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Income Inequality and Economic Segregation in Los Angeles from 1980 to 2010


Rising income inequality is a critical problem in both the global North and South. In the United States, the Gini coefficient measuring nationwide income inequality rose from 0.403 in 1980 to 0.480 in 2014 (US Census), and residential segregation by income has increasingly occurred in many metropolitan regions and is particularly reflected in the spatial separation of the wealthiest households. This chapter focuses on the change in the level of income inequality in the Los Angeles region since 1980 and how it is related to changes in residential segregation between economic groups over that same time period. We use data from the US Census collected in 1980, 1990, 2000, and 2010. We measure residential segregation between economic groups based on occupational structure, and measure ‘neighbourhoods’ using Census tracts: these are units defined by the US Census and typically average about 4,000 residents. The overall level of inequality in the region is measured at each decade point using the Gini coefficient for household income. Maps demonstrate where different socioeconomic status groups have tended to locate and how economic segregation has changed in Los Angeles over this time period. We also assess the extent to which changes in inequality are related to changes in economic segregation over the last four and a half decades.

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