Let this fact sink in: The United States has the most unequal income distribution of any advanced economy in the world, with the current gap between rich and poor now greater than at any time since 1929. In New York State, the disparity is by far wider than in the rest of the country, with the top fifth of families making 14 times what the bottom fifth do. In New York City, the problem is starker still. Despite the sense that the rising financial tide of the '90s raised all boats, only the richest 5 percent of New Yorkers increased their share of income between 1987 and 1997. * "New York is somewhat of a poster child for the inequality problem," says Jared Bernstein, an economist with the liberal Economic Policy Institute. "You have more poverty and far more extensive wealth." A magnet for poor immigrants who hope it will provide them with a better way of life, home to communities that have long been mired in poverty, the city has an underclass that is increasingly alien from the city's ultra-rich. Almost 1.6 million of the city's 8 million citizens fall under the poverty line. Meanwhile, says Bernstein, "there are tremendous earning opportunities for people like Michael Bloomberg." * Indeed, the unprecedented disparities in our current economy might be summed up by the strange fact that the city's entire projected budget deficitnow estimated at $4.5 billionis roughly equal to the estimated net worth of the new mayor. With some $4.5 billion in corporate and real estate holdings, Bloomberg is both the city's most powerful political leader and... More >>>
By photograph by Sylvia Plachy
Sylvia Rosado at home: $1.43 less per hour means "goodbye, couch."