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Stateside: Addressing Michigan's income disparity

Charley Ballard, Michigan State University economist, spoke with Cyndy about the health of Michigan's economy.
Michigan State University
Charles Ballard, economist Michigan State University

The gap between the Middle and Upper class in Michigan has widened.

Michigan State University’s Charley Ballard spoke with Cyndy about income disparity in both the state and country.

“There is a lot of emphasis about the level of income, but I am talking about the gap between those at the top, the middle and bottom in terms of how much their household income is. A big story is that the gap has widened. Michigan is typical in that the gap between the gap and top and the middle has gone way up, but the gap between the middle and the bottom has not,” said Ballard.

The disparities in income are largely a result of varying degrees of education among Michigan workers.

“Those at the top tend to be college-educated. Those at the bottom tend to not be,” said Ballard.

According to Ballard, Michigan’s statistics are average when compared nationally.

“In a lot of ways we’re a middle-of-the-pack state. If you take that ratio of the household income for the person at the 90th percentile, upper-middle class, and compare that with the household income with someone at the tenth percentile, that ratio increased by more than 20% in Michigan.”

He emphasized the struggles occurring within the middle class.

“The biggest increases in inequality were on the East Coast. They have degrees of college attainment that are substantially higher than we have in Michigan. Since the college-educated are pulling away from those with only a high school diploma, which shows up very dramatically in places like New York and Massachusetts.”

Ballard called for policy reform to encourage economic growth.

“As far as Michigan goes, we are somewhat typical in that we have experienced a large increase in income inequality. It’s something I am concerned about because I want to have economic growth that goes to all segments of society. I think we need to have some policy changes if we’re going to do that.”

According to Ballard, the market’s skill requirements heightened but the education level has remained the same- for Michigan to turn things around, this needs to change.

“If you’re concerned about it, you don’t want to sacrifice education upon the altar of tax cuts,” said Ballard.

-Cameron Stewart

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