Rand Paul's claim about inequality and Democratic run cities: 'Half true'

by Vinnie Rotondaro

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Last night during the fourth Republican presidential debate, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, stated that income inequality “seems to be worst in cities run by Democrats."

PolitiFact.com looked into the claim. “There appears to be something to what Paul said,” PolitiFact reporters Lauren Carroll and Louis Jacobson wrote. 

Using a 2014 study by the Brookings Institution that ranked the top 10 and bottom 10 cities by income inequality (which was updated in 2015), they found that nine out of 10 of the study’s most unequal cities had Democratic mayors whereas five of the most equal cities have Republican mayors. 

“So on the numbers, Paul has a point,” they wrote. But, “does this factoid mean anything?”

Experts interviewed in the story raised a number of considerations, including:

"Mayors aren’t all-powerful players in the local economy."

"Inequality patterns in cities may be at least as much about population size and geographic patterns as they are about partisan leadership."

"Causation may actually run the opposite way."

"The pattern holds only if you look at cities, not metropolitan areas."

PolitiFact’s ruling:

He has a point that one credible study shows a fairly strong correlation between low inequality and a Republican mayor. But experts say it’s a stretch to draw conclusions from this. The claim inflates the actual powers of mayors to shape inequality in their cities and it ignores the role of population size and suburbanization in driving inequality. It also glosses over the fact that metropolitan areas, as opposed to cities, show no such relationship.

The claim is partially accurate but leaves out important details, so we rate it Half True.

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