Do States with Democratic Governors Have Greater Income Inequality?

Do states with Democratic governors really have more income inequality than those with Republicans? REUTERS/Brian C. Frank

During Tuesday night's fourth Republican presidential primary debate, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul told potential voters that the best way to deal with income inequality is to vote Republican. His proof: States with Republicans in the governor's mansion tend to have lower income inequality than those with Democrats. So is that true?

Not really.

The Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank, looked at income trends after the Great Recession, which economists say gripped the United States from 2007 to 2009. They found that overall, the top 1 percent of earners gained more income—much more, in fact—than the other 99 percent. In 17 states— Delaware, Florida, Missouri, South Carolina, North Carolina, Connecticut, Washington, Louisiana, California, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Idaho, Massachusetts, Colorado, New York, Rhode Island and Nevada—all income growth went to the top 1 percent. In 22 states, more than half of all income growth went to the top one percent.

The takeaway: Generally speaking, it doesn't much matter where you live; oncome inequality is increasing across the board. But even if there's no correlation between income inequality and Democratic governors, neither is there a pronounced connection between income parity and GOP leadership. In those 17 states where all income growth went to the top 1 percent, seven had Democratic governors for the period between 2009 and 2012. Five had Republicans and five were split on account of a gubernatorial election in 2010.