Cary Downtown Park

Cary Ranks First in NC for Income Equality

Cary, NC – Income inequality, the gap between what people earn, has been tied to lower life expectancy, higher rates of mental health problems and even lower happiness. In a new study, Cary has the least amount of income inequality in North Carolina for towns and cities of a certain size.

Income Equality

According to data from the American Community Survey, part of the U.S. Census Bureau, Cary ranks first among all North Carolina municipalities when it comes to income equality, that is, the smallest income gap of its residents. The data, organized by, shows Cary ranks as 39.8 on the “Gini coefficient” which calculates income inequality (for example, a city where 20 percent of the population has 80 percent of all that city’s income would rank 60).

In last year’s rankings, Cary came in at #2 with a Gini coefficient of 40.6. Raleigh ranks at #2 in the most recent study, going from 48.1 last year to 43.6 this year.

The study only looks at municipalities in North Carolina with a population of at least 60,000 and ones that reported data to the study. The most recent data ranks North Carolina at 47.6 and Wake County as 42.3.

Other Data

Some possible causes for Cary’s high ranking could be self-selection. The cost of living in Cary, particularly housing prices, could keep people of significantly lower incomes out of town so the majority of the population is roughly equivalent in earnings.

Cary’s population relative to other North Carolina metropolitan areas does not appear to be a factor on income gaps as Wilmington and Winston-Salem, among other example, rank several points lower than Cary as well.

One other significant finding in the study is the sudden increase in Jacksonville, NC’s income disparity. Formerly the #1 spot, Jacksonville’s Gini coefficient has grown from 39.7 to 43.7 – a one-year increase in income inequality of more than 10 percent.

Cary Downtown Park

Story by Michael Papich. Photos by Hal Goodtree.

9 replies
    • Michael Papich
      Michael Papich says:

      The study shows Cary has the smallest gap in income inequality of any of the municipalities looked at.

      • Mark Neill
        Mark Neill says:

        It reads like a double negative.

        No one talks about “income equality”, as in the evenness of the income scale; we talk about “income inequality”, the unevenness of it.

        The title is grammatically correct, but it’s visually hard to parse because the word forms are not what readers expect.

  1. doc thorne
    doc thorne says:

    It’s like the folks who compile these rankings never actually set foot in the towns and cities they rate.

  2. Harrison Marshall
    Harrison Marshall says:

    Of course it’s housing prices! About 20 years ago the Cary mayor was quoted in the N&O as stating there was no reason for the police, firefighters, teachers and other “workforce” people who work in Cary to also live in Cary. He further stated there were other communities nearby where they could afford to live and commute in. So if elected officials feel it’s ok to exclude town employees, they certainly aren’t supporting any affordable housing. Cary officials cry crocodile tears whenever older, affordable houses and apartments are torn down but in reality they see these losses as a development opportunity to put expensive townhomes and high end apartments in their place. The town is eager to redevelop the manufactured housing neighborhoods around Maynard and Chatham, even though they’re the largest NOAH or “Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing” area in town within walking distance of groceries, employment and transit.

    • Michael Papich
      Michael Papich says:

      The study shows Cary has the smallest gap in income inequality of any of the municipalities looked at.

  3. Jay Saint
    Jay Saint says:

    This study really doesn’t prove anything.
    Cary has a higher income population. So of course there is income equality.
    Who pays for these meaningless studies?

    • Nancy
      Nancy says:

      it’s almost like people with lower incomes can’t afford to live in Cary so only higher income people do, which makes all the incomes the same…. smh. who pays for these meaningless studies indeed.

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