UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Major U.S. cities including New York, Washington, Atlanta and New Orleans have levels of economic inequality that rival cities in Africa, according to a U.N. report published on Thursday.
The most balanced city in the world is Beijing, with the most egalitarian cities on average to be found in western Europe, the report said.
"The authors (of the study) find that though the cities in the United States of America have relatively lower levels of poverty than many other cities in the developed world, their levels of income inequality are quite high," the report said.
In the United States and Canada one of the key factors in determining levels of economic inequality is race, the report said.
"The life expectancy of African Americans in the United States is about the same as that of people living in China and some states of India, despite the fact that the United States is far richer than the other two countries," it said.
The report said European countries including Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands and Slovenia were among those with the lowest levels of inequality.
While Beijing is economically the most egalitarian city in the world, China's special administrative region of Hong Kong, a former British colony, has the highest level of inequality of all cities in Asia, it said.
In Latin America, Brazilian cities "have the greatest disparities in income distribution in the world," the report said, partly because of Brazil's rising unemployment and declining wages.
The U.N. report said that cities in sub-Saharan Africa have the world's highest levels of urban poverty, with more than half of city dwellers living below the poverty line.
The report also said cities in South Africa and Namibia continue to have extremely high levels of income inequality, despite the dismantling of apartheid in the early 1990s.
Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Vicki Allen