Society 04/07/2021

The richest Barcelona has five times the income of the poorest one

The City Council refines the method of calculating inequalities and places an area of Tres Torres and an area of Besòs at the extremes

3 min
Ciutat Meridiana, in Barcelona

BarcelonaThe map of inequalities in Barcelona remains stable. Or it was until 2018, which is when the latest available data are from, still without the impacts of the pandemic. But the reading of the map now offers many more nuances and precision than it had until now because the City Council has changed the information collection system and can go into more detail. Thus, it can be x-rayed, for example, that the district with the lowest household disposable income per capita, which is Ciutat Vella (14,505 euros), does not include the neighbourhood that has the lowest of all, which is Ciutat Meridiana (10,554 euros), in Nou Barris, and that the most vulnerable area of the city is not in either of these two districts, but is a census section of the district of Besòs and Maresme, in Sant Martí. Here the per capita family income is less than 8,000 euros, while in the richest area of Tres Torres, in Sarrià-Sant Gervasi, it is over 40,000.

The purchasing power of some is more than five times that of the others, and this difference, according to the report of the Municipal Data Office, would be much more noticeable without the intervention of the public sector through taxes, social benefits and contributions, which mitigates the gap. This is one of the new data provided by the report that was not available in previous estimates. In the case of the richest neighbourhood, that of Tres Torres, the primary income - income before public sector intervention - would be on average 57,105 euros per capita (more than double the city average), while the income actually received is around 18,000 euros lower (78% above the average). In the poorest neighbourhood, on the other hand, the difference between one and the other is much lower: from 10,751 euros to 10,554.

This intervention also explains that if one looks only at income per inhabitant, the poorest district in Barcelona would be Nou Barris, but when benefits are added - taking into account that it is a territory with an ageing population - and the impact of taxes, this area moves up one position in the ranking and leaves Ciutat Vella at the bottom of the table. Nou Barris is in fact the only district where the average income increases after the intervention of the public sector.

"The non-growth of inequalities is based on public benefits, and this had not happened in other periods", says Jordi Marti, Councillor for the Presidency of the City Council. He also points out that the fact of being able to study the details of the census sections has made it possible to detect areas with incomes considerably lower than those of their immediate surroundings, "small pockets with difficulties within well-located districts". An X-ray that, they point out, has to allow better targeting of public policies.

This is the case of the Planes area, in the district of Sarrià-Sant Gervasi, where there is a census section that is below many of those of Ciutat Vella and Nou Barris despite being located in the most affluent district, or the extremes that occur within Sant Martí, between the Besòs and Maresme districts (with areas where the income only represents 37% of the Barcelona average) and the Olympic Village (with peaks of 156%), while districts such as Gràcia and Eixample are more homogeneous.

The origin of income

In the city as a whole, household disposable income per capita in 2018 was 21,484 euros, 22% above the average for Catalonia and 2.7% higher than the previous year, but if inflation is taken into account, the people of Barcelona have lost 7.2% of purchasing power since 2010 - the figure for Catalonia as a whole is a fall of 6.4%

The new method of calculating income differences, which is now based on direct information on the situation of households thanks to the statistical exploitation of tax files from the Atlas de distribución de la renta de los hogares ("Atlas of household income distribution") of the National Institute of Statistics, with data such as those coming from tax returns - and no longer from the council's own calculation - also makes it possible to determine how the money reaches each household: whether it is wages, mixed income - which includes everything from self-employed income to income from rents or transfers - or social benefits.

The uniqueness of the Gòtic

In general terms, 54% of Barcelona residents' income comes from salaries, 28% from mixed income and 18% from social benefits. But the distribution is once again unequal across the territory. In the more affluent areas, such as the districts of Sarrià-Sant Gervasi and Les Corts, mixed incomes have more weight (40% and 32%, respectively) and the atypical case is that of the Gòtic, which despite having an income level below the average, stands out in this type of income, probably due to the presence of many self-employed workers. At the other extreme is Nou Barris, where there is less presence of mixed income (22%) and where social benefits have more weight (24%).