Archived Story

Other Opinion: Area’s income equality rating highlights challenges [UPDATED]

Published 9:09am Friday, June 13, 2014 Updated 11:09am Friday, June 13, 2014

(MCT) — At a time when so much political capital is put into addressing what to do (if anything) about income inequality nationwide, the Sunday Times news report “Central Minn. leads in income equality” raises an obvious question:

So it’s good this area is a national leader in income equality, right?

It would be nice to clearly say “yes” or “no,” but it’s not that simple.

Sure, it’s good Central Minnesota’s income equality — as measured by income distributions by household in congressional districts — is at the opposite end of places like New York, where large numbers of poor residents live close to a small numbers of rich residents.

However, this area’s rating still points to some big challenges to be overcome to make sure Central Minnesotans all have the same basic opportunity to improve their income levels.

First, a brief look at this rating. As the news report noted, income equality comes from the Gini index, a commonly used measure of differences between households’ incomes. A score of zero indicates complete equality. Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District scored 0.385, which is 0.0003 above Virginia’s 11th District, the lowest Gini index in the nation. The highest was the 10th District in New York at 0.586.

Opinions about this index vary based on whether the goal is complete income equality or, as this board believes, providing equal opportunities for individuals to bolster their incomes while also making sure the jobs available cover a range of pay levels.

Seen through those lenses, the news report contained some findings that allude to how Central Minnesota could make more strides not just in the Gini index, but more importantly, in helping those at the lower income levels move up.

The two obvious focal points are working to attract and increase good-paying jobs while helping improve access to education.

The report noted about 60 percent of job openings outside of the Twin Cities don’t require post-secondary education, which indicates pay is likely low. So what can be done locally for better-paying jobs?

Meanwhile, an increasing number of local employers indicate they struggle to find qualified workers. And to top it off, many young and new residents struggle even more to find ways to earn that post-secondary training needed to be hired.

Clearly, Central Minnesota needs to find ways to better connect these variables. Failure to do that could create a vicious downward spiral for all involved, no matter what the area’s income equality rating.

 

— St. Cloud Times

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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