Gilded American City Gets Much Richer And Much Poorer Simultaneously

USA, Washington DC, Pennsylvania Avenue and Capitol building
USA, Washington DC, Pennsylvania Avenue and Capitol building

As the new age of widespread American income inequality continues, there's perhaps no better way to visualize what the rest of the country is enduring than to look at what's happening in Washington, D.C., where the policies that have allowed the top 1 percent to take home 95 percent of the proceeds from the economic recovery were authored. I don't know how things are going in your town, but in Washington, things are going great for some people and simultaneously going awfully for others. It's like income inequality on steroids.

As Neil Shah at the Wall Street Journal reports, "The income of the typical D.C. household rose 23.3% between 2000 and 2012 to an inflation-adjusted $66,583, according to the Census Bureau's American Community Survey." The same survey finds that median incomes nationally have dropped 6.6 percent during this period.


The Washington, D.C. metro area -- which includes the surrounding suburbs in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia -- has it even better, with a median household income of $88,233 that ranks highest among the U.S.'s 25 most populous metro areas. Tampa, Florida's median income, by contrast, is under $45,000.

Anecdotally, I can attest to the fact that Washington is also probably getting a lot more high-end "small plates" restaurants than most of you. Not that everyone in D.C. can afford to eat at them! While median incomes in D.C. have been skyrocketing, the tide has failed to lift all boats. Per Shah: "The share of people in D.C. experiencing what's called 'deep poverty' -- incomes that are 50% below the poverty line -- actually rose between 2000 and 2012 from 9.4% to 10.4%." At 10.4 percent, the district now has the highest "deep poverty" rate in the U.S.

According to census data, the "deep poverty rate" is increasing everywhere, in many places more quickly than in D.C. And here's some good news for people in Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming -- your median income actually has increased in the past 12 years.

Sorry to everyone living in the other 41 states, as well as everyone who is not a condo-buying government consultant or lobbyist.

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U.S. Capitol Photos