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Expand chart
Adapted from Brookings; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

The most prosperous areas of the U.S. are maintaining their wealth, and the poorest places are stuck in poverty after decades of economic progress, according to a new report by the Brookings Institution's Hamilton Project.

The big picture: For decades, there was convergence between the states with the highest and lowest median wages, and the fastest economic growth generally belonged to the counties with the lowest median earnings. But those trends have ended. As depicted in the charts above, the closing of the gap between higher and lower income regions has ended — and even reversed course in some areas.

Americans are no longer moving as often as they did, and the highly-educated are flocking to and staying in tech and financial hubs, Jay Shambaugh, one of the report's authors, tells Axios. "By and large, places have gotten stuck."

The backstory: Over the past several decades, companies and industries moved to cheaper land and labor. The invention of air conditioning made it easier to run manufacturing plants in the South, and improved roads and transportation systems allowed for expansion to the middle of the country. At the same time, Americans moved toward higher wages and better jobs.

  • But that's no longer the case. Due to increased home values in desirable locations, the technology boom and other factors, people can't always afford to move to areas that are better off economically. If their hometown experiences an economic shock like the collapse of an industry or a depression, people aren't leaving like they did in the past, Shambaugh said.
  • Meanwhile, the prospering counties and states are continuing to benefit from the tech boom. "The economy depends even more on people with college degrees," according to Shambaugh, and "the places that were more highly educated 30 years ago have extended their lead."

The exceptions are states and counties in the midwest, which used to be the middle of the pack for household earnings, have plummeted toward the bottom. And the Upper Great Plains region, which includes North Dakota, is experiencing a boom largely due to the fracking industry.

Go deeper

Updated 38 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Contact tracing fizzles across America — New clues emerge on long COVID — Omicron is finally burning out — It's very difficult to get access to antiviral COVID treatments — Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Virginia AG says public colleges can't mandate COVID vaccines —Alaska governor joins Texas lawsuit over National Guard vaccine mandate — Navy discharges 45 sailors for refusing vaccine — Spotify to remove Neil Young's music after his Joe Rogan ultimatum.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker

Scoop: Ukraine gives U.S. senators 4 specific asks

Zelensky. Photo: John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

The chairman of Ukraine's parliament has sent a letter to eight U.S. senators outlining four specific requests for security assistance and sanctions that Kyiv believes will help deter a Russian invasion, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The Ukrainian government is leaning on Congress — and a bipartisan group of senators negotiating compromise language on sanctions that could pass the Senate — in an effort to push the U.S. posture beyond the Biden administration's approach.

Updated 2 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a powerful and potentially historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring an array of hazards, from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten coastal property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.