In D.C., the top 10 percent of earners make more than six times the amount as the bottom 10 percent. That disparity in earnings is higher in D.C. than it is in any of the 50 states, according to District, Measured, a blog from city’s Office of the Chief Financial Office, which used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Here’s the ratio of rages for the top 10 percent of earners vs. the bottom 10 percent:
So what’s to blame for this large disparity? District, Measured says that while CEO and executive pay contributes to the growing income inequality in D.C. and throughout the nation, locally it has more to do with the widening median income gap between different occupations.
For lower-paying jobs, such as food service workers, the earnings ratio between high income earners to low income ones was mostly on par with other states. But when looking at higher-paid jobs, like lawyers, the difference between top earners and low earners is not as big as in other states. This means there’s less income variability in professions where the pay skews higher.
And because there’s more variability in the low-paying jobs, the discrepancy between the top and bottom earners is more stark than in other places.
In D.C., the average person in the legal field earns five times the amount of the average sales employees. In California and New York, that ratio is four times, and in North Carolina and Texas, it’s three times.
Take a look at the ratio between the top and bottom percent of wage earners for high- and low-paying occupations:
The data do not account for bonuses and stock options, which are prevalent in the private sector.
District, Measured speculates that the in the D.C. legal industry, for instance, more people work within the government than other states. In government, even at the highest level, wages are more narrow when compared to the private sector.
“This has many implications,” District, Measured writes. “The likelihood that someone in a low-paying occupation can attain middle-class status by moving up their career ladder is lower in D.C. than other parts of the nation. The skills and experience that in the past led to middle class status are more limited today to certain occupations. Without these skill sets, it is unlikely that a person can attain middle class status even by rising up the corporate ladder through work experience.”