Miami’s poor live on as little as $11 a day in the shadow of dozens of gleaming new high-rises financed by Venezuelan, Argentinian and Chinese investors.
The city’s Gini coefficient, which broadly measures economic inequality, has now reached the level of Mexico City, where sprawling slums and misery surround a metropolis which propagates a false impression of widespread affluence.
Working class residents of Florida’s capital may be less accustomed to tin roof shacks and piles of garbage, but their condition relative to the upper class is more severe than even Rio de Janeiro, famous for its deprived favelas and ostentatious elite. Similarly, Miami’s booming property market is pricing out locals, driving international money into the center, and the impoverished out to the periphery.
Only Detroit, which is suffering a forced austerity program following its municipal bankruptcy, can claim lower incomes for the 20th percentile of earners. Miami’s population, however, is almost half Hispanic - most of those originating from countries where a lack of economic opportunity has traditionally pushed local talent and investors towards the industrialized West.
The present conditions in Florida may drive many Latinos back South, to countries such as Ecuador and Peru, where prospects for all the population - not just the privileged - are looking up.
The attractions in Miami look set to include the world’s largest casino down by the waterfront and thousands of new apartments and offices with waterfront views starting from $500,000 apiece.
Most of these will be snapped-up as investment vehicles, or merely secure deposits of liquid wealth, by wealthy foreigners in Asia and Europe. As in London, locals are competing with cash bidders, most of whom will never set foot in their acquired properties.
International money has purchased $10 billion dollars’ worth of South Florida property since 2008, and Miami is now among the least affordable cities for renters in the United States, with rents rising 3.8% in 2013.
The working class population is active mainly in the low-wage service industry, dependent on unpredictable waves of tourism, with extremely low upward mobility.
With attacks on the welfare system and food inflation adding to the woes of the lowest strata of Floridians, exacerbated by the state’s dysfunctional politics and uncohesive society, an exodus of Latinos may be imminent.