The highest income inequality in California? Census suggests it’s in Arden Arcade

The California place with the most income inequality is right in Sacramento’s suburbs: the community of Arden Arcade.

Arden Arcade has recently seen a large increase in poverty-stricken residents moving to apartments in the west side of the community. Many of the new residents are fleeing expensive rent elsewhere in the region. Others are newly arrived refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Russia or Syria. Meanwhile, some of the city’s wealthiest residents live on the opposite side of Arden Arcade, near the American River.

The economic disparity between the two groups is striking. The bottom-fifth of Arden Arcade earners in 2016 controlled 2.1 percent of the community’s income, the latest census figures show. The top fifth of Arden Arcade’s earners controlled 58.2 percent of the community’s income.

Income inequality has risen sharply during the last few decades as the nation’s wealthiest residents have disproportionately benefited from economic expansion.

The U.S. Census Bureau tracks income inequality using a measure called the Gini index. The index ranges from 0 (everyone has the same income) to 1 (one person controls all income).

Arden Arcade’s Gini index was 0.56 in 2016, higher than any other place in California with more than 65,000 residents.

The Census Bureau’s Gini index calculation for Arden Arcade is based on a population sample and has a margin of error of 0.03. So while Arden Arcade has the highest absolute Gini index in the census data for 2016, it is statistically tied with a few other California cities, including Newport Beach, Los Angeles, Berkeley and Chico.

Phillip Reese is The Bee’s data specialist and teaches at Sacramento State. Reach him at 916-321-1137 or 916-278-5420.