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The Connection Between Successful Cities and Inequality

New research shows that the largest U.S. cities would do well to focus on workers at the bottom of the economic ladder.
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Reuters/Mike Blake

Thomas Piketty’s Capital helped make inequality a household word last year by arguing that it's a basic outcome of modern capitalism. “Thomas Piketty won 2014,” announced Slate, and the Upshot points out that inequality has been the theme du jour at the American Economic Association's annual meeting.

Indeed, inequality has become an increasingly dominant feature of U.S. cities. A recent U.S. Conference of Mayors report [PDF] shows that income inequality increased in over two-thirds of U.S. metropolitan areas between 2005 and 2012. The wage gap, meanwhile, nearly doubled from 12 percent to 23 percent in the decade between 2002 and 2012. New York City’s Gini coefficient—the standard measure of income inequality—is now equal to Swaziland’s, Chicago’s almost identical to El Salvador’s, and San Francisco looks like Madagascar.