At the November 10, 2015 Republican presidential debate, candidate Rand Paul said that inequality in cities — the gap between the rich and poor — “seems to be worst in cities run by Democrats.” His comment received rousing applause from the audience, and much media attention.
To be fair, Paul got the data right (for the most part). Liberal cities do have worse inequality than the national average, and the largest, most dynamic cities are the most unequal. But not for the reasons Paul thinks.
Inequality is a feature of liberal cities, not a bug, Emily Badger explains for the Washington Post’s Wonk Blog. Big cities, those most often run by Democrats, simultaneously welcome the poor and attract the wealthy, leading to inequality. Badger writes that, on the other hand, “Exclusionary suburbs that keep out the poor and working class appear, on paper, awfully egalitarian (everyone makes $100,000!).”
Simply Put, Paul’s implication — that Republican policies are better suited to address inequality or bring people out of poverty than Democratic ones — are hogwash. Thankfully, his comment is receiving the attention it deserves, and a myth about cities that Paul sought to perpetuate is being dispelled instead.
New York skyline by the author.
Presidential debate screen grab uncredited.