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Why income inequality in New Orleans is worse than in Zambia

Here’s a hard fact — the gap between the rich and poor in New Orleans is as wide as it is in the African country of Zambia. That’s according to recent data from Bloomberg, which tracks inequality in cities across the country.

New Orleans isn’t the most unequal city in the country — that unfortunate distinction falls to Atlanta — but average income in the Big Easy is $12,000 lower. And while New Orleans has made great strides in recovering since Hurricane Katrina, the gap between the rich and poor has gotten worse.

“That’s one of the big tragedies of a big disaster like this, that those who were doing well do better, and those who are worse are more worse,” said Allison Plyer, the executive director of The Data Center, a NOLA-based organization that tracks the city’s progress.

It’s not just in New Orleans — income inequality is growing nationwide. Researchers say it can drive crime and violence, ripping cities apart. That’s why this summer, 30 big city mayors promised to join together to study and fight inequality.

“We know from the research that nationally, we are becoming more and more inequitable, and more and more just like a third world country,” said Plyer.

Credit: Bradley Blackburn, Suzette Laboy, Walter Collins



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