Thursday, August 21, 2014

Income Pyramids

Mark Knold,  Supervising Economist

The Workforce Research and Analysis unit here at Workforce Services desires to be responsive to data requests that come our way. We try to anticipate what labor statistics/economics/demographics data are pertinent to an area, and we post tables, charts, and graphs on our website to make this available. But a recent request from one of Utah’s legislators asking for a wage pyramid for his area caught my eye. It turned out to be a simple procedure and analysis, and one I wish to share.

Individual wage data can’t be extracted from the data that DWS is proprietary to. There is nowhere one can go to get a list of everyone’s wages who live in a specified area. But a powerful substitute can be found in the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS). A household income estimate is available for each county, and this can be compartmentalized and stacked as a pyramid.

Click graph to enlarge
The figure above shows the income pyramid for the state of Utah. Income categories are presented at left, and the percent of households that fall into these categories are quantified as horizontal bars. For example, 22 percent of Utah’s households have incomes in the $50,000 to $74,999 range, the largest category of representation. There is congregation immediately above and below this level, with
noticeable tapering at the top and bottom.

The legislator’s request came through our eastern region DWS office. That office broadened the
request to include all of the counties in Utah’s eastern counties. This was easily done, and since it was produced, I decided to also present it here.



Click graphs to enlarge
Utah’s eastern counties are Carbon, Daggett, Duchesne, Emery, Grand, San Juan, and Uintah. Carbon, Duchesne, and Emery county’s pyramids show little difference from the Utah statewide pyramid.

The other four, though, show difference from the state average and reflect each county’s individuality.

Daggett and Grand counties are tourism-supported counties. Many tourism jobs tend to pay below average and/or are often seasonal. These features make those county’s pyramids somewhat bottom heavy.



Click graphs to enlarge
San Juan County has a roughly average income distribution with the exception of the lowest income category. San Juan County has a large Native American makeup, which factors into its shape. Census Bureau data reveals that tribal incomes are low.

Uintah County is an energy/mining-industry dominated county, and that industry tends to pay high wages across the occupational matrix energy creates. Therefore, Uintah County’s pyramid is more top heavy than the state average.

Income pyramids are strong proxies for the wealth of a local economy and are a gauge of an area’s economic endowment. Many counties are average in this respect, but when not, the wage pyramids visually present the differences.

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