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The Widening Divide Revisited- Economic Inequality in Los Angeles

Professor Paul Ong presented a case of Los Angeles in terms of income inequality and poverty. He and a group of his colleagues examined the income inequality in LA about a quarter century ago, and found a prevalent economic disparity in those days. Their report in 1989 spurred the public and media to pay more attention to the economic phenomenon. Now, Professor Ong reexamined whether the situation has been improved since then…

Professor Paul Ong presented a case of Los Angeles in terms of income inequality and poverty. In fact, this is his second visit to the area. He and a group of his colleagues examined the income inequality in LA about a quarter century ago, and found a prevalent economic disparity in those days. Their report in 1989 spurred the public and media to pay more attention to the economic phenomenon. Now, Professor Ong reexamined whether the situation has been improved since then, because the recent housing and financial crises across the nation affected LA to a great extent and concomitantly renewed attention was called for. But, what he found is that there still exist a substantial degree of income inequality, in fact, even a greater disparity in the city.

In his study, he used Gini Index, which is widely used to measure income and wealth inequality. Before going deep into the examination of the city, he showed some historical changes in terms of economic disparity. To list a few points, he underlined economic disparity in 2000 was about 80% of that in 1920 when we had a Great Depression. In addition, income share of top tenth was about the same between the two times, and bottom 80% incomers’ non-home financial wealth decreased by about 50% from 1983 to 2012 (8.7% to 4.7%).

After the review of national, historical trend in economic disparity, he laid out findings in the city of LA. Comparing LA households with the US overall, he pointed out that income inequality increased substantially from 1980 to 2012 while it increased gradually in the US as a whole, and that disparity in wealth was even greater than that in income. In addition, economic inequality is still substantial between upper 20% and bottom 80% in labor market within each group of native people and immigrants.

Upon these findings, the audience expressed some concerns on a solution to the problems or a vision for LA. Corresponding to their concerns, Professor Ong anticipated that there would not be a significant change or development in the economic matter. However, showing some small, positive changes affected by scholarship engagement, such as Mayor’s minimum wage proposal and County Supervisor’s neighborhood hiring proposal, he said “we still can have hope.” In this presentation, not only his scholarly findings but also his active engagement in policy arena to bring justice was impressive.

Paul Ong: “The Widening Divide Revisited – Economic Inequality in Los Angeles”

A quarter century ago, the UCLA 1989 report “The Widening Divide: Income Inequality and Poverty in Los Angeles” generated considerable public and media attention on the growing disparity in the region, resulting in an editorial call for a new development policy that was then embraced by re-elected Mayor Tom Bradley. Despite being a pivotal political moment, the local policy shift at best only attenuated the long-term and persistent increase in the unequal distribution of income and wealth, a trajectory national and global in scale, but very much manifested and experienced locally.

The ARC Research Praxis Seminar Series Presents

Paul Ong
The Widening Divide Revisited: Economic Inequality in Los Angeles

Thursday, September 18, 2014
4:00pm – 6:00pm
ARC Conference Room
Room 5318
The Graduate Center, CUNY

A quarter century ago, the UCLA 1989 report “The Widening Divide: Income Inequality and Poverty in Los Angeles” generated considerable public and media attention on the growing disparity in the region, resulting in an editorial call for a new development policy that was then embraced by re-elected Mayor Tom Bradley. Despite being a pivotal political moment, the local policy shift at best only attenuated the long-term and persistent increase in the unequal distribution of income and wealth, a trajectory national and global in scale, but very much manifested and experienced locally. The 2007 Great Recession has rekindled widespread concern about economic inequality. Media attention has been highlighted the adverse impacts of the business cycle, particularly the housing and financial crisis, and the complicit failure of public and private institutions. Although myopic, this awareness has opened the door to expand the political discourse to include the fundamental forces at work for decades. There is a need for national and regional knowledge to inform the policy debate.

Researching regional dynamics and structures is critical for three reasons. One, inequality is not only produced and reproduced at a national level but also at the regional level. Two, this type of analysis provides the public a better sense and ownership of the problem because they are able to relate to the inequality unfolding in their own backyard. Finally, localizing knowledge production is important because even national solutions must be implemented locally, and some solutions must address the region’s unique challenges.

 
Paul-Ong

Paul M. Ong
Distinguished Professor, School of Public Affairs, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, and Department of Asian American Studies, University of California-Los Angeles

Paul M. Ong has a master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Washington and a doctorate in economics from UC Berkeley.  He is the current director of the Center for the Study of Inequality and senior editor of AAPI Nexus: Asian American and Pacific Islander Policy, Practice and Community. He was the chair of UCLA’s Department of Urban Planning, director of the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, acting director of the Institute for Industrial Relations, and founding director of UC AAPI Policy Program. He has conducted research on immigration, civic and political participation, economic status of minorities, welfare-to-work, health workers, spatial inequality, and environmental inequality.  He has served on advisory committees for California’s Employment Development Department and Department of Social Services, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the Getty Research Institute for the History of Art and the Humanities, the California Wellness Foundation, the California Community Foundation, the U.S. Bureau of the Census, and the National Research Council.

Inequality and Economic Growth | Paul Krugman & Tony Atkinson in Conversation

As we endure the slow, uneven recovery from the “Great Recession,” there is no more critical or timely question than that of the relationship between economic growth and inequality. On May 20, 2013 at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, two of the world’s most preeminent economists discussed the connection between prosperity for some and poverty for others.

As we endure the slow, uneven recovery from the “Great Recession,” there is no more critical or timely question than that of the relationship between economic growth and inequality. On May 20, 2013 at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, two of the world’s most preeminent economists discussed the connection between prosperity for some and poverty for others.

Paul Krugman is Professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton University, a 2008 Nobel laureate, and an Op-Ed columnist for the New York Times @NYTimeskrugman. He is the author of numerous books, including the recently published End This Depression Now!

Sir Tony Atkinson, Professor of Economics at the University of Oxford, is one of the world’s foremost scholars of inequality and the author or editor of more than thirty books on inequality and related topics. He recently coedited Top Incomes: A Global Perspective, a volume that analyses high-end income inequality around the world.

Moderated by Chrystia Freeland, managing director and editor of consumer news at Thomson Reuters and author of Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else @cafreeland.

Presented by the Advanced Research Collaborative @ARCCUNY and LIS @lisdata.