Census data shows inequality of income in SDWages in rural areas are about 80 percent of wages in more populous areas such as Mitchell and Sioux Falls.
By: Chris Mueller, The Daily Republic
New census data reveals varying levels of income inequality across South Dakota’s 66 counties.
The new data measures income inequality in the state using a complex mathematical formula known as the Gini index, which measures inequality on a scale from zero, or perfect equality, to one, or perfect inequality.
South Dakota’s Gini index of 0.44 represents a level of income inequality slightly below the national level of 0.47, measured from 2006 to 2010. However, numbers in the state varied from county to county — as low as 0.34 in Brule County, and as high as 0.55 in Perkins County.
The level of income inequality varies in the state because it’s influenced mostly by local factors, said Dr. Mike McCurry, head of South Dakota State University’s Rural Life and Census Data Center.
As a general rule, McCurry found that wages in rural areas are about 80 percent of wages in more populous areas such as Mitchell and Sioux Falls.
“We’re better paid in Mitchell, we’re better paid in Sioux Falls,” he said. “Just look at how much Mitchell has grown in the last dozen years.”
The Gini index in both Davison and Minnehaha counties is 0.42.
McCurry found as more people migrate into cities and towns, it has created greater income inequality in those rural areas losing segments of its population.
“In some of our farming communities, we’re seeing inequity because there is more opportunity for people moving away,” he said.
Other trends creating income disparity in the state include the high unemployment rates on reservations paired with the average to above-average wages of those with jobs on reservations, as well as the growing Hutterite populations in places like Faulk County, which has a Gini index of 0.48, where inequality is increased because colony members have no personal income.