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South Dakota 1% Take More than Half of New Post-Recession Income; Teachers Left Behind

Last updated on 2015.02.03

Todd Epp posts data on what it takes to be a member of the 1% in South Dakota—$404,010. That threshold for earning more than 99% of South Dakotans is higher than the national threshold of $380,000 and higher than in every adjoining state but Minnesota ($413,748) and North Dakota (boosted by oil barons to $502,393).

The numbers come from the Economic Policy Institute, which divides average income for one-percenters and average income for the rest of us and maps those ratios as measures of income inequality in each state:

(Click to embiggen!)


By that measure, South Dakota's hoi polloi are farther behind Sanford and friends than are the proletariat of every adjoining state other than North Dakota. The ratio of South Dakota's average one-percenter income to everyone else's is the 16th-highest in the nation.

If we compare the average salaries EPI calculates here with the average teacher salaries for 2012, South Dakota looks worse. Nationwide in 2012, the average teacher's salary was 29% higher than the average salary for the masses. Teachers are far from joining the one-percenters, but their training and work earn them higher-than average pay in 43 states and the District of Columbia. South Dakota is one of six places that deems teachers worth less than the average salary of the 99%:

  • In Colorado, teachers make 1% less than that average.
  • In Kansas, 1.7% less.
  • Nebraska, 5.2% less.
  • Virginia, 12.5% less.
  • South Dakota, 21.2% less.
  • North Dakota, 22.9% less.

These data dispute the response South Dakota's Republican lawmakers offer that low pay and workforce shortages aren't unique to the teaching profession, that everyone else gets lower pay as well in South Dakota. The average pay for the 99% in South Dakota ranks 14th in the nation. Our teacher pay ranks last, and our ratio of teacher pay to the 99%'s average pay is the second lowest in the nation.

From 2009 to 2012, income grew for South Dakota's one-percenters by 42.7%, the tenth-highest rich-getting-richer rate in the nation. Post-recession income for the rest of us grew 7.0%, the second-highest rate in the nation (thank you, corn!). South Dakota's 1% captured 53.4% of post-recession income growth; Minnesota's top hats captured 56.0% of that new income. Things could be worse: in seventeen states, the top 1% accounted for all income growth from 2009 to 2012—in other words, the rich got richer and the poor got poorer.

Remember, income inequality threatens economic opportunity and democracy. When wealth concentrates, power concentrates. Alexis de Tocqueville recognized this fact in what appears to have been the healthier democracy of 1830s America. If South Dakota wants democracy, it needs to find ways to share the wealth with teachers and all members of the 99% instead of letting the richest take more than half of the pie.


  1. Jenny 2015.01.31

    This is really interesting Cory and really goes to show that Obama is not the liberal that Pubs think he is. The 1% have benefitted tremendously under Obama even in the midst of a huge recession.
    Even as true liberal Gov Dayton raised taxes on the wealthy in MN, those wage earners are faring fantastically well. The top wage earners are so ahead of the game in this country that average people don't realize it. MNs unemployment rate is still low and the state has a billion dollar surplus. I'd like to hear conservative economists explain that one.

  2. Joan Brown 2015.01.31

    I used to be married to a cop in a SD city of about 15,000. Their wages compared to that of teachers in that city. Both careers were some of the higher paid, in that city, other than doctors and lawyers. The cops picked up any odd job that they could whenever they had a day off to earn extra money. Teachers worked second jobs in the summer. A lot of the cops did have college educations. The difference between the teachers and the cops, is that because of the cops rotating schedules and days off, they couldn't have a steady part time job. The cops families still qualified for WIC if they had kids in the right age group, and I bet the teachers did too. The cops also qualified to buy a government low income house at that time, and I bet the teachers did too. I'm just using this as an example of how wages sometimes compare.

  3. WayneF 2015.01.31

    A police officer in my city delivers pizza when he's not on his regular job. He's not working undercover ... he's supporting his family. There's something wrong with this picture.

    There are a lot of teachers who are in the same situation in South Dakota.

  4. mike from iowa 2015.01.31

    If them dang teachers would just whip out a million bucks for political contributions,they wouldn't have to contemplate striking to get wingnuts attention. Of course wingnuts can pass a law that says you can't strike. That way they can pretend you teachers are content with your parsimonious pay and lack of respect from gubmint.

  5. Tim 2015.01.31

    It's a good thing republicans are providing people with those pizza delivery jobs as income supplement, otherwise our teachers and cops would be starving. (snark)

  6. grudznick 2015.01.31

    If the fatcat administrators with their cushy reserved parking spaces would just give the good teachers raises we'd all be happy.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.31

    At Madison High School, every teacher had a reserved parking spot.

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.31

    Tim, that's a good point about the distribution of income. The averages are skewed by fewer folks earning solid wages.

    Check this out: in 2012, median household income in South Dakota was $48,362. The average teaching salary was $39,450. One teacher raising a family solely on her income would have been living on well below the amount available to a majority of households. Two teachers would have been well above that midway point.

    But a few higher paying jobs are balanced in the averages by more and more low-paying jobs. The middle class is disappearing, and we need that class to bridge the wealth and power of the lowest and the highest.

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.31

    Indeed, Jenny: the rich have yet to suffer any sort of Marxist redistribution. I don't even advocate that drastic step; I'd just like to see everyone's boat get floated.

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.31

    That's a good example, Joan. And I would ask why any carrying out vital services such as teaching and policing should ever receive so little pay that he or she has to feed his kids with welfare dollars or hold a second job?

  11. Paul Seamans 2015.01.31

    The question in South Dakota shouldn't be about whether teachers are getting paid too little or too much. The question should be whether they will stay in South Dakota when they can cross the border and make $8,000 to $10,000 more. I thought our legislators understand the law of supply and demand a little bit better than they seem to.

  12. Joan Brown 2015.01.31

    i should also say that a lot of the cops extra income came from working security at ball games, etc., in uniform. My "ex" was also a really good carpenter(self taught) and did a lot of that on the side. He also worked in a gas station on his days off for a couple years and oh yes close to Valentine's Day and Mother's Day he also delivered flowers for a florist in the town.

  13. leslie 2015.01.31

    what do NY, Conn, Nev and Fla have according to the map? Wealth? Nevada? wow

  14. mike from iowa 2015.02.01

    Import a multi-billionaire for every twenty people and average the wealth between each group of 21 and pay them all that amount of money.

  15. qlz 2015.02.01

    Madison, in a speech to the delegates at the constitutional convention in 1787:
    "In future times the great majority of the people will not only be without landed, but any other sort of property. These will either combine under the influence of their common situation, in which case the rights of property and the public liberty will not be secure in their hands; or, which is more probable, they will become the tools of opulence and ambition, in which case there will be equal danger on another side." The increasing influence of the rich on election outcomes and legislation suggests we are seeing the latter.

  16. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.02.01

    I wish that was a lousy quote, qlz, but Madison was very wise. This decimation of the middle class, massive expansion of poverty and oligarchical government have brought terrible hardship. The end of this nation will follow.

  17. leslie 2015.02.02

    thats dark deb. i like to think we are slow but eventually get it right. its easy to see why one talks about the end, considering the raised stakes from the right, and global turmoil, but can you share where you are coming from?

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