Tracing Income Disparities Across the U.S.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

When we trace the lines across a map of the United States, and define counties within states, cities within counties, and neighborhoods within cities, what do we find? How do we all size up?

On Tuesday, the U.S. Census Bureau released the latest data on median household income across the country, we've created an interactive map that allows you to zoom in on the income trends in your neighborhood.

As the map below shows, in just a short drive around Pennsylvania you can see vast changes in income—there’s at least a $23,000 difference from Montgomery, which has a median household income of $78,984, right over to Berks, which claims an average of $55,021.

When looking at New York City, you can see huge differences in places that are just a very short cab ride from each other—Manhattan boasts a median household income of $68,370, but trek slightly north to the Bronx and the median income drops to $34,300.

To help walk us through some of the most surprising information this Census report revealed, and to help us understand the historical significance of income mapping, is Dante Chinni, director of the American Communities Project at American University.



Dante Chinni

Produced by:

Ellen Frankman


T.J. Raphael

Comments [15]

Kari from WI

What survey does the census bureau use to get this updated data? Is it the American Community Survey? If so, why doesn't the census bureau let people know how important this data is and advertise it more? Hardly anyone I know has ever heard of this survey.

Dec. 20 2013 02:20 PM

Hi Richard Kurth from Grand Prairie, TX:

T. J. Raphael here, Digital Content Editor for The Takeaway. Sorry you were having difficulty with the map. The map will not work if you enter a zip code -- please enter your the name of your city or town along with the state. Ex: Philadelphia, PA. Hope this helps, thanks for listening!

-T. J.

Dec. 19 2013 07:07 AM

Your interactive map doesn't work with IE 11. Can't zoom in to a city.

Dec. 18 2013 08:55 PM
Bill Macfarlane from Portland, OR

Very telling map. Huge disparities in neighborhoods just a few blocks apart here in Portland, OR. This is of great interest to me, because I work with rural telecommunications companies to get rural communities the same resources that their counterparts in urban America have. 100 years ago we invested in electricity to rural areas. 60 years ago we invested in highway infrastructure. We are at a new crossroads, and unless we invest in telecommunications infrastructure, whole communities are going to be left behind. There's some very bright talent out there in rural America, but unless they have the ability to get connected to the outer world, they lose out on opportunities to innovate and drive the economy of the whole country in the right direction.

Dec. 18 2013 04:00 PM
Bill Orme from Brooklyn Heights

Amazing, sobering map, starting with home. Example: my own (and John Hockenberry's) Brooklyn waterfront census tract has an average household income TEN TIMES higher than the adjacent Brooklyn tract to the north. These extreme disparities can be found throughout the country, but nowhere more acutely than New York City. Mayor De Blasio has his work cut out for him.

Dec. 18 2013 03:28 PM
CarlS from Minneapolis, MN

Winning the lottery seems to beg the first question, 'What will be the first thing you purchase?'. How about not going on some outrageous buying spree? How common is it for lottery winners to blow everything because they don't understand that it is still a finite amount?

Isn't the idea to be happy? Why would one feel obligated or have the desire to buy 12 luxury cars, even if you did win that much? Wouldn't one be enough? It's one more than what you had before. The reason I have found is that it is not so much about owning but about buying. some people only buy things just for the thrill of buying. To all those who fit this, feel free to indulge your pleasure by buying ME a luxury car ;-)

Dec. 18 2013 02:41 PM

Elie Johnson,
What's going on in Wyoming is high levels of oil and natural gas drilling. Lots of people work there and rake in $100k over about 4 months in the summer, then go home and enjoy the rest of the year.

Dec. 18 2013 02:40 PM
Richard Kurth from Grand Prairie, TX

You site on income disparity does not work at promised on the radio. I tried using the zoom (+) and (-) keys to zoon in to DFW area. Did not work. I tried to enter my zip code and that did not work either.

Dec. 18 2013 02:32 PM
Jonathan from Charleston WV

Raised and "raising" in West Virginia, I love my home state but have seen only a declining economy in my life. There's no need to monitor in the next year where Appalachia is headed. It WILL become a "ghost region" in the years and decades ahead, without a doubt. Energy resource (the regional econ engine) changes will hasten the decline - natural gas will not sate a desire to address climate change. When Mr. Chinni wonders what "we will do" with these regions, the answer is...nothing. Its the "natural order" at work, dictating urban flight for job opportunities. And as the NY Times notes (Hurricane Sandy disparities), people - middle, lower class - in the cities are being squeezed now, too. NYC, London, etc, i.e. - its a world issue. Focus on jobs and saving the middle classes. Otherwise our cities will all become Dickensian dystopias, while the rural areas are eaten-up by the wealthy who long for "clean" environments and run their empires from safe distances.

Dec. 18 2013 02:10 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

I would like to know how many people in New York are not working and don't have to. I don't mean poor people, I mean people who come from money and see jobs as a hobby.

Dec. 18 2013 01:47 PM
Jerrold Richards from Lyle, Washington

Wow, neat! Now when it comes time to eat the rich, we'll know where to go. Thanks, The Takeaway!

Dec. 18 2013 01:27 PM
Jonpaul from Harper Woods, Michigan (borders Detroit)

I live very close to a place where the median jumps from $16,000 (part of Detroit) to $123,000 (Grosse Pointe, MI)as it crosses a road.

I was thinking about how much car insurance costs in Detroit. I would like to know if a minimum wage worker would earn enough to insure and register a car in Detroit (leaving out the cost of the car, maintenance or gasoline). I am guessing it would be pretty close. What does that say about the burdens on the poor? This is a city where they dismantled the trollies to make room for more cars. Where the bus system is considered dangerous and unreliable. This is something very relevant to the residents of Detroit and the close suburbs are affected as well.

Dec. 18 2013 01:02 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

My Partner and I are in the middle because we each have two jobs. The middle does not have the same middle class values that it used to have.
The middle is barely surviving in the Borough of Brooklyn.

Dec. 18 2013 01:00 PM
Tim Wood from Chatham, Mass.

We're right in the middle -- which is unfortunate for a family of four headed by two working professionals. If we were starting off now we could not afford a home in our town. The inability of legislators and the "1 percent" to understand the problems of the ever-shrinking middle class -- too high health care/insurance costs (despite limited reform), rising property values due to speculation, etc. -- is maddening and paints a bleak picture of the future. Worst victim: our kids.

Dec. 18 2013 12:36 PM
Elise Johnson from Seattle

I'd like to know what's going on in Wyoming.

Dec. 18 2013 12:33 PM

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