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Income gap between Florida's haves and have-nots widens

Income inequality is on the rise in Florida, and likely to grow wider as the economy falters.

That's the conclusion of a 50-state report distributed jointly Tuesday by the Economic Policy Institute and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. According to the two think tanks in Washington, D.C., the income gap between Florida's richest and poorest families is the country's 15th widest, while the gap between upper-income and middle-class families is greater in only six other states.

Inequality is nothing new, especially in a free-market economy where public support for government spending and taxation is grudging. But the report's analysis of census statistics shows the situation for struggling families may worsen. "Low- and moderate-income families in Florida didn't benefit from the recent economic expansion and are ill-prepared to weather the coming economic downturn," co-author Elizabeth McNichol said.

Why the gaps

are expanding

• Worker wages are stagnant, due to weakened unions, rising immigration, jobs moving to cheaper markets overseas

• Investment income is growing

• Government policies such as deregulation, free-trade agreements, shrinking benefits for low-income families, tax policies that favor high-income people

What states could do to bridge the gap

• Raise the minimum wage

• Increase public spending on education

• Expand unemployment insurance, especially important as the economy worsens

• Rely less on taxes that hit lower-income families hardest and more on ones that place a larger burden on upper-income families

Poorest families lag over past decade

The average family income in Florida between 2004 and 2006, as indicated below, shows the poorest families lost ground over the past decade while the wealthiest families gained disproportionately.

Bottom 20 percent

Income: $17,441

–$5 from late '90s

Middle 20 percent

Income: $47,062

+$1,710 from late '90s

Top 20 percent

Income: $130,840

+$17,499 from late '90s

Top 5 percent

Income: $220,373

+$39,934 from late '90s

Source: Economic Policy Institute and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Figures reflect the value of family incomes after federal taxes have been paid.

Income gap between Florida's haves and have-nots widens 04/08/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 3:38pm]

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