Boston Has an Income Inequality Problem

Longfellow bridge and Boston skyline.
Income inequality is a problem in Boston. ( David L Ryan / Globe Staff ) –DAVID L. RYAN/ THE BOSTON GLOBE

If the critics are right and Boston is America’s bastion of socialism, we’re pretty lousy communists. Bloomberg News released its list of the 50 cities with the worst income inequality, and Boston did not fare well, coming in 11th place. In 12th place, Cambridge was next worst in the Bloomberg rankings.

Bloomberg used something called the Gini coefficient to determine city rankings. The coefficient uses some crazy-looking math, but essentially the higher the number, the worse the inequality. A score of zero would mean everyone makes the same amount of money, and a score of one means one person makes all the money in town. The 2013 US average average score was 0.4757. Boston’s Gini coefficient for 2013 was 0.5405.


Boston’s income inequality is getting worse, according to Bloomberg’s figures. The city’s inequality coefficient increased 3.35 percent between 2008-2013.

New York City was ranked 13th, so in the never-ending comparison war with Gotham, this one’s a wash.

Gawker, meanwhile, thinks it found a theme in the numbers. Several of the communities on the list are big college towns. That’s certainly true for the New England communities listed. Aside from Boston and Cambridge, Providence (8th), Hartford (35th), and New Haven (39th) also made top 50.

Income inequality is a hot topic this year. President Barack Obama has tried to make it a midterm campaign issue, offering proposals for a federal minimum wage increase and pay equity for women.

Five states have increased their minimum wages, and Massachusetts is poised to do the same. Oklahoma, meanwhile, just outlawed local minimum wage increases in its cities and towns.

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