Study Finds Greater Income Inequality in Nation’s Thriving Cities

2/20/14
 
   < < Go Back
 
from The New York Times,
2/20/14:

If you want to live in a more equal community, it might mean living in a more moribund economy.

That is one of the implications of a new study of local income trends by the Brookings Institution, the Washington research group. It found that inequality is sharply higher in economically vibrant cities like New York and San Francisco than in less dynamic ones like Columbus, Ohio, and Wichita, Kan.

The study, released on Thursday, comes as a number of cities across the country are trying to tackle income inequality and expand opportunity through measures like increasing the minimum wage, which President Obama has promised to do at the federal level. In no city is the effort more prominent than in New York, where the new mayor, Bill de Blasio, has promised higher taxes for rich families and better services for poor ones, including expanded early-childhood education and affordable-housing developments.

“The truth is, the state of our city, as we find it today, is a tale of two cities, with an inequality gap that fundamentally threatens our future,” Mr. de Blasio said this month, echoing his campaign speeches. “It must not, and will not, be ignored by your city government.”

Local officials here in Washington and in Boston, New Haven, San Francisco and Seattle have also seized on the issue.

But in some cases, higher income inequality might go hand in hand with economic vibrancy, the study found. “These more equal cities — they’re not home to the sectors driving economic growth, like technology and finance,” said its author, Alan Berube. “These are places that are home to sectors like transportation, logistics, warehousing.”

He added, “In terms of actual per capita income growth, these are not places that would be high up the list.”

That does not mean that measures intended to mitigate inequality will necessarily reduce the vibrancy of a local community. But the study confirms what many others have shown: The country’s big cities tend to have higher income inequality than the country as a whole.

More From The New York Times: