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California has one of the nation's highest levels of income inequality -- gaps between families in upper income brackets and those in middle and lower quintiles -- according to a new study by the Washington-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The left-leaning organization, whose California affiliate is the California Budget Project, found that in the late part of the last decade, California had the third greatest disparity between those in the top income brackets and those at the bottom of any state. Only New Mexico and Arizona had greater gaps.

When it came to the gap between those at the top and those in the middle, California had the second widest gap, lower only than New Mexico's. It also had the second largest increase in the gap between top and middle during the preceding three decades, from the late 1970s. Only Connecticut's gap grew more.

Nationally, the organization found that the richest fifth of households had average incomes eight times as large as those of the poorest fifth. It suggested that states with wide income gaps could close them with such steps as raising the minimum wage, making tax systems less regressive, strengthening benefits to low-income families and improving unemployment insurance benefits.



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