Downtown Los Angeles Skyline

Jennifer Ito and Marqueece Harris-Dawson: L.A.’s Income Inequality

Jennifer Ito: When we look back at 1990, Los Angeles was hit particularly hardest in the recession and out of that we've just never really grown. Our economy hasn’t recovered, we haven’t seen the amount of job growth that the rest of the nation has, and in particular, the types of jobs that we’ve had here have also contributed to our growing inequality.

Val Zavala: So this goes back a long time, in the 1990s coming out of that recession we did not make the gains that other places did? 

Jennifer Ito: That's correct. 

Val Zavala: So we're still living with the disadvantages of that recession? 

Jennifer Ito: Exactly, and now the economy has grown in ways where we are seeing much more at the high end. The highest paid workers in Los Angeles County have seen their wages grown significantly, whereas those at the bottom have seen their wages decrease, so that between 1979 and 2015 about, the lowest paid workers in Los Angeles County have seen their wages drop by 25 percent while the cost of living is getting much higher and it's getting much more difficult to find employment.

Val Zavala: It does seem strange because it does seem in many ways that things are booming, Downtown is booming, Silicon Beach is booming, we hear about all this high tech and people making all this money. But Marqueece you've represented a district where that's not happening. 

Marqueece Harris-Dawson: Right, the way we measure our economy, we even use the term boom, usually we're talking about a very small number of people for whom there is a boom. For most people, they're either even or unfortunately a lot of people are falling so we have to look at how we measure our economy. Do we measure our economy in a way that impacts what's happening with everybody or do we measure it in a way that impacts what's happening with a few? 

Jennifer Ito, Research Director at USC’s Program for Environmental, and Regional Equity and Marqueece Harris Dawson, Councilmember to L.A.’s 8th District, discuss Los Angeles's income inequality and how while some people benefit from economic booms, those at the bottom see their wages drop. 

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