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Census Data Suggests Gap Between the Rich and Poor Varies Across Virginia

Wealth inequality is more prevalent in some parts of Virginia than others.

Which parts of Virginia have the highest levels of wealth inequality? According to new Census numbers compiled by the Virginia Public Access Project, Southwest Virginia has more places that have the largest gap between the very rich and the very poor. Northern Virginia, on the other hand, has some of the lowest levels of wealth inequality.

"That’s because all the people there are rich.”

That’s Victor Chen at Virginia Commonwealth University. He says recent years have seen a changing landscape of wealth inequality.

"In more recent decades, you’ve seen this rise of gated neighborhoods and so on, and that’s reflected in terms of just low levels of inequality in counties that are very affluent.”

Hamilton Lombard at the University of Virginia sees something else in numbers. He says wealth inequality tends to be higher in urban areas, places like Richmond and Williamsburg.

“So it’s interesting if you think about what the parties focus on. The Democrats have had a higher focus on income inequality, and that’s generally been more of a problem in places that vote more Democratic in Virginia. So that may be where some of the interest comes from.”

Among the top 25 counties and cities with the highest income inequality, Lombard says, 16 were won by Democrats in the last election — eight of the top ten. At the other end of the spectrum, Republicans won 20 of the 25 counties and cities with the lowest income inequality.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.