Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering immigrant communities, housing, economic inequality, and culture. She also authors Navigator, a weekly newsletter for urban explorers (subscribe here). Her work also appears in The Atlantic, NPR, and BBC.
The borough's top 20 percent's mean income is 43 times that of the bottom 20 percent of earners.
When it comes to income inequality, New York County—aka Manhattan—tops the list, according to sociologist Andrew Beveridge of Queens College and the Graduate Center at CUNY. At a recent conference on inequality, Beveridge shared research showing that Manhattan is "the most unequal" of all U.S. counties with a population above 100,000 people.
The size of the Manhattan wealth gap as graphed by Beveridge is pretty astonishing. In one chart below, he compares the mean incomes of the "haves" and "have-nots" in Manhattan against its neighboring counties, the rest of New York City, and the country as a whole. According to his calculations, the top 20 percent's mean income is 43 times that of the bottom 20 percent of earners in Manhattan. For the city as a whole, this ratio is 26 to 1.
In another chart, Beveridge traces the rise in Manhattan's median income over the years. In 2013, the borough's median household income was considerably higher than the rest of the city and the country. The income gap between New York's ultra-rich and its poor is nothing new, but this chart illustrates just how much it's widened in Manhattan over the last decade or so:
Beveridge explained that trend in a blog post accompanying the research:
Incomes increased across the nation in the 1990s and 2000s, but those numbers have declined in recent years back to 1980s levels. A similar pattern happened in New York City, but Manhattan experienced consistent gains, buoyed by the nation's highest earners. An important part of the Manhattan story is Wall Street. Even when Wall Street was losing money during the financial crisis, bonus payments remained high.