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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Urban Inequality

Many posts have discussed the growth in economic and social inequality in recent years.  The San Francisco Chronicle reports that its hometown is a prime example:
In one measurement, we're about on par with Rwanda. Yes, Rwanda.
The city's Human Services Agency has released a new report filled with startling data about a rapidly changing San Francisco, where the rich are getting richer and more educated, the poor are falling further behind and the middle-class is skipping town altogether.
One way of measuring income inequality is called the Gini Coefficient, a century-old formula used by the World Bank, the CIA and other groups to measure national economies. If everybody in any given place shares wealth equally, the region scores a 0. If one person holds all the wealth, it scores a 1.
Using 2012 figures from the American Community Survey, a branch of the U.S. Census Bureau, the Human Services Agency calculated San Francisco's Gini Coefficient at .523.
According to the World Bank, Sweden scores a .25, Denmark scores a .24, and the United States as a whole scores a .45.
Rwanda actually shares wealth a little more than San Francisco, scoring a .508. But we are doing a bit better than Guatemala at .559. So there's that.
The scores are to be taken with a grain of salt since social services and charities mean it's different to be poor in San Francisco than in Rwanda or Guatemala, but they still demonstrate a quickly widening gap between our city's top and bottom earners.
At Brookings, Alan Berube provides data on inequality in big cities: