Economic Inequality Tops Concerns of New Yorkers


In 2016, the Equality Indicators found that economic inequality was New York City residents’ biggest inequality concern. As part of the ISLG public survey, which was conducted specifically to inform the Equality Indicators, we asked 3,003 New Yorkers to describe in their own words what they believed to be the biggest inequality issue facing New Yorkers today. Across all racial and ethnic groups, economic inequality was the number one concern.  Nearly a quarter (23.2%) of all respondents indicated that economic inequality, which includes issues of income inequality, wealth inequality, and employment, was the number one inequality problem, followed by racial inequality (16.6% ), housing and homeless (14.8%), policing (8.6%), and educational inequality (8.1%).

The chart below provides a picture of the top 10 most-cited issues, with responses broken down by race and ethnicity.

Several racial and ethnic differences in economic outcomes were noted in the 2016 Equality Indicators Annual Report, and on the whole those outcomes were most negative for blacks and Hispanics. Black and Hispanic New Yorkers had disproportionately higher unemployment rates than other racial and ethnic groups. With unemployment rates of 6.6% and 6.5% respectively, blacks and Hispanics were more than 1.5 times more likely to be unemployed than white New Yorkers (3.7%), and more than 1.3 times more likely to be unemployed than Asian New Yorkers (4.9%). Not surprisingly, similar differences exist in annual and hourly income. The median annual income for whites with full-time jobs ($63,490) was nearly double the median annual income for Hispanics ($33,057), more than 1.5 times the median annual income for blacks ($38,229) and about 1.3 times the median annual income for Asians ($50,000). The median hourly wage for whites working full time was $26.67, compared to $15.38 for Hispanics, $22.12 for Asians, and $17.31 for blacks.

Other disparities noted in the report may contribute to these differences in economic outcomes. For instance, there were large racial and ethnic differences in degree attainment, with 63.3% of Hispanics and 61.9% of blacks not having received a bachelor’s degree compared to 35.3% of Whites and 35.8% of Asians. Higher educational levels are typically associated with higher paying jobs.

While not an intuitive contributor to economic inequality, research suggests that long commute times have important implications for economic progress and social mobility, particularly for disadvantaged groups. Workers who live further away from job centers have fewer job opportunities than workers who live closer, they are absent or tardy more often, and they have less bargaining power, all factors that tend to limit their economic mobility. Long commutes can also affect how well employees perform on the job and thus contribute to wage disparities among workers. Our report found large racial and ethnic differences in commute times with blacks (21.2%) the most likely to have a commute time over one hour and whites (13.8%) the least likely.