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Charleston ranked No. 3 nationally for metropolitan areas in the United States that saw income equality worsen the most between 2019-2020, according to a new study from MagnifyMoney.

College of Charleston economics professor Frank Hefner said he thought the trend in Charleston would continue.

“We are a growing region with an influx of high-income earners,” he told the City Paper. “Just look at prices for high-end real estate. 

“Local home-grown income (salaries for the tourism and retail sector, for example) did not increase during the pandemic and cannot compare with high-tech incomes.”

Researchers for the new study analyzed the U.S. Census Bureau Gini Index, which measures how income is distributed across a population and can indicate the state of income equality and inequality as a result.

The Gini coefficient range operates on a scale of 0 to 1, with 0 being perfect equality, while 1 is perfect inequality, the study said. This statistical index measures the extent to which the distribution of income or consumption among individuals or households within an economy deviates from a perfectly equal distribution. 

Charleston’s 2019 Gini coefficient had a value of 0.4736, while its 2020 value increased to 0.4804. This meant Charleston’s income equality worsened by a value of 0.0068, making it the third-ranked U.S. metro in this category, tying it with Greenville, S.C.  According to the study, the median household income in the Charleston metro area was $65,894, while the top 5% in the area earned 6.7 times more ($442,752).

The study also found that the five top metros that had their income equality shrink the most were all located in Southern states.  Richmond, Virginia, was found to have had its income equality worsen the most with a 0.0133 increase in coefficient value. North Port, Florida, ranked second with a 0.0125 increase in coefficient value.

In terms of metros that saw their income equality improve the most, Boise, Idaho, was ranked first overall, with its Gini coefficient decreasing by 0.0096 between 2019 and 2020. Des Moines, Idaho, (No. 2) and Austin, Texas, (No. 3) rounded out the top three.


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