Sprawling American cities have less inequality

A new report from the Brookings Institution suggests sprawling American cities have less inequality:

In a new report, All Cities Are Not Created Unequal, Berube compared levels of inequality in fifty large American cities. He found the gap between rich and poor is rising in large cities on the East and West Coasts, while cities in the South and West like Las Vegas, Mesa, and Fort Worth, are more equal, and retain more of what the middle class needs…

“They built a lot more housing over time that has managed to maintain a middle class, and they don’t have sectors of the economy, like finance and technology, that tend to be driving incomes at the upper end of the distribution,” Berube said. “They’ve got sectors like transportation, warehousing, and retail.”

Those are industries, Berube says, where you’re unlikely to strike it very rich, but where a middle-class income is still within reach.

This sounds very much like David Rusk’s argument in Cities Without Suburbs. He suggests what differentiates cities is their elasticity, a measure of how much land they have annexed during their history. Newer cities, particularly in the South and West, have been able to annex more land. This then gives them more residents who might otherwise move to the suburbs, boosting the city’s tax base and mix of residents.

Read the full Brookings report here.

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