Five Facts About D.C.’s Gap Between Rich and Poor / Flickr

The District continues to have one of the largest gaps between the rich and poor. Income inequality in large cities is higher only in Atlanta and Boston.

Top earners make 29 times more a year than the lowest earners, according to a new report by local think tank DC Fiscal Policy Institute. Researchers examinesd2010 census data and found some startling figures that illustrate the city’s income gap. Here are five facts about the District’s gulf between rich and poor residents:

The rich are much richer here.

The richest of D.C. residents, those in the top 5 percent income bracket, make $473,000 a year, which is the highest in the nation — the average among all large cities is $292,000. D.C. is only behind San Francisco in how much the top 20 percent make, too. But the bottom 20 percent of earners in D.C. make $9,100, which is close to the average among large cities.

The middle class makes more in D.C. than in other places.

D.C.’s middle-income households make $61,000 a year, which is higher than in all but four other large cities.

Wages increased at different rates for the poor and rich.

The growing income gap partially reflects a national phenomenon in which the rich saw their incomes rise at a much faster pace than the poor did over the past three decades. When taking inflation into account, high-wage earners in D.C. made 44 percent more in 2009 than they did in the 1979. Low-wage workers, on the other hand, saw their earnings rise by only 14 percent.

Credentials are key.

The gap between job requirements and skills helps explain the District’s unemployment disparity. In 2011, unemployment was 24 percent for D.C. residents with just a high school diploma. For those with a college degree, unemployment was 4 percent.

Wages have also grown at different rates based on education levels. For D.C. residents with only a high school diploma, wages have increased by only 1 percent since the 1970s (again, adjusting for inflation). But those with college degrees saw their wages grow by 30 percent.

Income gap is reflected in gap between the blacks and whites.

The top 20 percent of D.C.’s earners make $3.15 for every $1 people in the bottom 20 percent make. That figure doesn’t change much when comparing how much blacks and whites in D.C. make; for every $1 a black person in D.C. earns, a white person earns $3.06.

  • Docofbb

    We have not turned the corner on this trend, which began in Reagan’s time. Startling coincidence with ‘trickle-down’ economics and the rise of lobbying. Until we properly
    resource our schools, we will continue to triage our citizens by neighborhood rather 
    than by merit and effort.