Inequality of wealth in New York City

I am running way behind in my New Yorker reading.  But some facts don’t change, even if you read them almost three months later.

In the midst of an excellent article by Ken Auletta (link to Auletta’s website here) about outgoing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (The New Yorker, August 26, 2013) are some sobering statistics about poverty and the inequality of wealth in America’s greatest city.  I quote them directly:

“By the end of 2011 more than a fifth of New Yorkers were living below the poverty line and another quarter just above it.”  You read that one right:  20% plus 25% = 45% of New Yorkers living either below the poverty line or just above it – almost half of the city’s residents.

“A million seven hundred thousand city residents are poor, nearly a third of them children; the number of people on food stamps has risen by two-thirds since 2007. Fifty thousand residents, including twenty thousand children, are homeless.”  That’s quoting the Fiscal Policy Institute.

“The wealthiest one per cent of city residents—those who make half a million dollars or more a year—earn thirty-nine per cent of all city income, up from just twelve per cent in 1980. Nationwide, the top one per cent earn twenty per cent of all income, up from ten per cent in 1980.”  In other words, New York City is by some measures twice as unequal in wealth distribution than the whole of the USA, which is already turning to a frighteningly unequal place with wealth so badly distributed that it is at the level of the 1920s.

But lest we think that the rich are not “doing their thing”: “The top one per cent of city taxpayers consists of just thirty-five thousand residents, and they already contribute forty-three per cent of the city’s income-tax revenues.”  There are two ways to look at this:  either they really are doing their “fair share”, or “they certainly must have oodles of money, especially when you realise that the city’s income tax rate is 3.9%.

Reminds me of an old saying:  The rich are different from you and me – they have more money.


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