Income Inequality Across the Rural-Urban Continuum

Jaclyn Butler , Pennsylvania State University
Brian Thiede, Pennsylvania State University
David L. Brown, Cornell University
Leif Jensen, Pennsylvania State University

Income disparities have increased in recent decades, producing an “age of extremes” in which resources are concentrated among a selective segment of the population. This issue is well-studied at the national level, but there has been less attention to inequality sub-nationally, including among rural places. We address this gap, with the goal of understanding recent income inequality dynamics in non-metropolitan U.S. counties. We analyze data from the U.S. Census Bureau to describe and map levels of within-county income inequality in 2016, comparing non-metropolitan and metropolitan counties and analyzing differences among rural counties. We then describe and compare the demographic profile of high- and low-inequality non-metropolitan counties to determine whether and how the populations exposed to such places vary. Finally, we analyze changes in these patterns since 1970. Preliminary analyses indicate that within-county inequality is higher in non-metropolitan than metropolitan counties. However, these analyses also reveal evidence of convergence over time.

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 Presented in Session 8. Economy, Labor Force, Education, & Inequality