By Seth Morin
Ranked number three, after Atlanta and San Francisco, on the list of American cities with the widest gaps between the income of the rich and poor, the municipal government of Boston clearly has a considerable amount of work cut out for the city in the coming years as it attempts to slow, and even reverse, the process. In 2013, the ratio between income for an average household in the 95th percentile was estimated to be about 15 times higher than the average income for a household in the 20th percentile. Although down from 2012, where the highest earners were estimated to make about 15.3 times more than those earning the lowest amount, the disparity is still significant. Another way to look at the issue is by comparing the Gini coefficients in a few of the metropolitan areas in the United States to Boston. Whereas Washington D.C. and Atlanta had Gini coefficients of .4372 and .4680, respectively, in 2013, the Gini coefficient for Boston was calculated to be .4772. According to the Metropolitan Area Planning Council in Boston, higher Gini coefficients are correlated with higher violent crime, murder, and car theft rates.
So what is the city of Boston doing to confront the issue of economic inequality? In October of 2014, the Office of Financial Empowerment was opened, and subsequently two financial opportunity centers affiliated with the newly opened office have been launched. So far, these centers have connected 1,800 people with potential employment opportunities, while also providing job training in certain areas and educating those on how to effectively manage their resources. With goals of opening 27 free tax preparation centers throughout the city and increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit for Massachusetts, the Office of Financial Empowerment intends to put more money back into the pockets of the poorest in Boston, allowing them a stronger sense of security and faith that the city is attempting to address their needs. Concentrating on more than just income inequality, namely the results of the process of poverty perpetuation, the city is also working alongside the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) to develop strategies that encourage the opening of savings accounts for children. CFED argues that by informing families of the benefits of opening savings accounts for their children, despite how small the sum might be, is a step in the right direction towards college education. With more children attending college and getting out of the poverty trap, the likelihood of the income gap decreasing is significantly higher than allowing conditions to stay as they are. Though only small steps in a long journey to solve the problem of inequality, the Boston municipality is, at the very least, making a strong effort to help those in need.