A new report shows that from 2009 to 2011, the top one percent in Maine captured 60 percent of all income growth. That is among the findings The Increasingly Unequal States of America: Income Inequality by State, 1928-2011, released today by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI)., which partners with EPI on economic policy analysis, reacted to the EPI findings.
“In Maine, as across America, the income gap between those at the very top of the economic ladder and everyone else is growing wider,” said Garrett Martin, executive director of the Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP). “For those nearer the bottom of the ladder, incomes are stagnant or rising at such a slow pace that working families increasingly must struggle just to make ends meet. And basic worker protections like the minimum wage have failed to compensate for this expanding divide.”
Adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage in Maine is no higher than it was 40 years ago and substantially lower than its peak in 1968.
“Between 1979 and 2007, the top one percent took home well over half (53.9 percent) of the total increase in U.S. income,” the EPI report found. “Over this period, the average income of the bottom 99 percent of U.S. taxpayers grew by 18.9 percent. Simultaneously, the average income of the top one percent grew 10 times as much- by 200.5 percent.”
“EPI reinforces MECEP’s own analysis which shows that wage inequality in Maine is growing,” Martin said. “While Maine has some of the lowest levels of income inequality among states, the economy continues to fail too many hard working Mainers who are experiencing very little income growth. MECEP’s report, The State of Working Maine in 2013, released in November 2013 highlights this fact showing that between the late 1970s and the mid-2000s, the average income- after federal taxes and programs such as food stamps -for the poorest fifth of Maine households grew just 27 percent, from $18,720 to $23,825. Middle-income households fared slightly better, growing 47 percent over the same period. Meanwhile, average income for the top 20% of Maine households grew by 67 percent.”
EPI’s report, by economists Mark Price and Estelle Sommeiller, found that in four states (Nevada, Wyoming, Michigan, and Alaska), only the top 1 percent experienced rising incomes between 1979 and 2007, and the average income of the bottom 99 percent fell. In another 15 states the top 1 percent captured between half and 84 percent of all income growth between 1979 and 2007.
Maine was among ten states in which the top 1 percent captured the smallest share- between about a quarter and just over a third of all income growth from 1979 to 2007. In 2011, the top 1 percent in Maine earned 14.9 times the income of the bottom 99 percent. Nationally, the top 1 percent earned 24.4 times the income of the bottom 99 percent.