News & Event
RWU ranks No. 1 among four-year colleges and universities in Rhode Island, according to a new analysis by Schools.com.
Courtesy of Roger Williams University and Schools.com
Tuesday, July 17, 2018
GoLocalProv News Team
Providence is ranked as one of the worst cities in the country for first-time home buyers.
According to a recent study completed by WalletHub, Providence is ranked as the 8th worst midsize city for first time home buyers.
Overall, Providence is ranked 267th out of 300 ranked cities.
As GoLocal reported Saturday, on the East Side of Providence, in particular, home values are skyrocketing, with houses that only a few years ago were worth $400,000 or $500,000 are now selling for a million dollars or more.
Houses go on the market and within a week there are more than a dozen offers meeting or exceeding the asking price — often by cash buyers.
Sally Lapides, President and CEO of Residential Properties, Ltd., says the combination of older people looking to downsize and Providence’s appeal as a city are fueling the boom. Buyers are more and more New York transplants or Boston commuters.
The issue is also helping to drive rents higher and higher.
“Buying a home for the first time is an exciting and important milestone for many Americans. Their purchases make up a sizable chunk of the market, too. In 2017, 38% of all U.S. single-family home purchases were made by first-time buyers,” said WalletHub.
Providence is ranked directly behind Corpus Christi, Texas and New Orleans, Louisiana, who rank 265th and 266th respectively.
Providence ranks ahead of Santa Ana, California and Houston, Texas, who rank 268th and 269th respectively.
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma is ranked as the best city for first time home buyers.
Berkeley, California is ranked as the worst city.
To determine the most favorable housing markets for first-time home buyers, WalletHub compared a sample of 300 U.S. cities (varying in size) across three key dimensions: 1) Affordability, 2) Real-Estate Market and 3) Quality of Life.
They evaluated those dimensions using 27 relevant metrics. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for first-time home buyers.
Finally, they determined each city’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank the sample. Each city was categorized according to the following population-size guidelines:
Large cities: More than 300,000 people
Midsize cities: 150,000 to 300,000 people
Small cities: Fewer than 150,000 people
Affordability – Total Points: 33.33
Real-Estate Market – Total Points: 33.33
Quality of Life – Total Points: 33.33
Courtesy of GoLocal Prov
April 25, 2018, at 2:04 p.m.
Report: RI Among the Least Affordable Places to Buy Home
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island has been ranked one of the country's least affordable housing markets in March.
The Rhode Island Association of Realtors released its first-quarter market report Wednesday, saying the state's median house price rose by 10 percent. The Providence Journal reports Rhode Island — alongside Hawaii, California, Oregon, the District of Columbia and Montana — were identified as the least affordable places to live in the country.
The association says strong gains in the housing markets are negatively impacting affordability — particularly among first-time home buyers.
The realtors' association also reported a 2 percent drop in the number of single-family house sales in this quarter. There were 1,938 houses sold in Rhode Island during the first three months of 2018, down from 1,982 in the same period last year.
Information from: The Providence Journal, http://www.providencejournal.com
Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Courtesy of AP
Posted Apr 25, 2018 at 12:01 AM
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rhode Island was ranked as one of the country’s least affordable housing markets in March, while in the first quarter of 2018, the state’s median house price jumped by 10 percent, rising to $252,250.
“Though Rhode Island’s housing market has not yet hit the peak reached before the housing downturn, strong price gains are affecting affordability, particularly among first-time home buyers,” the Rhode Island Association of Realtors said in its first-quarter market report, released Wednesday.
Rhode Island’s median house price reached $282,900 for the boom year of 2005, but it declined after the banking crisis in 2008, falling to $190,000 in 2012.
According to the National Association of Realtors’ affordability index, in March, Rhode Island, along with Hawaii, California, Oregon, the District of Columbia, and Montana, were identified as the least affordable places in the country, and where “households at the median income level can afford only 19 to 23 percent of the active housing inventory.” The index compares median incomes with the prices of houses for sale in given markets.
For Rhode Island, that means that the median-income household could afford to buy only 23 percent of the homes listed for sale in March. In states with the highest affordability scores in March, Ohio, Indiana, Kansas, Iowa and West Virginia, a typical household can afford 54 to 62 percent of the inventory.
The Rhode Island association also reported a 2 percent dip in the number of single-family house sales in the first quarter. There were 1,938 houses sold in Rhode Island during the first three months of 2018, down from 1,982 in the same period last year.
“The market is hot for sellers right now,” said association President Joe Luca. ”...Jobs and wages have increased but there’s no doubt that we also need additional properties on the market to help people realize the dream of home ownership.”
The median prices for single-family houses were highest in the East Side of Providence ($585,000), Jamestown ($612,500) and Block Island ($1,055,000). But even more affordable urban markets, including Central Falls, Providence (not including the East Side) and Woonsocket experienced median price increases in the first quarter.
The condominium market experienced increases in both number of sales and median price in the first quarter, the association reported. There were 424 condos sold in January, February and March, an increase of 7 percent from the same period in 2017. The median condo price rose by nearly 8 percent, and was at $210,000.
On Twitter: @ChristineMDunn
About the Housing Network of Rhode Island
The Housing Network of Rhode Island (HNRI) is the State’s membership organization for non-profit agencies that are committed to the development of affordable housing and vital communities across Rhode Island. HNRI is committed to strengthening its affordable housing member organizations and the larger affordable housing and community development sectors. HNRI pursues this commitment by convening members and allied organizations to secure and share resources, identify and pursue opportunities and learn from one another; building capacity amongst our member organizations to address their technical and organizational needs; advocating for policies and programs to further the development and preservation of affordable housing and the economic development of our neighborhoods; and championing efforts to expand the State’s supply of affordable housing.
Housing Opportunities Initiative Overview
The Housing Opportunities Initiative (HOI) is a cross-sector coalition of partners that is seeking to transform the state’s under-resourced affordable housing system and create a common agenda to increase the supply of safe, healthy and affordable housing throughout Rhode Island, equitably reducing the housing cost burden for low and moderate income residents over the next decade. Partners are approaching this challenge through concentrated work efforts in four key areas: increasing community engagement in affordable housing issues, reducing high development costs, increasing investment and building capacity in the affordable housing “system”, and making existing homes safer, healthier, and more affordable to maintain.
The HOI employs a collective impact approach in addressing the state’s affordable housing challenge. Collective impact initiatives are characterized by building a common agenda, establishing a system of shared measurement, fostering mutually reinforcing activities, encouraging continuous communication and supported by a strong “backbone” organization. Collective impact principles include a commitment to equity, inclusion, building relationships based on mutual trust and respect, and cultivating leadership skills.
Position Description Overview
The Housing Network of Rhode Island is seeking a dynamic and passionate individual to develop and implement a robust community engagement strategy that is focused on building a grassroots network of residents and leaders who are committed to increasing affordable housing opportunities for low and moderate-income Rhode Islanders and coordinate communications and messaging activities across partners.
Working closely with HNRI staff and partners, the Community and Partner Engagement Specialist will build on key recommendations from the HOI Community and Political Engagement Strategy Team, encompassing the following: increasing the public’s understanding of Rhode Island’s lack of affordable housing and the impact this has on our communities’ wellbeing, education, health, and economic development; educating community members about the issues of homelessness and affordable housing; and supporting the communications infrastructure of Housing Opportunities Initiative cross-sector coalition.
With support from HNRI Director, HOI Manager, consultants, and current partners, provide capacity and help build the infrastructure for coordinated messaging among homeless service providers, CDCs and nonprofit developers, housing advocates, and other system actors.
Build on existing relationships and cultivate new partnerships to establish an assets-based, grassroots network that supports community ownership of the issues of homelessness and affordable housing through one-on-one meetings, outreach, and networking.
Work with partner organizations to ensure alignment of HOI community engagement strategy with allied organizational efforts and campaigns through various forms of information-sharing.
Support opportunities for partnership and collaboration among homeless service providers and housing development organizations.
Ensure the effective and meaningful inclusion of constituents most directly affected by lack of affordable housing in engagement efforts, including refugees, low-income tenants, low-income seniors, individuals with disabilities, and people of color, and residents who are housing cost-burdened.
Conduct outreach to orient and engage new residents, partners, and other stakeholders to the issue.
Design and facilitate presentations, information sessions, and community meetings to educate and engage residents and other stakeholders in the Housing Opportunities Initiative.
Utilize data from local polls, surveys and focus groups and incorporate resident and stakeholder feedback to appropriately tailor messaging to specific communities / constituents.
Identify and support the growth of resident leaders through training, skill-sharing, and one-on-one meetings.
Engage community members and other partners using a variety of communications tools with attention to accessibility, including social media, newsletters, and face-to-face opportunities for interaction.
In consultation with HNRI staff and consultants, HOI partners and allied organizations, design strategy for a resident empowerment and training program to promote and grow leadership among those directly impacted by the issue.
Create and disseminate educational materials related to the goals of the HOI
Represent the Housing Opportunities Initiative in the community and at various meetings and events.
Required Knowledge, Skills, and Qualities:
Education / experience equivalent to a four-year degree from an accredited college or university
Demonstrated experience engaging with diverse groups of constituents / stakeholders with ability to gain trust and spark interest among community members
Excellent written and oral communications skills, including the ability to draft newsletters or brief articles, make presentations, and conduct trainings
Superior interpersonal skills including the ability to negotiate conflicts or disagreements, active listening and reflecting, ability to connect and collaborate with others
Culturally sensitive and committed to principles of equity and inclusion of marginalized groups
Commitment to social justice and strong interest in ensuring safe, healthy and affordable housing for all
Understanding or interest in basic functions and aspects of state and federal government and political process
Willingness to accept feedback and to incorporate new research, findings, and best practices into work
Ability and willingness to travel throughout the State of Rhode Island (must have access to reliable transportation)
Bilingual / bi-literate in English and Spanish
Bachelor’s Degree in Communications, Marketing, Community Development, Political Science or a related field from accredited college or university
1-2 years of experience in communications, journalism, or public relations work, including marketing and messaging strategy development, working with various forms of print and social media, event planning support
Experience working on issues of homelessness, affordable housing, or community / economic development
Understanding and familiarity with Rhode Island and its unique and distinct communities
$37,000 - $42,000 plus benefits
Please e-mail a resume and a cover letter explaining interest in the position and qualifications to Ms. Melina Lodge at HR@housingnetworkri.org on or before February 13th, 2018. Please include the position title in the subject heading of your e-mail.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Jalen Hayre was just shy of his second birthday when he and his young single mother, Joanna N. Ravello, moved into an apartment on Smith Hill. It offered independence and the rent was affordable, but the building was old.
“The owner probably did what he could, but it wasn’t well-kept,” said Joanna when The Journal visited the home she shares with her now-grown son. “Lots of chipping paint, lots of dust all over the house, on the windowsills.”
Jalen liked to stand at those windows, watching children play in the driveway below.
“He’d look down and laugh and giggle,” recalled Joanna.
He’d also ingest the dust and paint, which had lead. Toddlers get into everything.
Before the move, Jalen and Joanna had been living with Joanna’s parents. The boy had been developing normally.
“Thriving,” said Joanna, who was receiving welfare benefits then and who today, having earned a doctoral degree, is the director of Community and Organizational Development with the University of Rhode Island’s Office of Community, Equity and Diversity.
But in his new home, the laughing and giggling boy became someone else.
“He was super-cranky,” Joanna said. “He wasn’t eating. He wasn’t meeting some of his milestones.”
Her mother thought the move had unsettled Jalen. Perhaps he missed his grandparents.
It was 1995, and in Rhode Island, lead poisoning of children was beginning to emerge as a public-health crisis. But outside of medical circles, many people were only vaguely familiar with the potential effects of lead on the developing child, if familiar at all.
“You weren’t aware of the hazards,” Joanna told The Journal. You didn’t know that lead “can affect nearly every system in the body,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and that children are particularly vulnerable. Brain damage from lead poisoning can be irreversible, affecting a youngster’s lifelong personal, social and economic prospects.
But Jalen’s pediatrician’s office knew. A practitioner drew blood for testing.
A lethal level of lead was detected. The boy’s life was saved during an admission to Hasbro Children’s Hospital, but medicine could not undo the damage to Jalen’s brain.
Twenty-five years old now, Jalen still lives with his mother, in a different home untainted by lead. He has experienced difficulty finding employment, and he continues to need support.
“I feel like I’m not living an easy life,” he said during a recent visit at his home.
And yet, he maintains an uplifting attitude.
“Don’t fall into negativities,” he said. “You’ve got to be positive in your life.”
With lead no longer used in the manufacture of paint, and state and federal laws requiring owners to reduce levels of the toxin in housing, cases of child lead poisoning have declined in recent years in Rhode Island and the nation.
According to state Department of Health data, 11,716 Rhode Island children age 6 or younger in 2002 were found to have concentrations of five micrograms or more of lead per deciliter of blood — five and higher being a threshold of concern on the so-called BLL, or Blood Lead Level, scale. In 2017, that number had dropped to 953 children age 6 or younger. (Rhode Island law requires health-care providers to conduct at least two blood lead screening tests on all children by 3 years of age and report results to the health department within 10 days; after age 3, annual screenings are required through age 6, though they do not have to be blood tests. Not all children necessarily visit a provider regularly, however.)
Just as in 1995, children of color — such as Jalen, who is black — and children living in poverty today are disproportionately affected by lead poisoning, which can also be traced to “corrosion of lead service lines where a house or building’s water pipe connects to the public water main,” according to Rhode Island Kids Count, which tracks children’s health. Lead-contaminated water in Flint, Michigan, created a public-health crisis that has made national headlines in recent years.
But health disparities are not limited to children poisoned by lead — or to children.
Race, ethnicity, income, insurance coverage, education, exposure to trauma and stress, and where one resides, among other factors, also affect health outcomes for people of all ages. If you are poor, you are more likely to experience worse health than if you are not. If you are black, Hispanic or Native American, you are more likely to experience worse health than if you are white. If you live in certain ZIP codes, you face formidable odds.
“The conditions and environments in which we live, work and play have an enormous impact on our health, often dictating the availability and quality of resources that help people live healthy lives,” the Department of Health’s 2015 Minority Health Facts report states.
Differences “frequently result in inequalities in opportunities like quality childcare and education, access to healthy foods and safe places to be physically active,” the report concludes. “Rhode Island’s racial and ethnic minority populations often feel the burden of these inequalities.”
Example: Among white adults, 11.5 percent reported “being unable to afford to see a doctor when needed at least once in the last year,” according to the health department. The corresponding percentage for Hispanic/Latinos was 31.3 percent; for Black/African-Americans, 17.3 percent; and for Native Americans, 21.6 percent.
Another example: Among white adults, according to the health department, 10.8 percent reported “having no person they thought of as their personal healthcare provider(s),” typically a primary-care physician. The corresponding percentage for Hispanic/Latinos was 32.3 percent; for Black/African-Americans, 20.8 percent; and for Native Americans, 21.1 percent.
Here are some income statistics: Just over 11 percent of the white population in Rhode Island is living in poverty, according to the health department, compared with nearly 36 percent of the Hispanic/Latino population, 28.4 percent of the Black/African American population, and 42.2 percent of the Indigenous population.
“The Opportunity Atlas,” a landmark interactive tool published Monday by the Census Bureau with Harvard researcher Raj Chetty and John N. Friedman of Brown, provides snapshots of a child’s race and the parent income for census tracts across America. Red-shaded neighborhoods in Central Falls, Pawtucket, Providence and Woonsocket, all cities with large minority populations, confirm the correlation in Rhode Island between race and income.
While a better way is possible, Rhode Island and America have not summoned the will to get there, assert many experts, including Dr. Michael Fine, former director of the state Department of Health.
“A lot of this is fixable, and we don’t do it,” said Fine, now health policy adviser for the City of Central Falls and a leader and practitioner at Blackstone Valley Community Health Care.
Fine blames in part what he calls “a health-care services market” that emphasizes hospital care over primary care and is driven by profit, hobbled by lobbyists and burdened by bureaucratic waste. As he notes, despite spending more for health care than any other country, the U.S. has some of the worst health outcomes among the industrialized nations.
In 2016, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, health expenditures in the U.S. were $10,348 per person, compared with $5,500 per person in Germany, $4,752 per person in Canada and $4,192 in the United Kingdom. But for such key measures as infant mortality, life expectancy at 60 years and “adults age 18 to 64 with at least two of five common chronic conditions,” the U.S. lagged, according to The Commonwealth Fund. The expenditure and outcome gaps held true for many other countries, as well.
People of color fare worse than that already inferior U.S. average. “Race influences health through a number of mechanisms: through stress, poverty, education and reduced access to medical care,” Fine writes in his new book, “Health Care Revolt.”
Consider low birth weight, defined as infants who are born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces — babies “at greater risk for physical and developmental problems than infants of normal weights,” says Kids Count. In Rhode Island, 11.2 percent of black infants and 8.2 percent of Hispanic babies born from 2012 to 2016 entered the world at low birth weight, compared with 6.7 percent of white babies, according to the organization, which cites poverty, violence and stress as among the causes.
And consider asthma, a chronic respiratory disease that can be life-threatening. According to Kids Count, people under the age of 18 in predominantly white and comparatively wealthy East Greenwich experienced a rate of 2.3 “emergency department visits with primary asthma diagnosis” per 1,000 children — compared with rates of 13.7, 11.5 and 10.7, respectively, in comparatively poorer and less white Providence, Central Falls and Woonsocket.
A parent in prison can also affect a child’s health. As Kids Count writes, “Children of incarcerated parents experience high rates of physical and mental health problems” and educational disadvantages. “Parental incarceration increases children’s risk for learning disabilities, ADHD, conduct problems, developmental delays, and speech problems.”
Here, too, Rhode Island’s racial-minority groups suffer. One child of an imprisoned parent was reported in mostly white Barrington on Sept. 30, 2017, compared with 983 such children in Providence, 318 in Pawtucket and 253 in Woonsocket, according to Kids Count.
“Our health outcomes are influenced by the medical care available, to some extent,” Fine told The Journal, “but are much more a function of our history, society, and culture — by the environmental exposures left over from the manufacturing of a hundred years ago, by income inequality, by the twin legacies of mill culture and slavery, by attitudes and choices around substance and alcohol use and abuse, by education, housing, and community development.”
Said Fine: “Until we get an engaged and educated electorate who can make choices, I don’t see a way to change it. That’s why I think, at the end of the day, this has become a political problem.”
The health disparities of such conditions as low birth weight and asthma are echoed in lead poisoning.
Of the 87 children who will be entering kindergarten next year who were screened for the toxin in overwhelmingly white and comparatively well-to-do North Smithfield, none tested positive, Kids Count data shows. That compared with 292, or 11.3 percent, of the same-age children in Providence and 32 children, or 10.7 percent of those tested, in Central Falls.
But today’s situation is an improvement over the time when Jalen Hayre was born and in the decades before, when lead-based paint was used in housing everywhere. Lawsuits against paint manufacturers and landlords, legislation, growing awareness, and press coverage — here in Rhode Island through stories by Journal staff writer Peter Lord — helped bring about change.
So did the efforts of the state health department and researchers such as Dr. Patrick M. Vivier, Brown University professor and director of Brown’s Hassenfeld Child Health Innovation Institute who served on the staff of Lifespan’s Hasbro Childen’s Hospital.
During a visit to his office on South Main Street, Vivier shared three maps depicting levels of lead poisoning, old housing and poverty in Rhode Island from 2006 to 2016, with red showing the highest concentrations of each factor, and blue the lowest. Red dominated in Providence, Central Falls, Pawtucket and Woonsocket.
“There are other issues, like water supply,” Vivier said, “but it doesn’t appear to be the driver of the issues. Paint is the main villain. It’s house paint for me. We have an old housing stock.”
And in some of that old housing stock, in poor areas of Rhode Island, those shaded red in “The Opportunity Atlas,” the lead paint remains.
On a recent visit with Joanna Ravello and Jalen Hayre, the mother and son recount the obstacles Jalen has faced as a result of the cognitive impairments caused by his lead poisoning.
“I developed with learning disability and developmental disability,” Jalen said. “It was very hard to, like, maintain it.” Even today, he said, “it takes time and patience to learn as much as I can.”
Jalen was enrolled in special education through public high school, and he has held jobs since becoming an adult, including a seasonal position recently at an Amazon warehouse in Massachusetts. He is looking for another job now.
“Finding a place to work is very difficult,” he said.
Joanna, who identifies as black West Indian, sees lead poisoning and health disparities in general as issues of racial and social justice. If “caring for others, giving back” are truly an American ethos, she said, “it’s time that we move beyond these rhetorical commitments to actually doing something.”
Her son agrees, and frames his views through the lens of his own experience.
“Treat people with lead poisoning with proper respect,” he said. “You’ve got to do whatever you can to save those young children from being lead poisoned. If they are lead poisoned, please guide them through life and help them as much as you can.”
His counsel to others like him?
“It may be a sad life, but you can do it. ... You’ve just got to fight through the pain.”
Joanna and Jalen shared some of their story in a documentary by University of Rhode Island filmmaker and professor Kendall Moore. Watch it here:http://bit.ly/2OzPOj3
The Health Department has established nine Health Equity Zones around the state with the ambition “to eliminate health disparities using place-based strategies to promote healthy communities.” Learn more at:http://bit.ly/2pEak3T
Physical and mental health disparities were explored in The Journal’s 2015 award-winning series, “Race in Rhode Island.”
R.I. health providers working to lessen disparities in care
While the herculean reform that health expert and advocate Dr. Michael Fine endorses remains distant, efforts on a smaller scale are addressing health disparities.
One in Rhode Island is Blackstone Valley Community Health Care, “committed to providing high quality, accessible, affordable, comprehensive health care to the residents of the lower Blackstone Valley” by means of “a model of primary care that stresses prevention, education, and patient empowerment,” according to the center’s website. Fine practices medicine there and is a center leader.
Another is the Lifespan Community Health Institute, whose stated aim is “to eliminate health disparities and promote health equity through healthy behaviors, healthy relationships, and healthy environments.” The institute, headquartered on Prairie Avenue in South Providence, offers dozens of innovative programs, many free or at reduced cost.
Among them: health screening and immunization clinics; educational mentoring; the Transitions Clinic, which supports people recently released from prison; diabetes prevention; so-called “community health ambassadors,” a networking and education resource for front-line health professionals; Food is Medicine, a course teaching how to prepare affordable and nutritious meals; and Financial Literacy, which teaches money management.
Although Lifespan runs five hospitals — Rhode Island, Miriam, Newport, Hasbro Children’s and Bradley — the emphasis at the institute and related Lifespan initiatives is not hospital care. The same holds true for community programs run by Care New England, CharterCare and others in the state.
“Socioeconomic factors — things like income, education, housing status, social networks — these are the things that have the greatest impact and longest-term impact on health outcomes,” says Lifespan Community Health Institute director Carrie Bridges Feliz.
Using a chart labeled “Health Impact Pyramid,” she breaks it down: “Health-care services only account for about 10 percent of what determines your health status. Genetics is about 20 percent ... Seventy percent of what drives your health status is determined by behavior and environment.” The latter two can be changed, given individual and societal will.
On Twitter: @GWayneMiller
Courtesy of Providence Journal
Alan Berube, Monday, February 5, 2018
Research has historically framed income inequality as a national issue, one best addressed through national monetary and fiscal policies that raise demand for labor and redistribute resources from the rich to the poor. Yet widening disparities across and within places in the United States, revealed in debates around wages, housing affordability, and public safety, have motivated policymakers and researchers to pay increased attention to inequality’s local dimensions.
Now, many cities’ aggressive bids for Amazon’s second headquarters are heightening anxieties that the company’s expansion could further accelerate inequality wherever it eventually lands (as many say it has in Seattle). The debate about Amazon fits into a wider set of concerns about the tech sector’s role in contributing to income inequality, via the winner-take-all dynamics of the digital economy.
Amid these currents, this piece updates previous Brookings Metro analysesto examine trends in household income inequality in the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas and their most populous central cities from 2014 to 2016. As with earlier analyses, it uses data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey on household income at the 95th percentile of the distribution (i.e., where only 5 percent of households earn more) and the 20th percentile of the distribution (i.e., where 20 percent of households earn less). It uses the ratio between those incomes as a principal measure of inequality in cities and metro areas. Key findings include:
Among big cities, Atlanta and Washington, D.C. exhibited the highest rates of income inequality in 2016. The top 5 percent of households in these cities earned incomes at least 18 times as high as the bottom 20 percent of households. Relatively wealthy cities including Boston, New York, and San Francisco, as well as cities struggling with high poverty such as Buffalo, Miami, New Orleans, and Providence, also registered high rates of income disparity. In general, older cities with fewer middle-class neighborhoods and larger amounts of subsidized housing tended to exhibit higher inequality. Newer, more geographically expansive cities such as Columbus, Jacksonville, and Virginia Beach, as well as those with stronger middle-class employment like Allentown and Oxnard, had among the lowest levels of income inequality.
Levels of inequality in cities reflect broader income disparities in metropolitan areas. Four of the 10 cities with the highest levels of inequality are located in one of the 10 most unequal metropolitan areas (Boston, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco). Conversely, three of the cities with the lowest levels of inequality are located in one of the 10 most equal metropolitan areas (Des Moines, Lakeland, Virginia Beach). This indicates that city inequality reflects not only local housing dynamics but also wider industrial and income patterns in the regional labor market. Notably, three regions along Utah’s Wasatch Front—Salt Lake City, Provo, and Ogden—exhibit the lowest levels of income inequality among their metropolitan peers.
More cities experienced declines in income inequality from 2014 to 2016 than saw increases. While few cities overall saw income disparities between rich and poor households change by a statistically significant margin, among those that did, declines in income inequality (eight) outnumbered increases (five). From 2014 to 2016, high-income households in 30 cities logged significant income gains, as did low-income households in 34 cities. (In only one city—Rochester—did low-income households suffer a statistically significant income decline.) The net effect reduced income disparities in Charlotte, Dallas, Jackson, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Knoxville, Louisville, and Salt Lake City, but pushed them higher in Baltimore, Detroit, Omaha, Rochester, and Washington, D.C.
In contrast to the city pattern, increases in metropolitan income inequality outnumbered declines. From 2014 to 2016, 12 metropolitan areas registered a statistically significant increase in income inequality. In most of those places, high-income households enjoyed income gains while low-income households did not. In Honolulu and San Jose, top incomes rose by an estimated $60,000 in two years’ time, but did not change significantly for low earners. Only eight metro areas achieved declines in income inequality, with lower-income households posting larger income gains (in percentage terms) than higher-income households in most of those markets. Metro areas where income disparities narrowed included many of the cities—Charlotte, Dallas, Kansas City, Knoxville, and Louisville—where income inequality declined, as well as Boston, New Haven, and Salt Lake City.
Some cities posted stunning increases in top incomes from 2014 to 2016. The most astonishing changes in the mid-2010s occurred among high-income households in a few cities characterized by booming technology economies. In just two years, incomes for 95th percentile households in San Francisco rose nearly $120,000. (Median home sales prices, meanwhile, increased by $250,000.) Austin and Seattle posted increases of nearly $65,000 for high-income households, while high household incomes in San Jose rose by more than $50,000. Raleigh topped all cities for 20th percentile income growth at $7,200, which was large in percentage terms (30 percent) but a far cry in absolute terms from the $35,000 increase the city posted at the 95th percentile level.
Income trends at the top of the distribution in cities and metro areas had little relationship to trends at the bottom of the distribution from 2014 to 2016. In cities and metro areas where high-income households posted the greatest gains, low-income households didn’t fare any better or worse than those in other cities. For instance, although 20th percentile incomes in Austin, San Francisco, and Seattle rose by significant margins, they failed to increase significantly in other cities where 95th percentile incomes boomed, such as Baltimore, Denver, San Jose, and Washington, D.C. At the same time, incomes at the lower end of the distribution grew significantly in several cities—Boston, Charlotte, Louisville, Salt Lake City—where top incomes did not.
For those concerned about the effects of high inequality in the United States generally, and in our large urban centers specifically, these city and metropolitan income trends from 2014 to 2016 present some quandaries.
On the one hand, the trends indicate that ameliorating inequality is possible. In several places, low-income households achieved faster income gains than high-income households.
On the other hand, even as a tighter labor market began to drive up wages in the mid-2010s, the relative gap between the rich and poor still widened in a number of cities and metro areas. And even in places where low- and high-income households made comparable progress in percentage terms, the absolute income difference between rich and poor often grew substantially. The inequality ratio did not change in San Francisco, but the distance between its 20th and 95th percentile incomes grew by an estimated $114,000.
Moreover, at least in the short run, city and metropolitan income trends do not suggest the existence of a rising tide lifting all boats, but rather separate ebbs and flows for households at different extremes of the distribution. Even if, as Enrico Moretti and other researchers suggest, local innovation economies generate greater opportunities for workers in less-skilled industries, those opportunities may not materialize overnight, and low-income workers and families could get priced out of a city in the meantime.
While this analysis is too brief to identify the underlying economic or policy factors that may explain those disparities, Brookings Metro’s forthcomingMetro Monitor update will shed further light on how and why economic inclusion is changing in metropolitan areas. Regardless, the distinctively local dynamics of inequality in our major urban areas reaffirm the importance of local leadership for understanding and improving access to economic opportunity for lower-income households in ways that reduce disparities over the longer term.
Cecile Murray provided valuable research assistance for this analysis.
Courtesy of Brookings
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