Have you been feeling extra broke lately? Like, over the past decade or so, lately? I ask because, based on the newest report from NY’s Independent Budget Office (IBO), New Yorkers are getting shafted when it comes to economic disparities. So, basically, the feeling you have of never getting ahead, is one shared equally amongst your peers, too.
This past week, an article in Forbes from August of last year, caught steam on my Facebook timeline. In it, the author implored readers to pull down the taboo walls around discussing annual salary amongst peers, claiming that this practice would help eliminate the space for pay discrimination and would help folks to open their eyes to themes and issues across varying industries. Funny enough, if you take a deeper look - you realize, the need for that kind of salary discussion is often reserved for that of the common man.
The IBO reports that the top .1% of New Yorkers make four times more money than that of the bottom 50% of income earners in the city – half the city’s population. The IBO used an annual sample of 770,000 income tax returns and analyzed city resident’s earnings from 2006 to 2014. For context’s sake, there are approximately four million tax paying NYers who support themselves, their families, others, etc. IBO also accounted for inflation in its statistical gathering, too.
Let’s drill down on 2014, since that’s the most recent year of record. During that year, the bottom half of earners in NYC made $17.7 billion, 5.6% of the total income made by NYers. The top .1% made $74.1 billion, 24% of the income earned by NYers over that period. Basically, while most of us find ourselves embroiled in this rat race, a small chunk of folks finds themselves watching us run it.
With the average rent in NYC now eating at more than 65% of our total annual income, how are people supposed to live? The income inequality gap has continued to grow. Picture this: 50% of NY residents made 5.6% of the income pie last year. We’ve established that much…That would then mean that the top 50% of income earners made the other 94.4% of the money. Where’s the fair market in that?
In 2016, Class Divide, an HBO documentary directed by Marc Levin, opened many peoples’ eyes to the great economic disparity that lives in front of our faces, every single day. The documentary focused on Chelsea, Manhattan an area that’s seen redonkulous growth over the last decade. Mostly due to rezoning laws and the building of The High Line, an old, above ground train track, reimagined as somewhat of a floating park running up the west side of Manhattan from Gansevoort St to 34th St. The beautiful structure attracts tourists and real estate developers from all across the globe. The documentary keys in on the corner of 26th St and 10th Ave, where on one side you have The Avenues – one of the most expensive ($49,550/yr tuition), exclusive private schools in the nation. Literally on the opposite side of the street sits the Elliott – Chelsea projects (Avg family of four yearly income: $21,000), full of kids, many of whom are just trying to get by.
As I thought more about the invisible wall running down 10th Ave and about the children who Levin shadowed throughout the documentary, I started to think – perhaps this is a metaphor for the relationship between America’s super wealthy and everyone else. It makes you question – is the American Dream still viable with all the economic disparity we see in such a public display. According to the graph above and study after study, we can conclude that we’re going to have to redefine what the phrase “American Dream” means going forward. What those kids are experiencing on the Elliott – Chelsea side of 10th Ave., doesn’t sound like what we’ve been selling for the last 100 years now.
How do you feel about the income gap? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.