New York City’s rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, according to a new and depressing report from the city’s Independent Budget Office.
Using an annual sample of 770,700 income tax returns, IBO looked at New Yorkers’ annual earnings every year between 2006 and 2014, adjusting for inflation to make the numbers directly comparable. And the findings are … stark, if not necessarily surprising.
Gothamist lays it out: In 2006, the bottom 50 percent of income earners—again, that’s half the city—brought in $20.7 billion, accounting for 7.4 percent of the city’s total income. But by 2014, the most recent year with available data, the number was even smaller: 17.7 billion, or 5.6 percent of the city’s pie. On a micro level, the report notes, that means the median income for the bottom half of filers dropped from $14,153 a year to $12,360—about a 13 percent decrease in earnings.
If you’re in top one percent of the city’s income earners, though, the news looks substantially brighter—and if you’re in the top ten percent of the one percent, it’s even brighter than that. The report showed that the total income reported by the top 10 percent of filers increased by $28.6 billion between 2006 and 2014—and more than a third of that increase took place in the top 0.1 percent. To put that in perspective: in 2014, the top 0.1 percent — a group of about 3,700 filers with incomes above $5.2 million — took home nearly 24 percent of the city’s total income, the report says, reaching almost pre-recession levels.
As for the middle slice of earners? While their cash flow has increased—the city’s 1.5 million middle earners made $91.5 billion in 2014, up from $81.8 in 2006—their total share of the city’s dough has stayed pretty consistent: about 29 percent.
"We all know that the city is very unequal," Debipriya Chatterjee, the IBO economist who analyzed the data, told Gothamist. "What I did not anticipate seeing in the data is that the share of the bottom 50 percent has actually fallen." Another thing she didn’t anticipate: how great the gains at the very, very top actually were.
"The way it plays out in the data is that it seems that the top half has gained, but when I zoom into the top 10 percent, it’s the top one percent that's gained," she said. "Then I zoom in further and it’s the top 0.1 percent."