Income Inequality Ranking of the World’s Major Cities

Definition of income inequality

Income inequality looks at the distribution of income across individuals or households in a defined area such as a city or a country. By doing so, it seeks to understand how much more or less income varies between households and/or individuals. High levels of income inequality often suggest poor middle-class development as more income disproportionately flows to the richest households.

Top 20 major cities with the highest income inequality in 2016

The cities with the highest levels of income inequality are generally either located in Sub-Saharan Africa or the Americas. Indeed, of the 20 most unequal cities ranked according to their Palma ratios, 16 were found in the aforementioned two regions in 2016. The most unequal developed cities in 2016 were Miami, Frankfurt and Houston. Frankfurt’s inclusion in the top 20 list makes it the most unequal major city in Europe, while income inequality in Kuala Lumpur was the highest in Asia.

Top 20 major cities ranked by highest income inequality

top 20 major cities with the highest income inequality: Johannesburg, Lagos, Nairobi, Santo Domingo, Cape Town, Kuala Lumpur, Rio de Janeiro, Guatemala City, Sao Paulo, Miami, Frankfurt, Baku, Salvador, Bogota, San Jose, Houston, Los Angeles, Jerusalem, New York, Quito

Source: Euromonitor International

Top 20 cities with the lowest income inequality in 2016

At the other end of the spectrum, income inequality was less pervasive in European and Asian cities with 19 of the 20 most equal cities being located in the two regions. China’s economic ascendancy over the last 20 years has manifest itself across the broad spectrum of households. It is this sort of economic growth that has helped the country maintain its lead in terms of the number of middle income consumers. According to Euromonitor International, there were 105 million middle-class consumers in China in 2016.

Top 20 major cities ranked by lowest income inequality

Top 20 cities with the lowest income inequality in 2016: Mumbia, Karachi, Bratislava, Wuhan, Almaty, Berlin, Birmingham, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Beijing, Tianjin, Leeds, Kiev, Prague, Taipei, Casablanca, Warsaw, Riga, Tbilisi, Barcelona

Source: Euromonitor International

Note: definition of major city. Generally, major cities represent the most important cities within Euromonitor International’s 83 core countries which are either capitals or cities with substantial economic influence. Such cities were chosen based on their population size, GDP, location, and economic growth rates.