These 2 US cities have the highest and lowest levels of social and economic inequality

Homeless inequality povertyREUTERS/Lucy NicholsonA man looks at his phone as he walks out of the courthouse past a man arranging his bags in Los Angeles, California July 8, 2014.

Income inequality in America has steadily been growing for decades, and a new study from the Urban Institute looks atinequality at the neighbourhood level.

The study identified the most privileged and most distressed neighbourhoods by determining a “neighbourhood advantage score” based on household income, homeownership rates, housing values, and college attainment and then comparing the top 10% of Census tracts to the bottom 10% across the US and in various metropolitan areas.

It also singled out the two metro areas with the highest and lowest inequality levels between neighbourhoods.

Dallas, Texas, has the highest neighbourhood inequality index in the country. This translates into incomes in the top Census tracts being almost six times higher, housing value more than six times higher, homeownership over two times higher and college completion nine times higher than in the bottom Census tracts.

Erie, Pennsylvania, is at the other end of the spectrum. Income in the top Census tracts is less than three times higher than in the bottom tracts, housing value is barely three times higher, homeownership just about two times higher and college completion just over four times higher than the bottom tracts.

The Urban Institute researchers suggested that the difference between the two cities came from the top: Dallas’ top 10% tracts have incomes, housing values, and college attainment rates that are on average two to three times higher than the top 10% in Erie, while the same factors in Dallas’ bottom tracts were around the same level as Erie’s bottom tracts. Dallas’ elites are better off than those at the top in Erie, while the bottom 10% of tracts look about the same in both cities.

The local media in Dallas has taken note of the inequality there. In March, the Dallas Observer reported that the income of the top 5% of earners rose 12% between 2012 and 2013 while the earnings for the bottom 20% fell 1%.

“In a rather unsurprising turn of events,” the Observer noted, “Dallas’ rich are getting richer while its poor are getting poorer.”

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