Report puts Colorado at 20th in US income inequality, with greatest disparity in mountain ski towns

DENVER – Colorado ranks 20th in the nation in income inequality, and it takes a $458,576 yearly income to be in the top 1 percent of earners in the state, according to a new report out earlier this month from the Economic Policy Institute.

The report found that the top 1 percent of earners bring in 17.2 percent of the income in Colorado, and though it takes nearly a half-million dollars to crack to top 1 percent, the average income of those people is closer to $1.2 million, the report found.

And while the share of all income in Colorado held by the top 1 percent has generally followed national trends over the past 100 years, the share in Colorado has reduced in a starker fashion in recent years than it has nationally.

The minimum annual income needed to be in the top 1 percent in Colorado was higher than it was nationally, but the average annual income needed to be in that category in Colorado was lower than it was across the rest of the country.

Additionally, the average annual income of the rest of the 99 percent in Colorado ($61,165) was about $11,000 higher than it was nationally ($50,107), the report found.

The report also shows that two Colorado counties are in the top 10 in the country for income inequality: Pitkin and San Miguel counties, which are No. 7 and 8 respectively on the list. Teton County, Wyoming has the highest disparity in the country, followed by New York City.

The average income of the top 1 percent in Pitkin County is $6.6 million and the average income of the rest of the population is $91,714. In San Miguel County, those numbers are $4.5 million and $65,281, respectively.

Both counties are home to several of the state’s top ski resorts—a trend that continues through the rest of the report. Routt County, home to Steamboat Springs, came in at No. 49 on the list, while Eagle County, which is home to Vail, Beaver Creek and other ski resorts, is No. 80 on the list. Denver comes in at No. 107 on the list.

The Glenwood Springs metro area was the most unequal in the state, according to the study. There, the top 1 percent makes 45 times the average for the rest of the population.

Overall, Colorado had the sixth-highest income threshold for the top 1 percent, behind Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York and California. The average income of the top 0.01 percent of earners have an average yearly income of $25 million, the report found.

But the share of income growth brought in by the top 1 percent of earners, at 22 percent between 2009 and 2015, is far below the national average of 42 percent and some other states, like Connecticut (134 percent) and California (53 percent).

“Reinventing America as a land of widespread opportunity requires economic policy that aims to ensure every child has access to adequate food, shelter, health care, child care, and education—whether that child is the daughter of a janitor or the son of a real estate tycoon,” authors Estelle Sommeiller and Mark Price wrote in the report’s conclusion. The data used for the report was from 2015.

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