Haves & Have Nots

Where the gap lives: Houston has the fourth-highest income inequality in America

Where the gap lives: Houston has the fourth-highest income inequality in America

Income inequality is just one of the many injustices that the Occupy movement takes issue with, and perhaps the 99 percent is onto something.

CNN Money reports that the United States ranks among the bottom third of countries globally in terms of income equality. That means that most of Western Europe, Canada, South Korea, Australia and Russia have a narrower gap between the richest and the poorest in the country.

China has slightly higher inequality than the U.S., and Latin American countries suffer from greater disparity in economic resources.

 The gap is greater only in metropolises surrounding New York, Miami and Los Angeles. 

The study, compiled by Brank Milanovic, an economist with the World Bank, looks at data of per capita income and consumption for more than 90 countries.

The No. 1 most balanced is Slovenia with a score of 23.1 (on a scale of 100, the lower the more equal), followed by the Slovak Republic, the Czech Republic, Sweden and Ukraine. The U.S. scores 43.2, aligning more closely to the last country on the list — Honduras, with 60.2 — than the first.

Experts disagree about the causes of the large gap in a developed country like the U.S., but most acknowledge that increased technology, globalization and outsourcing contribute to diminish the middle class. Plus, governmental support for programs like health care and childcare is relatively lacking in the U.S. in comparison to European nations.

Among American cities, the Houston metropolitan area (which includes Sugar Land and Baytown) ranks No. 4 for income inequality, according to a study released in October by the U.S. Census Bureau. The gap is greater only in metropolises surrounding New York, Miami and Los Angeles.

The latter study is careful to remain neutral about whether such a gap is inherently bad or good, and it recognizes that higher income inequality is largely found in cities, where the income spectrum is large and the cost of living varied (think Memorial Park versus the Third Ward). Suburban areas have lower rates of inequality simply because the areas attract denizens of a certain income set.