Mapping Income Inequality


A new study finds a decrease in the number of middle class neighborhoods, as people sort out into high-income or poor neighborhoods. 

From the New York Times:

 The study also found that there is more residential sorting by income, with the rich flocking together in new exurbs and gentrifying pockets where lower- and middle-income families cannot afford to live.


17 thoughts on “Mapping Income Inequality

  1. That’s because there is a decrease in the middle class.
    I still am amazed that anyone thinks it was a good idea to attack unions and any kind of organized labor.

  2. “How about not attacking unions if they don’t get stupid?”
    But that’s not what’s been happening in the last 20 years. In fact, I’d argue that the attacks have contributed to some of their more stupid behavior. When unions had more power, they saw more value in protecting the class of people who belonged to unions generally, including those who belonged to other unions (i.e. alliances between teachers and auto workers and airplane machinists). There was political value in doing so, and it generalized the benefits throughout a broader section of society.
    As the attacks grew, they shrunk their mission to protecting their own members, and, more narrowly their current members, in the short term ways people complain about.
    (LIRR is pure corruption, not just bad union decision making. I’m not sure what I think about CA prison guards. They may be consuming more CA resources, but that’s explained in part about decisions CA has made about who they’ll imprison and for how long).

  3. Also, I wonder to what extent they are mapping the breakup of old ethnic clusters and the formation of new ones. In the NYC of my youth, third-generation members of various immigrant groups tended to cluster near their churches and grocery stores, but they had a fair degree of income dispersion. Those groups have largely dispersed. (How many Germans are there in Yorkville?) First generation immigrants (of which we have many more than we did in 1970) tend to be economically as well as culturally homogenous.
    This explanation is totally hypothetical, I hasten to add. But the breakup of the old ethnic communities, and the creation of new ones, is the most noticeable change in NYC over the past 50 years, I think.

  4. There’s an awful lot of self-selection, not just on money. My county (Arlington VA) is overwhelmingly Dem, the community to our north is full of Reeps. Even if they control the redistricting, it’s hard for the Dems to gerrymander in a lot of states, because the Dems live so close together. Jews have clustered in Montgomery County MD, where the Holy Days get status in the schools.

  5. Building on what y81 says about the dissolution of the old ethnic neighborhoods, might the disappearance of middle class neighborhoods also not be an effect of desegregation?
    One of the features of the housing bubble was a ferocious bidding war to get away from the riff raff (Elizabeth Warren describes this dynamic in the Two Income Trap, but not precisely in those terms). I believe MH has mentioned this as an important feature of neighborhood formation–if you can raise the price of living in a neighborhood far enough, you won’t have to deal with the sort of people who can’t afford the entry fee. In the old ethnic or segregated neighborhoods, the population would be sorted by ethnicity or race, rather than by financial situation. Unfortunately, with practically unlimited credit, the bidding war for neighboroods became overheated and untethered from the real ability of homebuyers to pay mortgages, leading ultimately to economic meltdown. (I should add here that the housing bubble was a global phenomenon, so you can’t hang the whole thing on purely US historical phenomena, but those phenomena are certainly part of the picture.)

  6. Back when we lived in an UPPER middle class neighborhood, we found that we couldn’t afford the public school. They routinely asked us to send in checks for 60 dollars for a school field trip (times our 3 kids = not in the budget); the PTA freak ladies routinely humiliated everyone who didn’t have TWENTY FIVE DOLLARS PER CHILD to chip in for: teacher appreciation day, christmas, etc. everyone pretended it was a private school and they held events like the Silent Auction where they assumed that parents had things “lying around their house” like: an extra pair of superbowl tickets, a week at our beach house, tickets to the symphony, etc. And try sending your kid to a birthday party with a gift that cost less than ten bucks. And then there’s the expectation that you can afford math tutoring, etc. etc. etc.
    The next time we moved, we didn’t attempt to live in a neighborhood that was too rich for our blood, because quite frankly we couldn’t afford an elementary school that came to about 600 per kid per year. People are self-segregating because it’s not just the house, it’s the lifestyle. (And I suspect that a lot of the people living in our old neighborhood were living beyond their means and are probably broke now.)

  7. I glanced at the study. Fascinating. They did not use the word “busing,” which would be an appropriate matter to consider, if you’re looking at neighborhood changes over decades. I think you’d find that many of the wealthy exurbs came close to having “neighborhood schools,” i.e., your children’s neighborhood friends are likely to attend the same public school, rather than being dispersed over a large school district in a search for demographic balance.
    The wealthy may also be drawn by new construction. When all of that construction is concentrated in gated communities, that’s where they’ll end up. During the boom, it was hard for owners of older houses to compete with the builders’ offers.
    It’s a chicken-and-egg problem, though. Do the families create good schools, or do the good schools draw the families?

  8. I’ve observed that my parents’ Levittown-ish neighborhood in Long Island (short explanation: Levitt houses can be found in areas outside of/adjacent to Levittown, like Hicksville, Wantagh, and East Meadow) has become increasingly diverse over the years. In fact, the families that live in the 5 houses around my mom now are Indian, Filipino, Egyptian, Mexican, and Greek.

  9. My neighborhood is more diverse than ever if you count Asian Americans employed in medicine and science as being different from white people employed in medicine and science.

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