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Income Inequality May Impact a City’s Affordable Housing



By Natalie Wise

Since the recession, the income gap is widening, especially in large cities. But some, including one Florida city, are more equal than others, according to a review of U.S. Census Bureau data by the Brookings Institution.

The nonprofit public policy organization found that cities with high income equality “may fail to produce housing and neighborhoods accessible to middle-class workers and families, so that those who move up or down the income ladder ultimately have no choice but to move out.”

Brookings applied the 95/20 income ratio to measure income equality. The figure takes the income that would have a family earning more than 95 percent of all households and divides it by the income at which a family would be earning more than only 20 percent of other households. This number is the income ratio. A low number represents high equality and a high number represents inequality.

In the United States, larger cities remain more unequal in income than smaller cities and towns. For 2012 the national average as a whole was 9.1, but in large cities it was 10.8.

Atlanta has the highest gap, with an income ratio of 18.8 percent.

San Francisco, the No. 2 city for income inequality, has a ratio of 16.6 percent. Brookings stated that skyrocketing housing costs may increasingly preclude low-income residents from finding a new home in the area altogether.

Miami is the No. 3 city with the highest inequality and an income ratio of 15.7. Brookings found that although Miami has many poor residents and neighborhoods, the city manages to retain several very wealthy areas.

Boston (No. 4) has an income ratio of 15.3. No. 5, Washington, D.C., has an income ratio of 13.3, followed close by the No. 6 city, New York, with a ratio of 13.2.

Oakland, Calif., is No. 7 with an income ratio of 12.7, with Chicago, Los Angeles and Baltimore with income ratios of 12.5, 12.3, and 12.2, respectively.

Which cities are faring better?

Virginia Beach, Va., leads the top 10 cities with the lowest income inequality, with an income ratio of 6.0 – well below the national average. Arlington, Texas, is No. 2 with an income ratio of 7.3.

Mesa, Ariz., is No. 3, with an income ratio of 7.5. Wichita, Kan., is tied with Las Vegas with an income ratio of 7.7.

The No. 6 city is Colorado Springs, Colo., at 7.9. Fort Worth, Texas, has an income ratio of 8.1, followed closely by Omaha, Neb., at 8.2 and Raleigh, N.C., at 8.3.

The last large city on the list is Oklahoma City with an income ratio of 8.5.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 1:00pm]


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