February 23, 2016
Virginia is Exceptionally Unequal
Too many hard-working Virginians can’t seem to get ahead, despite working full-time. Turns out, there’s a reason for that.
Median wages in Virginia are actually lower now in real terms than they were five years ago, even as wages for those at the top have grown sharply. This means that even as a few Virginians get more and more, everyone else is left farther behind. One in five Virginia workers now makes less than $10.33. That’s less than $21,500 a year for someone working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year.
Virginia is now the most unequal state in the country, and is more unequal than at any time on record. As of 2015, high-wage Virginia workers are being paid 6.2 times what low-wage workers make per hour, and 2.8 times what typical Virginians make.
Everyone wants their children to do better than they did, yet when wages for most people are stagnant or even falling that becomes more and more difficult. Many of us are proud of the hard work that helped us climb the ladder of opportunity and provide a better life for our families, whether it’s our own work, our parents’, or our grandparents’ But it’s harder to climb that ladder when the rungs keep getting further apart or are actually missing altogether.
We need to make sure everyone can make ends meet – we’re all better off when all families are financially stable and secure. And, beyond that, access to the American dream – being able to get ahead through hard work and sacrifice – should be for everyone, not just a few who have gotten more and more of the rewards of economic growth in recent years.
We need to grow the economy, and in ways that benefit all of us, not just some.
–Laura Goren, Research Director