Historical inequality is difficult to measure, especially at the sub-country level and beyond the top income shares. This paper presents new evidence on the level of inequality in Manhattan from 1880 to 1910 using housing rents. Rental prices and characteristics, including geocodable locations, were collected from newspapers and provide extensive geographic coverage of the island, relevant for the overwhelming majority of its population where renting predominated. This provides a measure of consumption inequality at the household level which helps to develop the picture of urban inequality for this period, when income and wealth measures are scarce. For large American cities, but particularly for New York, housing made up a large share of consumption expenditure and its consumption cannot be substituted, so this is a reliable and feasible way to identify the true trends in urban inequality across space and time.
inequality housing markets measurement consumption inequality New York