Community Economy

New data show that while the wealthy in Kentucky keep earning more money, the poor continue to make even less.

The report from the Economic Policy Institute, which uses IRS income data from 2013, found income inequality has increased in every state since the 1970s.

In Kentucky, the wealthiest 1 percent make an average of $619,585 per year, while the bottom 99 percent earn an annual income of $37,371, according to the report. This means the state’s top earners make nearly 17 times more than the rest of the Kentuckians are averaging, which is up from about 10 times more in 1979.

Kenton County, in northern Kentucky, had the biggest income gap, with its top 1 percent earning nearly 22 times more than the rest of the county. In Jefferson County, the top 1 percent of earners made 19.1 times more than the county’s average income.

EPISource: Economic Policy Institute

Anna Baumann, a policy analyst from the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, said what’s happening in Kentucky reflects a nationwide trend.

“At the national level, and even in Kentucky, (income inequality is) returning to a level that we haven’t seen since the Great Depression,” said Baumann. “So there are some major causes for concern about the sustainability of that kind of income inequality for our economy.”

Baumann said the large income gap makes it harder for lower-income families to move out of poverty.

“(Income inequality) means we are funneling our income growth to those at the top, and that puts the American dream out of reach for a lot of people.”  

KCEP is pushing for tax reform to close loopholes for top earners and advocates raising the federal minimum wage.

The report ranked Kentucky 39th among the states in income inequality. New York ranks first, with its top 1 percent earning about $2 million per year. The state’s average annual salary is $44,000.