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Income gap has widened cleanly along community lines

The American Independent has previously reported on declining American cities and rising income inequality since 1979. Now, the Atlantic Monthly combines income inequality data and county demographic data to present what it calls the “12 States of America.” Its findings demonstrate with one interactive map just how economically splintered the U.S. has become in recent decades.

The “12 States of America” project breaks down all the counties of the U.S. by the industries and demographics that dominate them and divides them into twelve types — for example, “Immigration Nation,” concentrated primarily in the Southwest, and “Evangelical Epicenters,” concentrated in the Southeast and southern Midwest. It then examines how the median income in each community type has changed since 1980, confirming that the growing income gap has cleaved American society along demographic lines, with certain types of communities living ever more comfortably and others languishing.

By far, the “Monied ‘Burbs,” suburban communities near cities like Dallas, New York and Washington, D.C., saw the most growth. “Industrial Metropolises,” counties surrounding cities like Jacksonville, Fla., Houston, Texas, and Los Angeles, also saw gains, as did “Boom Towns” like Phoenix, Seattle and Austin. “Military Bastions,” communities centered around military bases, and “Campus and Career” areas centered around college towns saw slight growth.

The rest of the community types saw declines; the largest drop was in “Immigration Nation,” whose residents lost nearly $4,000 in income in 2010 dollars between 1980 and 2010. There has been a change of more than $7,500 in annual household income between average families living in the so-called “Monied ‘Burbs” and those living in areas with high immigrant populations. Of course, the monied suburbanites already made over $13,000 a year more than those in immigrant communities, even in 1980.

PBS’s “Patchwork Nation” project has the data depicted in chart form:

Change in Mean of Median Income by Community Type

Community Type 1980 2010 Change Monied ‘Burbs $55,688 $59,404 $3,716 Minority Central $36,869 $36,130 -$739 Evangelical Epicenters $38,630 $37,554 -$1,076 Tractor Country $42,144 $39,379 -$2,765 Campus and Careers $51,524 $52,193 $669 Immigration Nation $42,795 $38,941 -$3,854 Industrial Metropolis $53,921 $56,234 $2,313 Boom Towns $49,597 $51,618 $2,021 Service Center $44,222 $41,775 -$2,447 Empty Nests $46,879 $45,876 -$1,003 Military Bastions $45,565 $46,510 $945 Mormon Outposts $45,266 $43,591 -$1,675

Patchwork Nation also plots the data on a map of the U.S. in terms of lost or gained income. The results are revealing:

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