Study: US Cities Have Worse Inequality Than Mexico, With Rich And Poor Living Side-By-Side

Eugenio Peluso, University of Verona and Francesco Andreoli, Luxemburg Institute of Socio-Economic Research (LISER)

The cities of the Americas are unequal places.

US census data and recent American Community Surveys show that in most modern American metropolises, resources are unevenly distributed across the city ? think New York City?s lower Manhattan versus the South Bronx ? with residents enjoying unequal access to jobs, transportation and public space.

In 2014, New York City?s GINI inequality index was 0.48, meaning that income distribution was less even in New York City than in the US as a whole (0.39). It was also higher than the most unequal OECD countries, Chile (0.46) and Mexico (0.45).

Latin America, which is the world?s most unequal place, is also by far the most urbanized region of the globe. More than 80 percent of its population lives in large cities.

Between 1950 and 2005, the region?s big cities grew precipitously. Both Mexico City and Sao Paulo jumped from just under three million people to, in both cases, nearly 19 million.

Data on urban inequality is largely unavailable, but it is clear that this rapid urbanization has been far from equitable. According to a 2012 UN Habitat report, the large majority of Latin America?s non-poor population lives in major metro areas, while the poorest live in rural areas.

What does inequality look like?

No matter where you live, measuring inequality is tricky, because its incidence and extent changes in different parts of the city.

Sure, there are rich neighbourhoods and poor ones: high-income and low-income households sort themselves across cities according to preference (for local public goods and neighbourhood composition) and needs (according to budget, job location and housing prices).

But not every neighborhood is comprised fully of households with the same income. Income sorting across space is often ?imperfect?, meaning that rich and poor households might live in the same neighborhood and share common social ties and local amenities.

As a result, a very specific and local kind of inequality emerges within neighborhoods. This phenomenon is sizable in US metro areas, Census Bureau data shows. Not only do unequal households live very close together, but neighborhoods also represent small communities where local inequality, on average, seems to track overall urban inequality.

For example, New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles all have neighborhood income inequality at least 20 percent larger than Washington?s, which matches the difference in the cities? GINI indices. We found that inequality within individual neighborhoods has also been rising precipitously over the past 35 years (even in very small neighborhoods), indicating an increase of income heterogeneity at the community level.

This unexpected finding is likely related to the comeback of North American cities over the past decade ? the so-called great inversion. Across the Americas, jobs and firms are moving back into major metro areas, attracting more skilled people, who are generally young, receive higher wages and prefer to settle down where their jobs are.

As high-income young couples buy up homes in historically distressed neighborhoods long dominated by the working and renting class ? and gentrify them ? they push up income heterogeneity in those places. This is happening in cities across the Americas.

Keeping up with the Joneses

We wanted to better understand this phenomenon. Why is local income inequality rising? How can we quantify it? What are the trends in uber-localised inequality? And what does it all mean for city dwellers?

Those were the questions driving our study ? So close yet so unequal: Reconsidering spatial inequality in US cities ? which focused on US cities. Our preliminary findings were recently published in a Catholic University of Milan Working Paper.

Unlike traditional assessments of inequality, which accept administrative partitions of the city as the unit of analysis and measure income inequality in those neighborhoods, we look at inequality among neighbors, putting people at the centre of our analysis.

The underlying thought experiment consists of asking individuals to compare their income with that of neighbors living within a given distance range (from few blocks to entire census areas), thus quantifying income inequality in that particular person?s neighborhood.

In doing so for every person in a city ? any city ? one should be able to measure two aspects of spatial inequality: the average income inequality within individual neighborhoods (is my neighbor richer than me?), and inequality among the average incomes of each neighborhood (is that neighborhood richer than mine?).

We found that these two indices define a typology of cities that mirrors what urban planners have found at the city level. Some places are ?even cities?. Like Washington DC, they display relatively low income inequality everywhere.

Other metro areas, among them Miami and San Francisco, show high urban inequality, but high and low-income households are rather evenly distributed throughout the city. These are so-called ?mixed cities?.

The largest US metro areas also have the most unequal neighbourhoods. In New York and Los Angeles, the way high and low-income households are distributed across the urban footprint reflects what planners call the ?unstable city? model.

The Great Gatsby in the ?hood

Such substantial and increasing inequality appears to imply several contradictory things for cities and their residents.

As shown in Figure 1, lower neighborhood inequality is associated, on average, with large upward mobility gains for young people who grew up in poor families, a phenomenon reported in recent work by Stanford University?s Raj Chetty.

FIGURE 1: Upward mobility in America?s urban neighborhoods

Children of better-off families benefit, too, from living in a homogenous local community, thanks to ?positive contagion? facilitated by social interaction among wealthy young peers.

Both findings are evidence of a ?Great Gatsby Curve? in America?s neighborhoods. That is, greater income inequality in one generation amplifies the consequences of having rich or poor parents for the economic status of the next generation.

Yet greater income inequality within individual neighborhoods may actually be a good thing for poorer locals. Figure 2 shows that they experience life expectancy gains, perhaps due to positive health modeling and increased aspirations among poor adult residents.

FIGURE 2: Life expectancy in America?s urban neighborhoods

Addressing inequality

For policy makers, then, our findings create an intergenerational trade-off. A ?mixed city? model would seem to promote life expectancy gains for poor adults who live there, while the ?even city? ideal furthers economic mobility of young people who grow up poor.

Lessons learned from such a policy debate in the US could have important international consequences.

No one has yet applied our neighbourhood-based inequality analysis to Latin America?s unequal cities. But we can see that in metropolises such as Mexico City, and São Paulo in Brazil, as well as in smaller cities, uncontrolled sprawl and lack of urban planning has increased the distances between high, middle and low-income households.

This is the ?polarized city? model, and our paper found little evidence of it in US cities (with the exception of Detroit and Washington). Such places have substantial heterogeneity in income across neighborhoods and relatively little heterogeneity within neighborhoods.

In Latin America?s polarized cities, the poor are separated from the rest of the population. As a result, they have lower access and opportunities for education, employment and services. This inequality has been exacerbated by gentrification and by the region?s growing global economic engagement. This has strengthened urban elites? connections to the world while relegating Latin America?s poor further into the periphery.

In such cases, increasing the urban income mix seen in New York City might actually have beneficial effects for the city?s neediest residents. This is a relevant area for future study. It would be interesting, for example, to plot cities across the Americas on the same graph, examining regional trends in longevity and mobility based on neighborhood-level inequality.

The ConversationSuch hyper-local analysis would offer both policymakers and international agencies the kind of information they need to improve the lives of today?s city dwellers, both now and in the future.

Eugenio Peluso, Associate Professor of Economics, University of Verona and Francesco Andreoli, Post-doctoral researcher, Luxemburg Institute of Socio-Economic Research (LISER)

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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The Agent Who Discovered J.K. Rowling Explains Why Her Stories Are Magical

More so than a collection of stories, the ?Harry Potter? series can be characterized by its most devoted fans as a hobby, or a lifestyle. The increasingly voluminous installments were hefty enough to get lost in, and they managed to create not only a convincing world, but lovable characters, too.

It?s hard to imagine a world in which the books (and films, and video games, and personality quizzes) might not have been published. But, according to J.K. Rowling?s first agent Christopher Little, Harry Potter and the Philosopher?s Stone was not an easy sell. 

Little told HuffPost over email that Rowling selected him as her agent in part due to his name, which she liked. He was, in turn, enamored of her story, believing after reading it that it was ready to be sent out to publishers, requiring few big changes. (The rules of Quidditch, however, were altered.)

Below, Little describes the experience of trying to sell a book he believed in ? in spite of publishers? protestations that it was too long or too ?exclusive.?

When Rowling first found an agent, he compared her world-building talent to Tolkien?s.

?When I received the submission from Joanne (as she was known at the time) Rowling, it just came in as an unsolicited submission (of the first three chapters) and was picked up by our then office manager who was looking through the slush pile,? he said. ?She liked it and bought it to my attention. Once I read it, I had no reservations whatsoever and in fact felt very excited about it. 

?It was clearly presented as a fully realized world [?] I don?t think I recall reading anything so immersive since The Lord of the Rings many years earlier. We quickly wrote back to Jo asking to see the rest of the manuscript as soon as I had finished those initial chapters.?

Rowling chose to write under the name ?J.K.? in order to appeal to young boy readers.

?The suggestion to use initials instead of J.K. Rowling?s given name, Joanne, came from discussion with Bloomsbury. It?s notoriously harder to get boys to read in comparison with girls, as many parents will know, and an author being obviously female was more likely to be off-putting to boys. Joanne selected the ?K? after her paternal grandmother.?

Rowling only made a few changes before sending it out to publishers.

?There were very minor differences in the full manuscript that was received and that which was sent to the publishers ? I do recall that the Quidditch rules were tweaked a bit!?

The book was rejected over and over again before it found a home.

 ?Over a period of nigh on a year, the book was turned down by more or less every major publishing house in the U.K. Various reasons were given including the story being too long, the fact that a story set in a children?s boarding school might feel too ?exclusive? to many readers, etc.

?When I first spoke to Barry Cunningham, who had at that time recently been hired to run the new children?s department at Bloomsbury Publishing, the book was accepted and an offer was made. He saw the same potential as I did ? perhaps as we both came from a background other than publishing originally, so arguably thought slightly less conventionally and considered this well-characterized, unique story as one that clearly should be published despite such considerations.?

From June 1 to 30, HuffPost is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the very first ?Harry Potter? book by reminiscing about all things Hogwarts. Accio childhood memories.

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At Least Trump’s Black Music Month Statement Got This Right

President Trump has officially declared June 2017 as African-American Music Appreciation Month.

On Wednesday, Trump continued the annual presidential tradition by issuing this year?s proclamation. In his announcement, President Trump credited the influences of black music pioneers for giving ?all Americans? a better understanding of American culture.

?During June, we pay tribute to the contributions African Americans have made and continue to make to American music,? the statement reads. ?The indelible legacy of these musicians who have witnessed our Nation?s greatest achievements, as well as its greatest injustices give all Americans a richer, deeper understanding of American culture. Their creativity has shaped every genre of music, including rock and roll, rhythm and blues, jazz, gospel, hip hop, and rap.? 

The month-long observance, honoring the vast musical contributions of black artists, was first declared in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter. In 2000, President Clinton signed the African-American Music Bill, which formally established Black Music Month as a national observance.

In this year?s statement, Trump called out such greats like Chuck Berry, Dizzy Gillespie, and Ella Fitzgerald as black musicians who have exemplified how music can bring people together.

?These musicians also remind us of our humanity and of our power to overcome,? the statement reads. ?They expressed the soul of blues, gospel, and rock and roll, which has so often captured the hardships of racism and injustices suffered by African Americans, as well as daily joys and celebrations.?

?Their work highlights the power music has to channel the human experience, and they remain a testament to the resilience of all freedom-loving people,? he continued. ?We are grateful for their contribution to the cannon of great American art.?  

Read more of President Trump?s Black Music Month Proclamation in its entirety here.

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Serena Williams’ Babymoon In Monaco Looked Pretty Perfect

Serena Williams is celebrating the upcoming arrival of her first child in style. 

The tennis great and her fiancé, Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian, babymooned in Monaco this past weekend. The two did a little sightseeing with friends and even watched the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix. 

For the Grand Prix outing, Williams wore a beautiful, brightly colored zebra print dress: 

She even hung out with Thor himself, actor Chris Hemsworth: 

While boating with friends, Williams opted for an all-black look, from her dress to her hat: 

Chill Time

A post shared by Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) on

Loved arriving in Monaco by @astonmartinlagonda AM37 powerboat! #AMArtOfLiving #AstonMartin #AM37 #MonacoGP

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During the trip, Williams and Ohanian stayed at the Chateau Eza hotel, according to Architectural Digest. The luxurious hotel was once the former residence to a Swedish prince, which makes it the perfect fit for tennis royalty like Williams. 

It looks like the two enjoyed their stay: 

Perfect weekend. @valvogt

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As did their friends! 


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