Four steps city leaders can take to combat income inequality

There’s a widening income gap in many cities in the world, and this has deepened poverty even in many Western cities. Experts recommend four ways to reverse this.

women of osh
Women work in the field near the city of Osh the Kyrgyz Republic. Image: Asian Development Bank, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Income disparity is rising in cities — not just across the Global South, but also in developed OECD nations.

Lamia Kamal-Chaoui and Amy Liu write for Project Syndicate that municipalities must play a key role in tackling the economic inequality that has deepened poverty in many Western cities.

The authors recommend four steps city leaders can take. Make education more accessible through investments in vocational schools that teach trades with in-demand skills. Expand employment and entrepreneurship opportunities to all, including women, immigrants and the poor. Guarantee safe, affordable housing. And deploy essential infrastructure and services equally across cities and metro areas.

The consequences for vulnerable populations are enormous, the authors write. In London, Baltimore and elsewhere, life expectancy can vary up to two decades depending on whether someone resides in a poor or well-off neighborhood. In many cases, those communities are just miles apart.  

Liu is vice president and director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution. Kamal-Chaoui is senior advisor to OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría and coordinator of the OECD’s Inclusive Growth Initiative.

Citiscope is a nonprofit news outlet that covers innovations in cities around the world. More at

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