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Re-examining Regional Income Convergence: A Distributional Approach

Institute Working Paper 65 | Published March 9, 2023

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Kevin Rinz Visiting Scholar, Institute
John Voorheis U.S. Census Bureau
Re-examining Regional Income Convergence: A Distributional Approach


We re-examine recent trends in regional income convergence, considering the full distribution of income rather than focusing on the mean. Measuring similarity by comparing each percentile of state distributions to the corresponding percentile of the national distribution, we find that state incomes have become less similar (i.e. they have diverged) within the top 20 percent of the income distribution since 1969. The top percentile alone accounts for more than half of aggregate divergence across states over this period by our measure, and the top five percentiles combine to account for 93 percent. Divergence in top incomes across states appears to be driven largely by changes in top incomes among White people, while top incomes among Black people have experienced relatively little divergence.

[Download the state-level income distribution data for 1998 to 2019 (zip file).](