Special Report

20 Cities With the Widest Gap Between the Rich and Poor

20. Durham-Chapel Hill, NC
> Gini coefficient:
> Median household income: $53,492
> Poverty rate: 16.9%
> Pct. earning more than $200,000: 7.0%

Income in the Durham-Chapel Hill metro area is less-evenly distributed than income in all but 19 of the other U.S. metro areas reviewed. As is the case across the nation, the wealthiest 20% of area households earn more than half — 53.5% to be exact — of all the income earned in Durham. In contrast, the poorest 20% of households earn just 3% of all the income earned. The wealthiest 5% of households have incomes of at least $230,068, one of the highest incomes for that percentile in the nation. While Durham’s median household income of $53,492 is higher than the national median, the poverty rate of nearly 17% is higher than the national poverty rate of 15.8%.

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19. Johnson City, TN
> Gini coefficient:
> Median household income: $37,423
> Poverty rate: 19.3%
> Pct. earning more than $200,000: 1.9%

While the wealthiest people in the Johnson City metro area account for the vast majority of income, even the city’s highest-earning households are not especially affluent. The median household income of $37,423 is well below the national median of $52,250. And even the incomes among the wealthiest 5% of households, who earn at least $140,986 annually, are substantially lower than the average income for wealthy households in other areas. Still, the top 20% of households earn nearly 54% of Johnson City’s total income. The area’s income inequality is primarily due to the region’s widespread poverty. Nearly one in five area residents lives in poverty, well above the national poverty rate of 15.8%.

18. New Orleans-Metairie, LA
> Gini coefficient:
> Median household income: $45,981
> Poverty rate: 19.3%
> Pct. earning more than $200,000: 4.6%

New Orleans-Metairie households in the top income quintile earn at least $98,328 annually. While this is lower than the national income figure, it is about 5.7 times higher than the comparable income among the area’s poorest households. As in many metro areas with the widest income gaps, more than one in 10 households earns an income of less than $10,000 annually, well above the national proportion. In addition, more than 19% of people live in poverty, also one of the higher poverty rates nationwide.

17. Brownsville-Harlingen, TX
> Gini coefficient:
> Median household income: $34,374
> Poverty rate: 32.5%
> Pct. earning more than $200,000: 2.0%

With the exception of a few extremely wealthy individuals, Brownsville residents are very poor compared to most Americans. The metro area’s poverty rate of 32.5% is higher than any metro area except for McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, which is also in Texas. While goods and services in the area cost nearly 15% less than the national average price, more than 29% of Brownsville households rely on food stamps, the third highest share in the country. Still, the area is home to wealthy individuals. Households in the top 5% of the income spectrum earn at least $139,988, or 5.7 times more than the households earning in the bottom 20%.

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16. Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA
> Gini coefficient:
> Median household income: $62,421
> Poverty rate: 16.3%
> Pct. earning more than $200,000: 7.9%

The Santa Maria-Santa Barbara metropolitan area is the only one on the West Coast among the 20 metros with the widest income gap. In the metro area, the top-earning 20% of households account for over half of the area’s total income, with an average household income of at least $128,464. The top 5% of households all have incomes in excess of $250,000. However, although the area has some extremely affluent residents, even the typical household is relatively well off. The metropolitan area’s median household income of $62,421 is roughly $10,000 above the national median and is among the highest such figures in the country.