DCentric » Income disparity http://dcentric.wamu.org Race, Class, The District. Wed, 16 May 2012 20:20:35 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.2.1 Copyright © WAMU Five Facts About D.C.’s Gap Between Rich and Poor http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/03/five-facts-about-d-c-s-gap-between-rich-and-poor/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/03/five-facts-about-d-c-s-gap-between-rich-and-poor/#comments Thu, 08 Mar 2012 16:15:48 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=14573 Continue reading ]]>

401kcalculator.org / 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.

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Why Low-Income Kids Miss Out On Play http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/01/why-low-income-kids-miss-out-on-play/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/01/why-low-income-kids-miss-out-on-play/#comments Tue, 10 Jan 2012 15:58:14 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=13312 Continue reading ]]>

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:

Low-income kids are more likely to see recess cut from their school day.

Increasing the focus on academics and allotting less time for physical activity is a national trend. But the AAP report found that low-income school districts face greater cuts to recess and physical education because they are under pressure to reduce academic disparities. Nationwide, recess has been cut from one-third of schools with the highest poverty rates. Even after-school programs are shifting focus from creative and physical activities to homework help, often making them just an extension of the school day.

The D.C. Healthy Schools Act, passed in 2010, made physical education mandatory in D.C.’s public schools. Gym classes have to spend at least 50 percent of their time on actual physical activity. During the first year of the act, students had to spend at least 30 to 45 minutes a week in physical education classes. By the 2013-2014 school year, the time spent on physical education has to be 150 to 225 minutes a week.

There are fewer playgrounds in low-income, urban communities, or they may be underused because of a fear of violence

Cities have less green space than the suburbs, so playgrounds are one of the only places where children can roam around freely and play. Obviously, if there aren’t many around, you don’t have as many chances to play.

D.C. has 101 playgrounds, which averages out to 1.7 per every 10,000 residents. The city spends more money per resident parks and recreation than any other major city. But just having playgrounds in low-income communities isn’t enough; people are less likely to take advantage of such resources if they live in communities where there’s a fear of violence. Parents tend to restrict their kids’ outdoor playtime if they’re worried they could be victims of crime, according to a Kaiser Permanente and the Prevention Institute study.

Parents are busy insuring their families’ day-to-day survival.

If playgrounds and public spaces aren’t deemed safe for children, shouldn’t parents carve out time to accompany their kids so they do get adequate playtime?

“Although lower-income parents have the same desires for their children to succeed and reach their full potential as do parents with greater economic and social assets,” the report notes, “they must focus primarily on the family’s day-to-day survival.” Making sure your kids get outdoor playtime may not be your priority if you’re working multiple jobs or constantly stressed about bills, housing and food.

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Two Americas Coexist in D.C. http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/10/two-americas-coexist-in-d-c/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/10/two-americas-coexist-in-d-c/#comments Thu, 20 Oct 2011 18:20:27 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=11625 Continue reading ]]> 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.

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Poverty By Race in D.C. http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/09/poverty-by-race-in-d-c/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/09/poverty-by-race-in-d-c/#comments Mon, 26 Sep 2011 15:31:56 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=10881 Continue reading ]]>

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.

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The New D.C. Income Tax Hike: Your Take http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/09/the-new-d-c-income-tax-hike-your-take/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/09/the-new-d-c-income-tax-hike-your-take/#comments Thu, 22 Sep 2011 17:28:46 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=10812 Continue reading ]]> 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.



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Poll: Is the D.C. Tax Hike Fair? http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/09/poll-is-the-d-c-tax-hike-fair/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/09/poll-is-the-d-c-tax-hike-fair/#comments Wed, 21 Sep 2011 15:43:05 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=10723 Continue reading ]]>

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:

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