In SF, the Rich Get Richer and the Poor Poorer

SF Gate reports on a new Brookings Institution study showing that only in Atlanta is income inequality growing faster than in San Francisco.

Households at the 20th percentile in the city bring in $21,313 annually. Households at the 95th percentile bring in $353,576 – or 16.6 times more than those at the 20th percentile mark. (The figures are from 2012 census data, meaning San Francisco’s ratio is probably even higher now that the tech boom is in full throttle.)

That 16.6 figure is the second biggest in the country, trailing Atlanta, where the rich make 18.8 times more than the poor. Atlanta’s ratio is only bigger because that city’s poor are even worse off than ours, bringing in just $14,850 a year. The national average, by the way, is a ratio of 9.1.

Where San Francisco comes out on top – or bottom depending on your perspective – is when you compare income disparity in 2012 versus 2007, before the recession. San Francisco’s households at the 20th percentile saw their salaries drop $4,309 in those five years, whereas those at the 95th percentile saw theirs rise $27,815 during that time span. Dollars were adjusted for inflation. READ MORE.

Filed under: Mobile, Today's Mission

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  1. John

    Given that the poor everywhere are equally poor, this alleged “inequality” says nothing really other than that there are more successful and prosperous people in SF than most other places.

    And that is a good thing. Inequality generally indicates an economically healthy city. Detroit is far more equal than SF and what good does that do them?

    • Michael

      Hey John, I think inequality is a lot more nuanced than your comment recognizes.

      You might enjoy giving this a read:

      From the link:
      “This special report will explore how 21st-century capitalism should respond to the present challenge; it will examine the recent history of both inequality and social mobility; and it will offer four contemporary case studies: the United States, emerging Asia, Latin America and Sweden. Based on this evidence it will make three arguments. First, although the modern global economy is leading to wider gaps between the more and the less educated, a big driver of today’s income distributions is government policy. Second, a lot of today’s inequality is inefficient, particularly in the most unequal countries. It reflects market and government failures that also reduce growth. And where this is happening, bigger income gaps themselves are likely to reduce both social mobility and future prosperity.
      Third, there is a reform agenda to reduce income disparities that makes sense whatever your attitude towards fairness. It is not about higher taxes and more handouts. Both in rich and emerging economies, it is about attacking cronyism and investing in the young. You could call it a “True Progressivism”.”

      • marcos

        There is really too much institutional inertia behind cronyism and corruption both on the corporate side as well as in the professional opposition. Equilibrium will punctuate before either clique gives up its position of political privilege.

      • John

        There’s a discussion to have about inequality of opportunity and about corruption.

        My point was limited to inequality of outcomes, which was what the survey cited by ML was talking about. And I continue to believe that’s a non-issue once you strip out the envy factor.

        • marcos

          Inequality of outcomes is an issue when a very few live very well and the vast majority tiptoe stressfully, precariously from check to check, teetering on the edge of poverty.

          • John

            marcos, you are trying to claim that nobody should be rich if someone, somewhere is poor.

            That’s not even practiced in full-blown communist nations, let alone in the West.

          • marcos

            No, I am trying to say that nobody should have two houses until everyone has one. Nobody should feast on luxurious banquets while many go hungry. Nobody should have platinum health care until everyone has copper health care.

            Nobody is trying to say that everyone should be gifted a mansion, that everyone should feast on lobster every day, that everyone should have a private consulting physician.

          • John

            You can believe that if you wish but very few others do. The political regimen you would have to implement to enforce such mandatory egalitarianism would exceed even the massed apparatchik of the failed Russian experiment.

            You want to sacrifice freedom for equality of outcomes and that is not a sacrifice that your fellow American voters are remotely interested in adopting. Heck, even liberal San Francisco won’t vote for that.

          • marcos

            There is a vast difference between providing a robust safety net and guaranteeing equal outcomes. You all are just beside yourself at the notion that people might get the survival basics without giving up their lives to crap work.

          • John

            But you didn’t say a “robust safety net”. What you said was that you wanted to ban second homes and the like.

            Your challenge is to define how to do the former without having the police state that would be necessary to control the behavior and freedoms of successful people.

    • nutrisystem

      Suddenly becoming “poor” because your rent went from $1000 to $3000 is just plain fucked-up.

      This kind of price gouging for a necessity of life should not, and need not, be tolerated.

      • John

        Rents cannot go from 1K to 3K unless there is a sufficient reservoir of people willing to pay that.

        Ultimately, landlords do not set rents. Tenants do.

  2. Mission resident

    When is the Mission Local going to run an article about Obamacare and the subsidies available the majority of Americans? They write articles everyday about how expensive this city is, but they don’t write articles telling folks how to get the help they need. The government is offering subsidies to anyone making less than 400% of the poverty line. That’s about $45K for singles and about 90K for familes of 4.

  3. nutrisystem

    What most of the American elite don’t seem to get is that a disrespected workforce doesn’t do its best – it only does the bare minimum needed to not get fired.

    Management may think it’s being smart by paying less, but it’s a stupid long-term strategy.

    A workforce living one paycheck away from disaster has a simmering anger that acts as a slow corrosive to the entire economy.

    Countries like Germany that pay more get better work from their people. And that translates to better products, better innovation top to bottom, higher happiness index, higher GNP, more stability.

    Just look at the companies in the US that pay their workers the most… they are the companies which are doing the best. That’s no surprise to me – respected workers do a better job.

    • John

      A worker who doesn’t try doesn’t get very far. A worker who commits and works hard will be rewarded. That is the essence of a meritocracy.

      So yes, maybe some workers will spitefully under-perform because they think they are underpaid. But it won’t do them any good.

      American workers are, if anything, overpaid by global standards. That is why we see immigration, outsourcing, imports and a declining dollar.

      • marcos

        In general, the harder one works and the more difficult the work, the less one is paid.

        • John

          Your subjective assessment of what work is hard or rewarding is neither helpful nor necessary. The market values your labors and creativity without all that subjectivity.

          • marcos

            Labor is remunerated in general by how much value it adds and the availability of that labor, not by how difficult the labor is.

          • John

            “Difficult” is a highly subjective notion. I don’t think that coding is a particularly difficult thing to do, intellectually or physically, and yet some coders get well paid.

            A janitor isn’t a difficult job to do and it is low-paid, unless you work for the government anyway.

            I might find my job easy but if i am the only person who can do it, then I can be well paid.

            We could debate all year about what jobs are more or less “difficult” and get nowhere. Instead we let the market decide based on the consensus assessment of your added value.

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