The rich get richer: Inequality up in Illinois

The rich get richer: Inequality up in Illinois

Even after the Occupy movement in Chicago fizzled out, the jargon remains. We're now used to talking about our society in terms of the "99 percent" versus the "1 percent."

Looks like now we have even more reason to.

New data released by the Census Bureau from the 2011 American Community survey shows that inequality is up, both as a nation and for our state.

The measure is called the Gini coefficient, and it's a number from zero to one. Zero represents a society with perfect equality where everyone has the same and the 1 percent represents perfect inequality in that one person has everything and the others, nothing.

In 2010, that number was .469. Now, 2011 data shows inequality has increased, with the current Gini coefficient being .475.

The same is true for Illinois, where our state Gini coefficient is .472, up from .465. Chicago's Gini coefficient may be even higher, with previous estimates placing it at .522.

What does that mean in terms of real dollars? Illinois' median income has fallen. The median income represents the exact middle of all the incomes from the range of zero to billionaires. Half of people in the state make less than the median and half make more, so the lower the median is, the more money the people at the top are making.

In 2010, Illinois' median income was $54,644, but in 2011, it declined to $53,234, a difference of $1,410.

The Occupy protests may be over, but the rising inequality they were protesting hasn't gone away.

Photo credit: Shutterstock/Toronto - October 17

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  • Megan, the median income can rise or fall without any impact to the distribution. If everyone has a 1% decline in income the median will fall by 1% but the distribution will be constant. What you want to say is that that average income rises or remains the same AND the median income falls. This means the bell curve skews to the right.

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