142 counties – with 92 million residents – experienced a significant increase in income inequality from 2008-2013

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey estimates, income inequality increased significantly in 142 U.S. counties between the 2008-10 and 2011-13 survey periods. While this is relatively small compared to the number of counties where there was no significant change (1,688), almost 92 million people – nearly 30% of the U.S. population at the time – resided in these counties in 2013. Eleven counties – with a combined population of 565,00 – had significantly reduced income inequality over the 2011-2013 ACS survey period, compared with 2008-2010. Click any county in the map below to see a link to the original ACS data in the American FactFinder data engine.

This visualization uses table B19083 Gini Index of Income Inequality  from the 2010 and 2013 ACS 3-Year Estimates and compares the values for each county, and their margins of error, between the survey periods. Counties with very close Gini Index values from the two surveys (where the confidence intervals overlap) are considered not to have experienced a statistically significant change in income inequality. Counties which have an upper bound of the 2008-10 confidence interval which is smaller than the lower bound of the 2011-13 confidence interval are considered to have had a statistically significant increase in income inequality income between the two survey periods. Conversely, those counties which have a lower bound of the 2008-10 confidence interval which is greater than the upper bound of the 2011-13 confidence interval are considered to have experienced a statistically significant decline in median household income.

The 3-Year Estimates data series (now discontinued) reported data for counties with populations of 20,000 or more, so counties with smaller populations are excluded from the analysis. The counties in the map below had an aggregate total population of 301 million in 2013, compared with the total U.S. population 314 million at the time. The release of the ACS 2011-2015 5-Year data set in December 2016 will allow similar analysis for all U.S. counties, including those with populations under 20,000. Data from this survey will be able to be compared to results from the 2006-2010 5-Year data.

The Gini Index represents the concentration of income in a given state or country, in a range from 0 to 1. A higher Gini index indicates greater inequality – where income is concentrated among a relatively few individuals or households; a lower Gini score represents more even income distribution. The Gini index is a commonly used economic measure, reported by organizations such as the World Bank and CIA, in its World Factbook.