NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 10, 2004

With its sunny weather, beaches and culture, Miami-Dade County, Fla., attracts international businesses, rich and famous celebrities and over 10 million visitors a year. However, Miami-Dade also has a large, poor immigrant class and a shrinking middle class.

A new report from the Brookings Institution examines the challenges that contribute to the region's troubling income trends and inhibit its ability to retain and build the middle class. According to researchers:

  • Only 22 percent of the county's adult population has at least a bachelor's degree and only 16 percent of the city of Miami's adult population has at least a bachelor's.
  • Most jobs in Miami-Dade are in industry sectors, such as service and retail, paying lower wages; additionally, wages, regardless of industry sector or occupation type, are lower in Miami-Dade than elsewhere.
  • During the 1990s, almost 160,000 more people left Miami-Dade than moved in from other parts of the country, many moving to neighboring Broward County; while the group of Dade-to-Broward movers was racially diverse, they were primarily middle class.

Low-income residents face additional challenges that hinder their ability to join the middle class:

  • Miami's decentralized growth patterns isolate low-income residents from opportunity.
  • Basic necessities consume a large portion of poor residents' income.
  • Limited use of mainstream financial institutions and government support programs impedes the wealth-building capacity of low-income households.

According to researchers, the region should focus on five policy interventions that help grow the middle class: Develop an educated, skilled workforce; improve access to quality jobs; make work pay; help families build assets; and build quality neighborhoods.

Source: "Growing the Middle Class: Connecting All Miami-Dade County Residents to Economic Opportunity," Brookings Institution, June 2004.


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