Yes, Paris Is Wealthy, But Some Parts Are Much Wealthier Than Others

A series of maps reveals the subtlety of central Parisian economic geography.

Gentrification, like art or wine, is a Parisian obsession of long standing.

Ever since Baron Haussmann's grand boulevards cleared the clutter of medieval Paris to make way for bourgeois apartment blocks, Parisians have worried that the city is becoming a playground for the wealthy. And of course the rise of the global super-rich has given new credence to that fear, as Parisians blame rising housing prices on absentee owners and journalists declare the French capital, like London or Hong Kong, a "citadel of the rich."

But those blanket proclamations obscure the subtlety in Parisian economic geography. Paris is a wealthy city — its average household income is €36,085, about 60 percent higher than the French national figure of 23,433 — but some parts are much wealthier than others.

That fact is elegantly illustrated by a series of maps of the city collected under the name DataParis. Drawing on French census data and other sources, four students at HETIC, France's university for computer science, used the Paris Metro as an all-purpose mapping tool.

Mapping income by metro station, for example, reveals some sharp divides among the city's 20 arrondissements. The 7th arrondissement, the city's wealthiest, has an average household income more than three times that of the 19th, the city's poorest.

DataParis

And yet, though the distinction between eastern and western Paris is obvious — perhaps more so than the familiar center-periphery divide — it's worth noting that the average income in the eastern half of the city, though it looks poor by comparison on this map, hovers around the national average.

The political opinion map correlates perfectly with income: the west voted for the center-right incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy (blue) in last year's presidential election, the east voted for the socialist Francois Hollande (red). In central areas, like the 1st arrondissement, the vote was close, but on the edges, the candidates received overwhelming majorities. Sarkozy took 78 percent of the vote in the 16th, on the city's western edge; Hollande received 72 percent of the vote in the 20th, on the eastern border.

DataParis

Turns out the city's hottest real estate doesn't line up very well with its wealthiest areas. The 6th arrondissement, once a bohemian enclave home to Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound, is now the city's most expensive, with apartments fetching an average of $1,500 per square foot. (For comparison, Trulia reports that the average price per square foot in Manhattan is $1,338.)

DataParis

Not coincidentally, the 6th is also Paris's most popular spot for pied-a-terres: a full 18 percent of apartments are secondary residences, according to government data.

There's variance elsewhere as well. Paris has a reputation for being dense — if the global population lived at Parisian density, they could fit inside Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi — but again, despite our perception of the City of Light as homogenous rows of six-story apartment blocks, the residential density of its neighborhoods varies wildly.

DataParis

The 11th arrondissement, a chiefly residential area and the city's densest district, is three times as dense as the 7th and four times as dense as the 8th.

Finally, the students use the city's transit system to map ridership.

DataParis

The big dots are Paris's four great train stations, each funneling commuters and travelers from north, south, east and west into the Metro.

All images via DataParis, courtesy of Gilles Bertaux, Remi Fayolle, Vincent Garreau and Robin Lambert.

About the Author

  • Henry Grabar is a freelance writer and a former fellow at CityLab. He lives in New York.