The average income of D.C.'s top 5 percent of earners is the highest of the nation's 50 largest cities, a milestone that further highlights a stark and growing disparity between the city's upper and lower class.


The income gap between the District's top and bottom 20 percent of households is the third-largest in the nation, according to a report by the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute.

The top 20 percent of D.C. homes earn about 29 times more than its poorest, a $250,142 divide that falls behind only Atlanta and Boston.

Household earnings
D.C.'s top 5 percent: $473,343 a year
National average: $291,817
D.C.'s top 20 percent: $259,204
National: $164,970
D.C.'s bottom 20 percent: $9,062
National: $9,464
Source: D.C Fiscal Policy Institute

The middle class isn't doing so bad either, according to the report, which used data from the 2010 American Community Survey. D.C.'s middle-income group also falls in the top five cities.

"The gap is driven by a couple of things," said Joe Weedon, director of Defeat Poverty DC. "One, we have one of the most educated work forces in the nation. We also have one of the least-educated work forces in the nation. So we have a huge education gap."

D.C.'s top moneymakers edge out both San Francisco and New York City's highest earners with an average income of $473,343 a year. They earn more than 50 times more than the city's poorest 20 percent.

"We're seeing a city with two economies," said the report's author, Caitlin Biegler, who's a graduate student in public policy at George Washington University. "We're seeing these high income people doing really well and these low-income residents are being left behind."

Many end up turning to government services, putting pressure on the city to increase taxes, Weedon said. They're also not able to spend as much in the community, creating a cyclical effect, he said.

"[D.C. has] a huge issue with affordable housing and transportation and those issues tend to get the priority," he said. "And we often lose sight of those people who are working but struggling."