What Cities Can Do to Lower Income Inequality
What Cities Can Do to Lower Income Inequality

LOS ANGELES—Income inequality in the US is among the highest of all developed countries, and it keeps rising. In 15 states, including California, income inequality rose last year, according to the Census Bureau

Census data also shows that inequality within major US cities is worse than for the US as a whole. 

A study released by the Martin Prosperity Institute this month found a clear and “striking pattern of class division across each and every city and metro area” in the US.

The mayor of Pittsburgh joined several other leaders to discuss how cities can fight income inequality at the CityLab 2014 Conference in Los Angeles on Monday, hosted by The Atlantic, The Aspen Institute, and Bloomberg Philanthropies.

“We have a tale of two cities within all of our cities,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. 

“What we see now is that there isn’t a ladder of opportunity to take those that are stuck in the cycle of poverty into the middle class like your father had, like my grandfather had, like others had.”

Peduto considered public education, especially early childhood education, as one of the best investments for reducing income inequality. He and other panelists discussed public transportation, raising the minimum wage, and job stabilization as other ways to reduce inequality.

Panelist Blair Taylor, executive vice president of Starbucks, said people should not just rely on the federal government to solve the problem of inequality. He said businesses can also invest in their future work force, giving the company’s recent decision to offer free college tuition to some of their employees as an example.

Alan Berube, senior fellow and deputy director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, an independent research group, urged his colleagues at CityLab “to think about inequality not just as the gap between the top and the bottom, but the large bottom that still exists in a lot of American cities today.” 

In 2013 Los Angeles had the highest poverty of any large city at almost 18 percent followed by the Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale area at 17.6 percent, and Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach at 17.6 percent. The lowest were Washington, D.C.; Arlington, Virginia; and Alexandria, Maryland.

A report by economists from Harvard University, the Census Bureau, and European institutions released this month found that some of the causes of income inequality in the US are automating and outsourcing middle class jobs, skyrocketing executive pay, and different employers paying workers vastly different wages for similar jobs.

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