Beijing, the capital of China, is the most equal city in Asia; its Gini coefficient is not only the lowest among Asian cities, but is the lowest in the world (0.22)
A new UN report launched on Thursday finds that American cities are as unequal as African and Latin American cities.
Major cities in the United States, such as Atlanta, New Orleans, Washington D.C., Miami, and New York, have the highest levels of inequality in the country, similar to those of Abidjan, Nairobi, Buenos Aires, and Santiago, said the report "State of the World's Cities 2008/9: Harmonious Cities" launched by the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-HABITAT) after analyzing urban inequalities in 28 developing countries.
At the other end of the scale, Beijing is considered to be the most equal city in the world while, on average, the most egalitarian cities in the world are located in Western Europe.
Aimed at policy makers and planners and all those concerned with the welfare of a rapidly urbanizing world, the report breaks new ground by taking the Gini coefficient, normally used to measure inequality at the national level, and using it to measure inequality at the city level.
The Gini coefficient is the most widely used measure to determine the extent to which the distribution of income or consumption among individuals or households deviates from a perfectly equal distribution. A Gini coefficient of 0 indicates perfect equality; Whereas a Gini coefficient of 1 indicates perfect inequality.
Though the cities in the United States of America have relatively lower levels of poverty than many other cities in the developed world, says the report, their levels of income inequality are quite high, and have risen above the international alert line of 0.4.
In European countries, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, and Slovenia exhibit relatively low levels of inequality (Gini coefficient below 0.25, the lowest in the world). Inequalities are also low in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxemburg, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland, where the Gini coefficients range from between 0.25 and 0.3.
The report also finds that the cities of Asia are the most equal: the urban Gini coefficient of Asian cities is 0.39, slightly below the unacceptable inequality threshold of 0.4. However, there are significant income distribution differences among cities, even within the same country, which shows that national aggregates are not necessarily reflected at the local level.
For instance, Beijing, the capital of China, is the most equal city in Asia; its Gini coefficient is not only the lowest among Asian cities, but is the lowest in the world (0.22), whereas Hong Kong, the Special Administrative Region of China, has the highest Gini coefficient among all Asian cities, and a relatively high value by international standards (0.53).
In Latin America and the Caribbean, the report finds that the Gini coefficients in urban areas and selected cities in the region are among the highest in the world. Brazilian cities have the greatest disparities in income distribution in the world.
Cities in Sub-Saharan African have the highest levels of urban poverty in the world. Although rural poverty is pervasive in the region, more than 50 percent of the urban population in the poorest countries lives below the poverty line. Urban inequalities in South Africa and Namibia are even higher than those of Latin American cities.
Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of UNHABITAT, calls in her foreword to the report for enlightened and committed political leadership combined with effective urban planning, governance and management to promote equity and sustainability in order to build harmonious cities.
The report was launched on Thursday as a curtain raiser for the Fourth Session of the World Urban Forum which will take place in Nanjing, China, on November 3-6. The theme of the forum will be Harmonious Urbanization: The Challenge of Balanced Territorial Development.
Gini coefficient: 基尼指数，又译基尼系数及坚尼系数，是20世纪初意大利经济学家基尼，根据劳伦茨曲线找出了判断分配平等程度的指标。经济学家们通常用基尼指数来表现一个国家和地区的财富分配状况。这个指数在零和一之间，数值越低，表明财富在社会成员之间的分配越均匀；反之亦然。
(英语点津 Helen 编辑)