Capitol Alert

SF Bay Area, Los Angeles have widest income gaps

The San Francisco skyline from the Berkeley Marina. A new studyt says San Francisco and its affluent suburbs have the state’s highest ratio of income inequality.
The San Francisco skyline from the Berkeley Marina. A new studyt says San Francisco and its affluent suburbs have the state’s highest ratio of income inequality. Sacramento Bee Staff Photo

As California continues to recover from the Great Recession, the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles County have developed the state’s highest levels of income inequality, according to a new study by the California Budget and Policy Center.

“Widening income inequality is an issue for nearly all metropolitan and rural areas in California,” the study’s authors wrote. “Most Californians live in an area where the top 1 percent has captured most, and in some cases all, of the income gains made since 1989.”

Widening income gaps have become major issues in the Legislature. Liberal Democrats have been pushing for more support for the poor, and did win passage of a state earned income tax credit. But Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown has resisted pressures to make major new commitments to spending on the poor, citing the state’s precarious budget situation.

Ironically, the highest levels of income disparity found in the report are in coastal regions that consistently vote Democratic, while the lower levels are in inland areas which tend to be more conservative in their voting patterns.

San Francisco and its wealthy suburbs to the south, San Mateo and Redwood City, have the state’s widest income gap, with the top 1 percent of residents having 44.8 times as much personal income as the average of the other 99 percent.

The Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale region has the second highest ratio at 32.8 percent, followed by San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara at 30.6 times and Napa at 29.2 times. The study found the state’s lowest ratio in the Vallejo-Fairfield area at 9.5, but most of the lower ratios were found in inland California.

The data were derived from a Keystone Research Center analysis of state and federal information.

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