This Idaho area has one of the most extreme income inequality gaps in the country

The Liberty Theatre on Main Street in Hailey.
The Liberty Theatre on Main Street in Hailey. Carol Waller

One Idaho county and its county seat are among the spots in the U.S. with the worst income inequality, thanks to top earners who rake in nearly 50 times what the average worker makes, according to new research from the Economic Policy Institute.

Blaine County is the 27th most unequal county in the country, while the Hailey area is the ninth-worst area, based on 2015 economic data.

In addition, the Jackson, Wyoming, area — which extends into Eastern Idaho — is the worst in the country, said the institute, a liberal Washington think tank.

According to the EPI, the top 1 percent of earners in Blaine County make about $3.6 million on average. The other 99 percent of the population averages $77,353 — 46.8 times less.

Despite earning a higher national ranking, Hailey’s ratio of income inequality is slightly less than that of its surrounding county, thanks to slightly less affluent earners. The average income of Hailey’s top 1 percent is $3.1 million, 44.9 times more than average. The average income for the other 99 percent of Hailey’s population is $69,399.

The area is known for its affluence, including celebrities and tech titans who live and recreate in Hailey or nearby Sun Valley and Ketchum.

Farther east, Jackson’s income equality blew the rest of the country away: Its top 1 percent of earners bring in 132 times what the other 99 percent of people earn. The most affluent in Jackson average $16.1 million in income, while others in the area average $122,447.

The Institute reports that the average income for the top 1 percent in the nation continues to balloon. Statewide, Idaho’s top 1 percent take home nearly 15 percent of all the income in Idaho. That’s an average of $820,268, while the other 99 percent of Idahoans average $47,727 — 17.4 times less.

What lands someone in Idaho’s top income category? An annual income of at least $314,532, the EPI says.

Overall, Idaho’s income disparity pales in comparison to much of the country. Idaho ranks 38 out of 50 states in terms of unequal income ratio. Across the country, the average top 1 percent earner makes 26.3 times what the average 99 percent earner does

This article was written as part of a monthlong focus on southwest Idaho’s cultural and political diversity. Contact reporter Nicole Blanchard at 208-377-6410, or follow her on Twitter: @NMBlanchard