Of New York's 'sub-Saharan' income gap, Bloomberg says the numbers are 'meaningless'
Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday said recent reports, based on new census data, showing that the income gap in some parts of the city rivals those in sub-Saharan African nations, rely on "about as meaningless a set of numbers as you can come up with."
Last week, the New York Times reported that the city's "poverty rate reached its highest point in more than a decade, and the income gap in Manhattan, already wider than almost anywhere else in the country, rivaled disparities in sub-Saharan Africa."
Today, nearly 21 percent of New Yorkers live in poverty. And the differences between rich and poor are striking, particularly in Manhattan. As per the Times:
The lowest fifth made $9,681, while the highest took home $391,022. The wealthiest fifth of Manhattanites made more than 40 times what the lowest fifth reported, a widening gap (it was 38 times, the year before) surpassed by only a few developing countries, including Namibia and Sierra Leone.
Only one other county in the nation, Clarke County, Ga., where nearly a third of the 117,000 residents are college students, reported a higher income gap.
Asked about that report today at a press conference in Staten Island, the mayor said the interpretation of the data was all wrong.
"What we really have here is, we have a gap in education," he said. "And there's just no question—you have a better education, you're gonna make a lot more money. We also try very hard to get very wealthy people from around the country to come here, live here and pay taxes here. Those are the people that create jobs so that you can have a career and I can have a career. Those are the people that pay taxes so we can have a police department and a department of education and a fire department and everything else. And that just exacerbates that problem, if you want to measure it that way."
"That's not a measure of something we should be ashamed of," he went on. "What we've got to do is make sure that everybody at every level has the opportunity to get a job, and, based on the luck of the draw—cause some people are gonna be lucky, some aren't—based on their educational background, give them the chance to have a good job that provides benefits and where they can be proud of themselves and be in charge of their own destiny...The last time a government tried to have everybody have the same level of income, it didn't work out every well. I don't think you really want that."