Income disparity


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:

Continue reading

Why Low-Income Kids Miss Out On Play

Old Mister Crow / Flickr

Remember playtime, when you would use your imagination to create a world of your own, with little structure or guidance? That kind of activity, called “free play,” helps boost childhood development and leads to better behavior in schools. But a new report by the American Academy of Pediatrics found low-income children in cities have limited opportunities to play.

It would seem that free play would be quite accessible, given that you don’t need expensive lessons or toys to participate. But there are a number of socioeconomic factors preventing low-income children from playing. Here are three:

Continue reading

Two Americas Coexist in D.C.

D.C. is a microcosm of national class disparities, and the country saw the gulf between the rich and poor widen during the recession. Theo Balcomb, production assistant for “All Things Considered,” writes about these “two Americas” she saw while helping produce stories on the economy.

While in Spartanburg, S.C., Balcomb met a diabetic pregnant woman on disability, “struggling to sort through cereal and pork patties in her food pantry box.” Balcolm witnessed the other America when reporting from New York’s Upper East Side, where, while visiting a seven-story mansion, her “biggest concern was not getting winded as I carried a bottle of wine, a corkscrew and a cheese plate up to the roof.”

And that’s what’s confusing: That America is a place where these two worlds can coexist, often without knowledge of each other. One where a pregnant woman has to wait in line for frozen pork patties, and one where I’m in New York being offered goat cheese and fig spread and crisp gluten-free crackers and low-fat string cheese.

The contrast has always been there, but it’s looking stark right about now. The 27-year-old woman working in the grocery store lit up when she had this thought: Those people in Washington, those people with all the money who make all the decisions, they should have to live a week in our shoes. It could be a new reality show, she said brightly. Just a week. Just a week in our shoes.

Victor Cheung / Flickr

The U.S. Capitol isn't far from some of D.C.'s poorest neighborhoods.

Many around the country view D.C. as the power capital of the world, but the District’s disparities are some of the starkest. The D.C. region has the highest incomes and lowest poverty rates in the nation. But 1 in 5 people in the District proper live below the poverty line. In Ward 3, 49 percent of people have incomes higher than $100,000 annually and unemployment is about 3 percent. A few miles away in Ward 8, 41.1 percent of people have incomes below $25,000 and unemployment is at about 25 percent.

Those “people in Washington… with all the money who make all the decisions” are presumably politicians and lobbyists on Capitol Hill. They don’t need to travel to South Carolina to see poverty or hardship. They can drive 10 minutes away to see it.

Poverty By Race in D.C.

Sharon Drummond / Flickr

The District’s poverty rate — 19.9 percent — is the third highest in the nation. But the way that rate breaks down by race shows that not all groups are affected equally by poverty.

These figures come courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau, which recently released its American Community Survey 2010 estimates for poverty and race. (Keep in mind the figures have various margins of error.):

Poverty Rate Median Income
White  8.5% $99,220
Hispanic 14.7% $60,798
Asian 20.1% $77,098
Black 27.1% $37,430
 *American Community Survey 2010 Estimates

Kathryn Baer of Poverty and Policy also points out that the percentage of D.C.’s children living in poverty has risen to 30.4 percent, the second-highest childhood poverty rate in the country. Baer writes:

In short, these are mostly grim figures — and a far cry from the “one city” Mayor Gray envisions.

To my mind, the child poverty rate rings the loudest alarm bells because we’ve got volumes of research showing that children who live in poverty have much higher risks of poor health, developmental delays, academic difficulties and other problems;

These, the research shows, pave the way for lifelong poverty — and thus another generation of children who are born with two strikes against them.

The New D.C. Income Tax Hike: Your Take

Yesterday we asked you to weigh in on whether it was fair to raise the income tax for D.C.’s wealthier residents. In an admittedly unscientific poll, 47 percent of readers voted that it made sense to increase the income tax rate by 0.45 percent for people making more than $350,000 year. Check out the results below, and cast your vote if you haven’t already.



Poll: Is the D.C. Tax Hike Fair?

Plashing Vole / Flickr

While the national debate on raising taxes on the wealthy rages on, D.C. has already made its move. On Tuesday, the City Council narrowly approved a tax hike on those making more than $350,000 a year. The measure raises the tax rate by 0.45 percent, affecting about 6,000 D.C. residents.

Despite the strong divide in the District between the rich and poor, the debate surrounding a tax hike on wealthier residents is quite contentious, with some officials calling it fair and others characterizing it as lazy government. So, what’s your take on the tax hike? Participate in our poll below — or leave your own answer in the comments below: