Richard Florida is a co-founder and editor at large of CityLab and a senior editor at The Atlantic. He is a university professor in the University of Toronto’s School of Cities and Rotman School of Management, and a distinguished fellow at New York University’s Schack Institute of Real Estate.
Economic segregation is still a big problem in cities like Washington, D.C.
The map, which is based on data from the Census' 2006-2010 American Community Survey, shows the percentage of people in D.C. living below the poverty line by Census tract. While the concentration of poverty is familiar to those who live and work there, the map puts the matter in stark relief.
The poorest tracts – those in purple shades – are concentrated in the Southeast quadrant of the District, while the tracts with the lowest levels of poverty – those shaded in light blue – are concentrated in the city's historically privileged Northwest.
This is nothing new for urban areas. Earlier this year, U.S. News and World Report put out a list of the most "unequal" cities. D.C. doesn't make the top ten. The top spot belongs to Norwalk, Conn., where the top 5 percent earn 28 percent of the city's wealth. (Incidentally, in the country's most equal city - Ogden-Clearfield, Utah - 17 percent of the city's income goes to the richest five percent.)
Interestingly, Washington also doesn't make the list of the top ten most segregated cities, according to data from Salon. On the list are cities like Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Buffalo, among others, with Milwaukee taking top place. But the author of the piece cautions that these types of top ten lists can only go so far. As he puts it, "just because your metro area didn’t make the list doesn’t mean you aren’t segregated."
Still, the D.C. map is another reminder of how concentrated poverty can remain even in a city with one of the most highly educated populations in the country, including one that has seen one of the most significant urban revivals of the past couple of decades. I'll be looking much more closely at the issue of inequality across cities and metro areas in upcoming posts.