New study: San Francisco has second highest inequality in United States

Map courtesy of Brookings Institution

San Francisco has the second highest gap between the rich and the poor in the United States, according to a new study from the Brookings Institution released today. 
The study looked at US Census data across different income levels and ranked cities for not only the widening chasm between the rich and the poor, but also the speed at which that gap increased. Though San Francisco has the second widest income inequality gap (second to Atlanta, where the poor are poorer, but the rich far less rich than here), it's tops in terms of the speed at which the wealthy are pulling away from the rest of us, the study found.

"Not surprisingly, San Francisco experienced the largest increase in its ratio from 2007 to 2012," the Brookings Institution reported. "Income for its typical 20th-percentile household dropped $4,000 during that period, while income for its typical 95th-percentile household soared by $28,000. No other city saw nearly as large an increase in its rich households’ incomes."


San Francisco was second place for highest inequality, but tops in terms of speed at which the income gap widened.

San Francisco differed from other cities in the unique nature of its inequality as well -- for the most part, we're unequal because our rich got richer, while other cities' poor got poorer. "San Francisco’s ratio is high because its wealthy households have very high incomes, considerably higher than in any other major city ($353,000 at the 95th percentile)," Brookings Institution reported. And as anyone who's looked for an apartment in San Francisco has seen, the poor and middle class are also getting pushed out of the city, which the study also noted.

So why is all this such a problem? Can't everyone just move to Oakland? The study also noted the problems inherent in a city with a wide income gap.

"A city where the rich are very rich, and the poor very poor, is likely to face many difficulties," the Brookings Institution noted. "It may struggle to maintain mixed-income school environments that produce better outcomes for low-income kids. It may have too narrow a tax base from which to sustainably raise the revenues necessary for essential city services. And it may fail to produce housing and neighborhoods accessible to middle-class workers and families, so that those who move up or down the income ladder ultimately have no choice but to move out."

These are problems the city knows all too well. As the San Francisco Public Press reported recently, our public school system is increasingly divided between haves and have-nots, and as the Guardian reported only this week, our infrastructure funding is lacking by billions of dollars. And of course, as our families flee the city, San Francisco loses its children in droves, which US Census data has also highlighted. 

Read the full report from on San Francisco's widening income gap here.



If a billionaire moves into your zip code, it immediately becomes much more unequal, but so what? The poor didn't get poorer as a result and, indeed, they may get richer if that billionaire throws his money around.

So SF has high inequality because it is a relatively small city with a dozen or so billionaires. That tells you nothing more than that.

Inequality means that at least some people are succeeding. If everyone were failing, we'd be totally equal but how is that better?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 3:17 pm

How can we take from one group and give to another? That is the question we progressives must answer. There must be a more effective way than what we have currently - which is the progressive income tax. Could we just expropriate bank accounts with SF addresses which are above a certain limit? Exercise eminent domain and seize large homes occupied by only one family? Put in roadblocks and force people to give up what's in their wallet or jewelry or sign over their cars?

I'm open to any and all suggestions but clearly we need to be a lot more forceful. The people won't wait forever to take what is rightfully theirs.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 3:51 pm

like the dogs that they are, leave their rotting corpses for the buzzards to gorge on, and seize their assets to give to the most worthless people we can find?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 4:13 pm

and classicism, which is rife in Amerikkka. Once they are given their just deserts they will finally be able to exercise their creativity and stretch their wings and fly. The answers to all our problems lie in releasing the creative energies of the oppressed people of this fascist state.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 4:33 pm

They knew the risks when they decided to be born.

Oh, wait

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 4:47 pm

You mean like what happened in Cuba ? Been there, done that you brain dead moron, no wonder you are a poor, whining, parasite...

Posted by Guest on Feb. 22, 2014 @ 1:41 pm

Childish and unproductive. Try better.

Posted by Cw on Feb. 22, 2014 @ 1:06 pm

Logic doesn't work with so much with "progressives."

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 9:34 pm
Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 3:21 pm

policies on busing - nope, nothing to see here. Move along now.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 3:31 pm

Anyone with kids knows that

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 3:43 pm

I said - nothing to see here. Move on. Everyone knows it's rising housing prices and income inequality. EVERYONE KNOWS THAT.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 3:52 pm

families out of SF. Two kids at private school can run you 40-50 K a year. Better to move to Marin and get the same quality for free at public neightborhood schools.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 4:14 pm

If you actually had kids or knew anything about San Francisco you would know that. SFUSD massively cut the budget for bussing. Keep up with your tired old reactionary BS though, it obviously makes you feel better about yourself.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Feb. 23, 2014 @ 11:58 pm

far away from their homes. It doesn't literally mean they are transported by a yellow school bus, although they might be.

It's a policy of forcing kids from good areas to attend bad schools against their parents' wishes.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 24, 2014 @ 8:45 am

It is really tragic when a wealthy child has to rub shoulders with a middle class child. Tragic, I tell you.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Feb. 24, 2014 @ 1:37 pm

is not a trivial thing for force tens of thousands of kids to attend school far from where they live.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 24, 2014 @ 2:32 pm

One of the main factors when a family buys a home are the schools located in the district. People want good schools that are nearby their homes. They don't want to have to drive their kids all the way across the city to satisfy some idiot's idea of "diversity". If you owned a home in the outer Richmond (which is by no means wealthy), would you want to drive your kid (or have him ride the bus) into the Bayview? Or would you want him to go to Argonne, Roosevelt, and then Washington?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 24, 2014 @ 6:28 pm

If you lived in the Outer Richmond and wanted to go to a school in the Outer Richmond, you would have no problem getting into one.

Unlike you, I am a parent with children in public school here.

Are you seriously trying to claim that home prices are being depressed by the fact that the SFUSD is not good enough? How much higher do you want them to be?

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Feb. 26, 2014 @ 7:56 am
Posted by Guest on Feb. 26, 2014 @ 8:16 am

Really depressing.

But a gratuitous link to SPUR? Was that really necessary to make your point?

Posted by Greg on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 3:46 pm

Would you be happier if nobody was a billionaire?

The SPUR piece was quite reasonable, I thought. Oakland looks attractive on a ppsf basis.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 4:23 pm

as has been explained multiple times.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 11:24 pm

Again, a billionaire moves into your zip code. It's now more unequal. How have you been harmed?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 8:29 am

Envy makes you sick.....

Posted by Guest on Feb. 22, 2014 @ 1:43 pm

Justice is the cure.....

Posted by Guest on Feb. 22, 2014 @ 2:23 pm

subjective concept when used the way you mean.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 22, 2014 @ 3:09 pm

Envy is very subjective. You often ascribe envy to me and others, when in fact envy is the last thing I feel. It's not even debatable; it's just plain wrong. I know it's wrong because I know what my own emotions are, and it's not envy I feel.

Justice, on the other hand, is an easy concept to grasp. Even children can agree on basic fairness.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 22, 2014 @ 11:12 pm

imply that your envy doesn't exist - only that you shut out all realization of it.

Your ideology that seeks to punish the successful is essentially emotional. You probably think of it as some kind of drive for "justice" but the reality is that you just cannot stand the fact that some people have billions, even when they do immense good with that money, like Gates and buffett.


Posted by Guest on Feb. 24, 2014 @ 8:47 am

We need more taxes on the rich. That is the most important thing that must be done. If they decide that they don't want to live here, good riddance.

They need to pay their fair share. They benefit the most from police, fire, Muni and all the other things that allow them to prosper so much, it is time to ask them to pay more.
They obviously can afford it.

We can use the money to fix the crumbling public infrastructure, improve our public schools and help Muni.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 4:32 pm
Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 4:34 pm
Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 4:45 pm

How do rich people benefit the most from MUNI and the fire department? Rich people don't ride MUNI. And does making more money mean you're more likely to have fires in your home? I guess as you get richer the chances of a bananas foster accident rises exponentially so there's that.

And if the rich leave, they take their tax dollars with them. Which means less money for services. Which means quality of life goes down. Who do you think pays for all the services in this city? It sure as hell isn't the illegal immigrant family living in a tenement.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 7:29 pm

the city, it's "services", it's workers, it's unions and it's self-righteousness.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 8:30 am

If your life is so great, why do you feel the need to troll message boards for a city you no longer even live in?

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Feb. 24, 2014 @ 12:02 am

There are ways to live in the city and not have to deal with the city.

But I'm not giving away all of my secrets

Posted by Guest on Feb. 24, 2014 @ 8:43 am


You still didn't explain your statement how the rich benefit the most from police, fire, and MUNI. Police maybe I can understand. But how the hell do the rich benefit from SFFD and MUNI any more than anyone other person on the street???

And your suggestion to kick out the rich people? How the hell do you think city services are paid for? That illegal immigrant family living in a slum doesn't bring in nearly the same revenue as a $100K-a-year tech worker. You might think they make for a more vibrant community, but "vibrancy" doesn't pave roads, hire more buses, or hire cops.

You know what happens to cities when money leaves? Detroit. Need a closer example? Vallejo and Stockton. Hell, take a look at Oakland. They're trying their damndest to bring in more money to help fund a police department that is half of what it should be. They also have a crime rate that is among the highest in the nation.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 24, 2014 @ 6:46 pm

wants to blame someone else for his failure.

Posted by anon on Feb. 24, 2014 @ 7:09 pm

I already said how the rich benefit: their employees are taken to work by Muni, they have more property that needs protection from fire and police and they benefit most from the current status quo. The wealthy have the most interest in a stable and productive society because they benefit the most from it. And take the most from it, I might add.

If you are seriously concerned that San Francisco is headed for Detroit, Stockton, Vallejo or Oakland status, then are more in need of help than I had ever imagined.

I have never suggested kicking out the rich people, just that they should pay their fair share. I am the one who wants to build more housing remember, so that more people of all income levels can live here. I like Tech Workers and I am not a Progressive. So take your rant elsewhere.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Mar. 18, 2014 @ 6:54 am

Income is irrelevant to local tax take.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 18, 2014 @ 7:16 am

The payroll tax is based on income.

And income drives the ability to spend, leading to sales tax and property tax revenues, as well as drive ( a whole host of fees and fines).

Posted by Guest on Mar. 18, 2014 @ 7:30 am

The payroll tax is being replaced with the gross receipts tax, it is not long for this world.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 18, 2014 @ 7:54 am

between income level and tax paid is not very credible.

And SF is the only city that tries to apply payroll tax to stock options, which is borderline bizarre.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 18, 2014 @ 8:09 am

We gave you a chance to conquer your idiocy but clearly your idiocy has won.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 18, 2014 @ 8:25 am

lapses into opacity and obfuscation.

Good luck with your theory that the wealthy pay less taxes than the poor.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 18, 2014 @ 8:46 am

If that success generated more wealth, than everyone is better off, even if some are more better off than others.

Focus on wealth generation, not wealth distribution.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 23, 2014 @ 11:07 am

The most successful societies tend to be the most equal, not the most unequal. See the map I posted.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 23, 2014 @ 11:20 am

than you, it does not follow that you have any less as a result, because the difference is the wealth that he created.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 23, 2014 @ 11:43 am

or just mouthing Randian platitudes?

Posted by Greg on Feb. 23, 2014 @ 12:21 pm

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