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Report: Chicago Ranks 8th for Income Inequality

By Sally Deneen

Chicago ranks eighth among large U.S. cities with the highest income inequality, reflecting a national trend of big cities being home to richer rich people and poorer poor residents than found in the country as a whole, according to a report.

"Income inequality will no doubt be a central issue in mayoral elections during the next couple of years in cities like Chicago and Washington, D.C.," states the Brookings Institution report, noting it's already an issue in such cities as Seattle, where new mayor Ed Murray ordered staff to starting work to raise the minimum wage for city government workers to $15 an hour. Rents there are approximately $1,795, according to HotPads, compared to $1,707 in Chicago.

The top 5 percent of Chicago households earned more than $201,460 in 2012. That's 12.5 times more than the income earned by the bottom 20 percent of local households, according to the Brookings Institution report, which analyzed the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey statistics. The bottom fifth of local households each earned no more than $16,078.

Lowest inequality is found in such cities as Wichita, Kansas, and Las Vegas, according to the report, which ranks 50 large cities in all. In Kansas' largest city and in Sin City, the wealthiest 5 percent of households earned 7.7 times more income than the bottom fifth of households. Virginia Beach, Va., had the smallest inequality gap, with the richest earning 6 times more.

Atlanta stands out for having the nation's biggest inequality gap. Its richest 5 percent of households earned at least $279,827 – 18.8 times more than the $14,850 or less earned by the bottom fifth of the city's households, according to the Brookings Institution report.

Second-place San Francisco's top 5 percent wealthiest households earned considerably higher incomes ($353,000 or higher) than their counterparts in any other major city. Third-place Miami is home to some of the poorest residents among the nation's big cities, as well as wealthy enclaves, the report notes. Boston ranks fourth for income inequality, followed by Washington, D.C.

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