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Report: Income Disparity In New York Grows

4:35 PM, Nov 15, 2012   |    comments
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By Joseph Spector, Albany Bureau Chief

ALBANY - Median family income in New York dropped nearly 6 percent between 2008 and 2011, while the income share of the wealthy has rebounded, a report from a labor-backed group said Thursday.

The report from the Fiscal Policy Institute claimed that New York's wealth disparity is stark compared to other states because of the higher earners in New York City. It points to high poverty levels in parts of the city and in upstate.

The median family income in New York was nearly $71,000 in 2008. In 2011, it was nearly $67,000, the report said.

"Various income measures all point toward the same conclusions: polarization has intensified and New York has been at the center of this polarization," the report from the Albany-based group said. "No state is more polarized than New York, and no large city is more polarized than New York City."

The group uses the report to call for an increase in the state's minimum wage, which has been at $7.25 an hour since 2009 and is tied to the federal rate. Democrats in the state Legislature have sought to increase the minimum wage to $8.50, but Republicans have opposed it.

"The lowest-wage earners are the ones most severely affected by the polarized economy," the report said. "Putting a strong floor under wages is a time-tested way to improve the living standards of low-wage workers.

The report contends that the income share of so-called top one percent of taxpayers in New York dropped during the recession after growing rapidly over the prior decades. It has started to increase again in recent years, the report said.

The income share of the richest one percent in New York grew from 10 percent in 1980 to as high as 35 percent in 2007, compared to a national average of 24 percent. It fell during the recession, but the group estimated it would be about 30 percent this year, based on state revenue projections.

The report said that 190,000 workers on Wall Street last year were paid an average of $348,000. The average for the rest of the state workforce, about 8.3 million people, was $55,000.

The report contends that the income disparity in New York grew over three decades, from the 1970s to the mid 2000s. While incomes grew slightly or stayed stagnant for most workers, the average income for the wealthiest New Yorkers grew.

New York households in the top 5 percent had incomes increase on average 16 percent, from $290,000 to $337,000, between the late 1990s and the mid 2000s, the report said.

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