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L.A.'s Gap Between Rich And Poor Widening

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Tue, Feb 9, 2010 at 2:47 PM

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Los Angeles County. Home of The Hills, Rodeo Drive, and arguably the most exotic and high-end cars in the world. California has more billionaires than any other place on earth besides the rest of the United States. And we'd gamble that most of them live in SoCal. L.A. is also a place with a higher rate of working poor (7.5 percent) than the rest of the nation, a graduation rate (60 percent) that's also beat about by the national average (70 percent) and 1.4 million poor people.

Oh, and 250,000 millionaires live here. Anti-illegal-immigrant activists have often said L.A. is turning into a Third World metropolis. We would argue that it's still the greatest city on earth -- and the most diverse -- but they might have a point. Such a gap between rich and poor exists in places like Mexico City (home of the third richest man in the world), Jakarta and Shanghai -- but here? According to a new report from United Way, yes. (A full version is due later Tuesday).

"Findings from this report show that problems once thought confined to the poor, like excessive rent burdens, falling wages and uncertain healthcare coverage, are seeping up the income distribution," states Manuel Pastor, professor of Geography and American Studies and Ethnicity at USC. "It is of utmost importance to shore up the bottom in order to grow the middle class in Los Angeles, and we must take action now because shoring up the bottom will help secure the middle."

The United Way's 1999-2009 study "L.A. County 10 Years Later: A Tale of Two Cities, One Future" also found that obesity among poor people grew twice as fast -- 9.2 percent -- as for others in the county. (But even higher-income folks are getting fatter -- up four percent). Also, the number of people paying nearly a third of their income for rent is up too.

"It's been ten years since we coined the term 'working poor' and it's clear that Los Angeles County's economic and social sustainability is severely threatened," states Elise Buik, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Los Angeles. "We need to invest in our human capital in order to meet the growing economic and social demands we're facing now."

Spotted at LABizObserved.

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