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D.C. Ranks Fourth In Income Inequality Among Large Cities

In D.C. the difference between the haves and the have-nots is much higher than most cities.
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In D.C. the difference between the haves and the have-nots is much higher than most cities.

The average income of the top 5 percent of District households is 53.8 times the average income of the bottom 20 percent, according to a report by the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute (PDF). This makes income inequality in D.C. the fourth-highest among large U.S. cities.

D.C.'s top earning families made $530,000 on average in 2012, the highest number of any city in the country. To put it into perspective, that's $100,000 more than the wealthiest 5 percent in New York City, $125,000 more than in Boston and $275,000 more than the top earners in Philadelphia.

By contrast, the bottom fifth of households in D.C. are drawing an income of $9,900 on average, roughly the same as other large cities. What that doesn't take into account is the much higher cost of living in the nation's capital compared to elsewhere.

A study by the Economic Policy Institute last year concluded that a family of four would need $88,615 a year just to make ends meet.

Wes Rivers, who wrote the study, says policies like an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit, investment in training programs and an expansion of the supply of affordable housing could help boost D.C.'s poor.

"Making work pay and taking steps to help bridge the gap between the high cost of living and low wages for low-income residents will help increase economic mobility and lessen inequality," Rivers says in the report.

Earlier this year, the D.C. Council passed a bill that will raise the city's minimum wage to $11.50 by 2016. At the recent Democratic mayoral debate at WAMU 88.5, Mayor Vincent Gray also said the city is preserving 10,000 units of affordable housing and is putting more money towards it in the forthcoming budget.

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