Economist Mark Price has been working on the issue of economic inequality for a piece published this month by the Economic Policy Institute. Using IRS data, Price compared the top one percent of earners to the rest of the 99 percent of earners in cities across the U.S. and found that in Missoula, the top one percent make 30.8 times more than the bottom 99 percent. Price says ratio was way higher in Missoula than in any other Montana city, earning it the title of “most unequal metropolitan area in the state."

"The most unequal metro is Missoula, with a ratio of 30.8," Price said. "The second most unequal metro is Bozeman with a ratio of 24. The third most unequal metro is Butte-Silverbow, with a ratio of 20.3, Kalispell is 19.4,  and Billings is 16.9."

Price says that the larger metro areas are typically more unequal, but Montana bucks that trend with Billings having one of the better equality scores in the state even though it is the biggest city. A deeper dive into the numbers reveals big differences in what the “99 percent” earn in different Montana cities.

Screenshot courtesy of EPI
Screenshot courtesy of EPI

"The average income of the bottom 99 in Billings is $51,748," Price said. "The average income in Bozeman for the bottom is $58,934 and in Missoula it is at $44,234."

Though recently released by the IRS, the data used in the study is actually from 2015, so some things have likely changed since then. The rest of Price’s work can be found at the Economic Policy Institute under a piece titled "The Unequal States of America."

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