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Inequality Keeps Creeping Higher in America's Largest Cities

A new analysis finds that the largest cities in the U.S. are also some of its most unequal, now more than ever.
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Economic inequality across America’s large, coastal cities continues to deepen, according to a new study released this week by the Brookings Institution. The study, by Alan Berube and Natalie Holmes of Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy Program, calculates inequality based on what they dub the “95-20 ratio.” This method compares the income of the top 5 percent to the bottom 20 percent of households across America’s 50 largest cities.

Most studies of urban inequality look at inequality in terms of metro areas, which include center cities and their suburbs. While useful, this approach can mask significant differences between cities and suburbs, as Ben Adler recently pointed out over at Grist. The Brookings study tracks the gap between the haves and have-nots within just those primary cities, using the most recently available data from the U.S. Census Bureau covering 2012-2013.