its job market increase and future job growth is expected to be strong.

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Jmancuso // Wikimedia Commons

#8. Utica-Rome, NY

- 90/10 ratio in 2015: 4.2
- Median household income: $52,214
- Households making over $75,000: 22.8%
- Households making less than $35,000: 45.6%

The New York state cities of Utica and Rome sit along the Erie Canal that was historically critical to the area’s economy, linking Buffalo to Albany where it met the Hudson River with access to New York City. Today, Rome is the site of a men’s state prison, and many residents work in law enforcement. Utica scores among the most distressed cities in the nation, based on such factors as low education rates, unoccupied houses, poverty, and the number of adults without jobs.

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Luv24jmg // Wikimedia Commons

#7. Ocala, FL

- 90/10 ratio in 2015: 4.1
- Median household income: $39,238
- Households making over $75,000: 21.9%
- Households making less than $35,000: 45.4%

Ocala is a small agricultural and manufacturing city and considered the capital of Florida’s thoroughbred industry. The Ocala metro area recently has had one of the fastest annual job growth rates in the country in education and health services.

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Ken Thomas // Wikimedia Commons

#6. Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC

- 90/10 ratio in 2015: 4.1
- Median household income: $48,079
- Households making over $75,000: 22.2%
- Households making less than $35,000: 45.0%

Sitting amid hardwood forests at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton area of North Carolina was historically a furniture-making center. Today,  furniture factory outlets are a major draw. A fiber optic cable plant run by Corning Optical is a major employer.

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Creative Commons

#5. Oshkosh-Neenah, WI

- 90/10 ratio in 2015: 4.1
- Median household income: $56,678
- Households making over $75,000: 30.6%
- Households making less than $35,000: 34.2%

The Oshkosh-Neenah area, comprised of the separate cities of Oshkosh and Neenah in northwestern Wisconsin, was recently named a top destination for millennials to live. The cities boast a healthy number of production, material moving, and health care-support jobs, low unemployment, and a median household income just below the national average of $59,039.

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Bobak Ha'Eri // Wikimedia Commons

#4. Wausau, WI

- 90/10 ratio in 2015: 4.0
- Median household income: $40,260
- Households making over $75,000: 23.6%
- Households making less than $35,000: 43.9%

Wausau’s unemployment rate and cost of living are low. An often-mentioned drawback of this Wisconsin city is its cold and snowy winters, although it has become a hub for sports, such as curling, and recreation, such as snowmobiling.

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Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources // Flickr

#3. Sheboygan, WI

- 90/10 ratio in 2015: 4.0
- Median household income: $44,710
- Households making over $75,000: 22.3%
- Households making less than $35,000: 37.5%

Located on the western shore of Lake Michigan, Sheboygan was a longtime busy shipping port. These days, a major employer is Kohler Co., a well-known maker of plumbing fixtures.

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Diego Delso // Wikimedia Commons

#2. Fort Wayne, IN

- 90/10 ratio in 2015: 4.0
- Median household income: $45,853
- Households making over $75,000: 26.5%
- Households making less than $35,000: 38.0%

A now-shuttered General Electric Co. factory in Fort Wayne, Ind., employed more than 40% of the city’s population in its heyday. Today, a major source of jobs is a General Motors Co. assembly plant that employs fewer than 4,000 workers.

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Ron Cogswell // Flickr

#1. Johnstown, PA

- 90/10 ratio in 2015: 3.9
- Median household income: $23,636
- Households making over $75,000: 7.5%
- Households making less than $35,000: 65.4%

Known for a devastating flood in 1889 that killed more than 2,200 people, Johnstown, Penn., was once a steel-making powerhouse. But the city has failed to create new jobs, and its unemployment rate is high. Its job growth over the next 10 years is predicted to be low.

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