Boston ranks 4th for income gap between rich and poor

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Boston’s dynamic, hard-charging economy comes at a price: greater income inequality.

Boston ranked 4th among big cities for its gap between the very rich and very poor, according to a new study released on Thursday by the Brookings Institution, a non-profit based in Washington, D.C.

Only Atlanta, San Francisco, and Miami had larger income divides between the top 5 percent of earners and the bottom 20 percent. The city’s innovation economy, which relies heavily on a highly educated, upper-income workforce, has intensified that divide and could eventually cause conflicts as policy makers try to spread limited resources for education, affordable housing and other services, said Alan Berube, a senior fellow at Brookings and author of the report.

In Boston, wealthy households made an average of almost $224,000 annually, 15 times more than a low-income families, who earned $14,600 a year.

The city’s wealth can be measured in the increasing cost of housing and the slew of luxury retailers, from Chanel to Hermes, that have opened stores or expanded their showrooms in Boston.

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