Briefed by the Bell — Wealth & Income Inequality

Wealth and income inequality have been on the rise across the country, and Colorado is no exception. What will we do to address it? Check out our Briefed by the Bell Hub to read our earlier briefs on wages, family securityfiscal policy, and the predatory economy.

What You Should Know About Wealth & Income Inequality in Colorado

Between 1979 and 2015, wages for the top 1 percent rose almost 157 percent, while the increase for the bottom 90 percent was only about 21 percent over the same period. In fact, the top 1 percent takes in 16.6 percent of all income in Colorado. Did you know Custer County has the fifth highest income inequality of all counties in the United States? Pitkin and Miguel counties rank ninth and 22nd, respectively.

The standards for a middle class lifestyle keep rising, but wages for those in traditionally middle-income occupations remain stagnant. Further underscoring this shift is Colorado’s declining public funding for programs like K-12 and higher education. Costs that used to be covered in part by the public sector are now shifted to families, resulting in higher costs with a smaller budget just to put children through school.

As a result of these larger trends, the number of families in the middle class in Colorado has declined by 6.4 percent since 2000, ranking 40th in the nation. This affects all parts of the state and has implications for education, health care, child care, housing, and family security policies. We need to explore how to grow our middle class, pull families out of poverty, and ensure everyone throughout Colorado has a chance to thrive. To do that, confronting inequality through policies in the above areas and others is a necessity.

In our latest Briefed by the Bell, we explore what actions Colorado’s policymakers can take to address the wealth and income inequality in Colorado. Our state’s leaders need to take a holistic approach to help shrink the gap between the wealthy few and everyone else. That means finding ways to lift up those at the bottom and get Colorado’s middle class back to the strength it once had. Smart policies focusing on education, child care, and taxes are good places to start, but we need to look at everything in order to solve this long-term problem.

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