There’s a Sun-Times article on income inequality in Chicago I found interesting. Apparently, Chicago is becoming much less equal in terms of incomes fast:
Journalism professor Darnell Little and his Medill Data Project at Northwestern University crunched census income data for the Chicago Sun-Times and found that the wealth gap is widening faster in Chicago than in the suburbs or in the state and country in general.
Statistically speaking, the best way to gauge wealth distribution is a measure called the Gini index. It’s a scale from 0 to 100 in which 0 represents total, utopian equality — i.e., each of us is paid the same amount of money — and 100 means one person is hoarding every last penny.
In 1990, Chicago registered 44.9 on the Gini index. That suggested an only slightly greater level of disparity in the city than for Illinois as a whole, which recorded a score of 44.3 that year.
Jump to 2012, the most recent year for which federal income data is available on a city and county level. Chicago had risen sharply to 51.9 on the income-inequality scale — far worse than the 46.5 for the entire state and 47.1 for the country.
They also found that the city of Chicago was much more unequal than its collar counties were.
I think a little perspective is called for. The reality is that income inequality in Chicago is pretty comparable to that in other large cities. Chicago’s .5286 (according to the linked results) are better than New York’s .5381 and worse than Los Angeles’s .5235 but not drastically so. Probably within margin of error. The least equal cities are Atlanta, New Orleans, and Miami.
If you look at these results with flinty, steadfast gaze, I think the results suggest to us that high Gini coefficients are correlated with black population. Our largest cities are becoming places for the white rich and the black poor. This is the problem that has been dogging us since the end of the Golden Age of the civil rights movement 40 years ago. What can we do to improve the situations of poor blacks? Most of what we’ve done over that period hasn’t reached the poor. The single most positive thing we’ve done has been welfare reform and that’s something the Obama Administration has been trying to reverse.