Report: Top 1 percent see majority of income growth in AZ

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- Record numbers on Wall Street are good for traders and investors, but don't mean much to hardworking Arizona families just trying to get by. New numbers show the rich appear to be getting richer.

"Three kids, two jobs is just madness," Allie Paolone said. Like many families, she said they're still surviving paycheck to paycheck.

"It's terrifying to think maybe one day we wouldn't be able to pay our bills," Paolone said.

New numbers show the average person's income isn't climbing as fast as top executives. The Economic Policy Institute compared income growth for the top 1 percent and the rest of the population from 2009 to 2012.

In Arizona, the top 1 percent saw the majority of income growth, and the state's wealthiest made about 23 times that of the average person.

"The middle class definitely deserves to be paid more," Paolone said. "There is a hardworking group of all of us that definitely deserve more income."

A Wallethub study broke down Arizona's wealth distribution by city. According to their report, Gilbert and Chandler don't have as high an income gap as Tempe, Mesa, Phoenix and Glendale.

"The potential problem with that, and I think it's worrisome, is social unrest, is this kind of feeling of hopelessness at the lower income levels," said Dennis Hoffman, professor at ASU's W.P. Carey School of Business. He said the income gap is due in part to increased automation and outsouring.

So what can people do?

"Investment in education and skills pays off," Hoffman said.

Paolone said she and her husband are working toward a more financially secure future.

"We want to not live paycheck to paycheck to paycheck," she said.