Colby Hamilton, Writer, WNYC News
Colby Hamilton is a general assignment reporter. He originally joined WNYC as a political blogger. He's a proud graduate of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.
New York City Comptroller John Liu released a report Monday showing the city’s top 1 percent of earners account for a third of all income in New York City—nearly twice the national average.
The analysis is based on the 2009 tax filings provided by the state’s tax department. Additionally, the report also found that the “most affluent 15,000 New York City households” took in 26.7 percent of the city’s income.
“Such a wide income gap has financial consequences for the City,” Liu said in a statement. “Income inequality can weaken or destabilize the local tax base, reinforce patterns of racial and economic segregation, and undermine the vibrant social, cultural, and economic mix that is the foundation of New York City’s identity. It also threatens the very fragile economic recovery we are now experiencing.”
The comptroller’s report also showed the income trends over the last decade. During the boom years in the middle of the last decade, the bottom 99 percent of income earners saw their average income rise from $42,000 per year in 2000 to $50,000 in 2007—an increase of about 19 percent. Over that same time period, the top 1 percent of earners’ average income rose from $2.2 million $3.9 million—an increase of more than 77 percent.
By 2009, the top 1 percent saw their average income back at 2000 levels, while the bottom 99 percent saw their average yearly income slide back to $47,000 per year.
The comptroller said the disparity and volatility in gains over the last decade was a pattern the city should not repeat in the future.
“We must not repeat the pattern of the last decade when a few gathered enormous wealth, while the vast majority of New York families were left behind or saw very modest gains,” Liu said in a statement.
One observant reader noted that income disparity has actually dropped since the peak of 2007. As a proportion of overall income, the 1 percent of earners held an even higher share of the overall income then at 44 percent, compared to nearly 33 percent today.
Likewise, while the bottom 99 percent's average income has fallen since 2007 to $47,000 in 2009, it hasn't returned to the totals of 2000, which the 1 percenters' income has.
But the difference remains great: in 2000, the 99 percenters proportionally made 1.9 percent of what the 1 percenters did, on average. In 2009, that figure stood at 2.1 percent.