Inequality in the ‘Whitewater-Elkhorn’ Area

Over at the Economic Policy Institute, there’s a newly-published study of income inequality in America, and it ranks Walworth County as one of the most income-unequal places in the nation.  The study refers to the ‘Whitewater-Elkhorn’ metropolitan area, but with a population of 102,000, it’s clear that the reference is to Walworth County, using the 2010 Census population count.

(The methodology is that of Piketty and Saez, used years earlier to study income inequality across America.  Their method is not without critics, to be sure.  I find many of those critics compelling.)

Apart from this or other studies, however, it is still evident to anyone visiting Whitewater or Walworth County that pockets of significant poverty are all around.  This poverty surely  produces wide gaps with economically-successful residents.

Accentuating the positive in Whitewater has come at the price of ignoring actual conditions.

A few policymakers in Whitewater are versions of Japanese businessmen in the late ’80s, men who were so proud to proclaim that they had rebounded from the misery of war and thus had then arrived at the pinnacle of world achievement. (They were to find that arrival disappointing, as they’d overlooked actual economic conditions, and arrived only to years of stagnation.)

We would do far better to describe ourselves as we truly are, and invite others to join us not in an imaginary, perfect place, but in this real, beautiful, but work-yet-to-be-done place.