Wealth: It’s all relative in Ozaukee County
Income gap exists here, but at much higher incomes

By Laurie Arendt - News Graphic Correspondent

Sept. 7, 2017

OZAUKEE COUNTY — Imagine making $1,234.50 an hour.

It may be an inconceivable amount, but that’s actually the amount the top 1 percent of households in Ozaukee County made last year. It calculates out to an annual income of $2.56 million.

If you are part of the other 99 percent of Ozaukee County, things aren’t exactly terrible either. The average income in Ozaukee County among this group of folks is $82,058 or about $39.49 an hour.

Yet, even though Ozaukee County residents remain at the top of the annual report by the Wisconsin Budget Project and UW-Madison’s Center on Wisconsin Strategy, the striking difference between these two income levels illustrates the wage gap that exists in the state.

  Data show that the top 1 percent of earners in the state saw their income rise about 47 percent more than the rest of state residents.
Source: Economic Analysis Research Network report

In 2014, one out of every $6 of income in Wisconsin wound up in the pockets of the top 1 percent of earners. The top 1 percent of earners had income of $335,000 or higher in 2014. The top 0.01 percent in Wisconsin – the top one out of 10,000 – had incomes of at least $6.5 million.

The share of income going to the top 1 percent in Wisconsin has more than doubled since the 1970s. In Ozaukee County, 24 percent of all income goes to the top 1 percent of the households.

“What we are finding, and continue to find each year, is that the income lifting is really only happening for the top 1 percent,” said Tamarine Cornelius of the Wisconsin Budget Project. “We don’t see a big change anywhere else. There’s a big ‘donut hole’ in the middle that doesn’t really see much of a difference.”

The annual report shows that the counties with the highest levels of income inequality were Eau Claire County, in which 26.2 percent of all income went to the top 1 percent of earners in 2014, Ozaukee County and Milwaukee County (19.0 percent). In both Eau Claire and Ozaukee counties, a greater share of the income was claimed by the top 1 percent than the national average.

  The chart compares Wisconsin’s income gap to other parts of the country.
Source: Economic Analysis Research Network report

The income of Ozaukee County’s top 1 percent actually dropped from $2.6 million in the previously reported year, and the average income of the remainder of the population also decreased about $6,000, but Cornelius cautioned that it’s difficult to measure the income gap statistically in any given year.

“The overall trend over time still tends to be an upward trajectory in the wealth gap,” she said.

As with last year, Cornelius also noted that Ozaukee County is less of an outlier when compared to other counties nationwide. For 2014, Ozaukee County ranked 106th nationally, with similar income levels found in Hennepin County, Minn., Bergen County, N.J., and Missoula County, Mont.

The overall income levels in our county put Ozaukee County in an interesting position: Though a significant wealth gap does exist, it may not be as noticeable as in other counties.

“Essentially, Ozaukee County is up the ladder from many other counties,” said Cornelius. “But the wealth gap still exists.”