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Story Tips: Income-inequality and the State of the Union

January 28, 2014

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Minimum wage and unemployment benefits take center stage during the State of the Union.

With President Obama’s State of the Union address set to focus on income inequality and other aspects of the economic divide in the U.S., I thought I’d gather up some resources for reporters planning to localize the issue, which is becoming the big story of 2014.

If you’re going to graph or write about the disparity in your region, here’s an Business Insider infographic and chart of the richest people in each state.  It was created from last fall’s release by Wealth-X, a “high net worth intelligence provider,” of the richest people in the nation and you might want to check out the press release archives on the Wealth-X site for other story ideas that will help you illustrate how the rich live in your area – among other interesting nuggets they chart the world’s most expensive streets, and other interesting reports (wealth holders sorted by age, type of investment holdings, etc.) based on last fall’s Billionaire Census.  It might be worth a call to see if they’ll provide additional state- or metro-level data for journalists.

Here’s the Credit Suisse report on global wealth from late 2013 on which Oxfam based its eye-catching analysis earlier this month that the 85 richest people on the planet own more than the poor half of the world population.  The Washington Post’s Wonkblog parses more from the report.

Focusing more on the United States, check out this Pew Research Center report from December 2013 that says income inequality in the United States is the most extreme since 1928. (And we all know what happened in 1929.)  The Pew site offers a number of interesting related reports; here’s one just out about fewer Americans identify themselves as among the middle class

This CBS MoneyWatch piece does a good job of deciphering how income inequality is measured, including a description of the Gini coefficient, a common tool used in such calculations.  Here’s a USA Today story that uses similar data; you might also check with U.S. Census Bureau analysts because the bureau has produced in past a report on neighborhood inequality via its American Community Survey.

Keep in mind that a number of analysts are saying that income disparity does not necessarily thwart economic mobility; as PBS and other outlets reported, Harvard University researchers are out with a paper that says upward mobility from one generation to the next hasn’t changed much in decades.  In other words, kids have as good a chance of outperforming their parents, financially, than they did a generation or two ago, with variations for number of factors including location within the U.S., you might peruse the report for cues about your area.

If you’re looking for a less heavy-duty angle, here’s an interesting income inequality issue reported by the New York Times’ Economix blog, “Income inequality in the U.S. means princes don’t go after Cinderellas.”  (And presumably Princesses aren’t going after the stable boy any longer.)  It’s based on a National Bureau of Economic Research study that says people these days are less likely to marry someone who is much different from them in terms of education and income.   You could localize (talk with professionals from dating services and wedding coordinators to pastors and accountants) about what they’re seeing, if growing inequality is also shrinking the pool of eligible mates for people at various economic levels and so on.


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