COMMENT By Bob Weaver

The income gap between West Virginia's richest and poorest citizens has widened dramatically over the past few decades, according to a study by the Economic Policy Institute and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

In the USA, the gap is widening, while the wage earning of middle income families has continued to be stagnant for several years, in addition to diminished benefits.

It's been hard to cipher during the presidential campaign, but median household income for a middle class family has dropped by almost $5,000 since 2000.

Median net worth, the total wealth of a middle-class family has dropped by a staggering 40% between 2007 and 2010, mostly linked to the collapse of the American economy - the Great Recession.

Meanwhile, most American corporations have continued to make record breaking profits during the Great Recession. Millions of jobs have been globalized, never mentioned during the presidential campaign.

West Virginia had the seventh largest increase in income inequality in the nation between the late 1970s and the mid-2000s, according to the study by the nonprofit and nonpartisan research organization.

It found that in the mid-2000s, the richest 20 percent of families had an income $134,464 per year. That's 8.4 times greater than the poorest 20 percent, whose average yearly income was $15,917.

In the late 1970s, the ratio was 4.9.

Stuart Frazier, a policy analyst for the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, called the trend "extremely troubling."

"Growing up in poverty is harmful to our state's children and affects everything from their performance in school to their earnings as adults," Frazier said.

The study was based on inflation-adjusted U.S. Census data.

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