From one metropolitan area to the next.

Last week, the Census Bureau released updated statistics through 2012 showing that poverty and income rates in the United States have finally plateaued, a mixed assessment that means two things: Nationwide, poverty is no longer going up (and household income is no longer creeping down) as had been the case since the start of the recession. But both numbers remain as bad as they've been since the economy first began to tank, suggesting a particularly stingy recovery.

The national poverty rate is still sitting around 15 percent, representing some 48.8 million people (that's up from 33.3 million people back in 2000). And the median household income has bottomed out around $51,371, about 8 percent below what it was on the eve of the recession.

These national trends obscure the fact that this picture looks very different on the ground depending on where you live. The poverty rate in the Washington, D.C., metro area, for example, was just above 8 percent in 2012. In Riverside, California, it was 19 percent.

Below, we've plotted data recently released by the Census covering poverty rates in the 25 largest metropolitan areas (scroll over the chart for the full data):

Many of the metros with the highest poverty rates are Sun Belt cities where the housing boom was also once in full swing (with the exception of Detroit). This second chart shows related data from 2012 on median household income in those same 25 metros:

Unsurprisingly, many metros with high incomes have low poverty (Washington, D.C., Boston, Minneapolis), while the reverse is also true (Miami, Riverside, Orlando).

This data reinforces that the recovery has been (and will remain) uneven across the country. But it also underscores that the recession landed with dramatically different punch in the first place depending on the city. The below two charts from the Census Bureau show Riverside at left and Washington at right, with median income (top) and poverty rates (bottom) spanning the years from 2007-2012.

Census Bureau using data from the 2007-2012 American Community Survey

Riverside once had below-average poverty and above-average income. Now those numbers have reversed. Washington, on the other hand, doesn't look all that changed by the events of the last five years.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. The facade of a casino in Atlantic City.
    Photos

    Photographing the Trumpian Urbanism of Atlantic City

    Brian Rose’s new book uses the deeply troubled New Jersey city as a window into how a developer-turned-president operates.

  2. a photo of a Metro PCS store in Washington, D.C.
    Equity

    What D.C.’s Go-Go Showdown Reveals About Gentrification

    A neighborhood debate over music swiftly became something bigger, and louder: a cry for self-determination from a community that is struggling to be heard.

  3. Equity

    The Hidden Horror of Hudson Yards Is How It Was Financed

    Manhattan’s new luxury mega-project was partially bankrolled by an investor visa program called EB-5, which was meant to help poverty-stricken areas.

  4. Tech workers sit around a table on their laptops in San Francisco, California
    Life

    America’s Tech Hubs Still Dominate, But Some Smaller Cities Are Rising

    Despite established urban tech hubs, some smaller cities are attracting high-tech jobs with lower living costs, unique talent pools, and geographic diversity.

  5. a photo of San Francisco tourists posing before the city's iconic skyline.
    Life

    Cities Don’t Have Souls. Why Do We Battle For Them?

    What do we mean when we say that the “soul of the city” is under threat? Often, it’s really about politics, nostalgia, and the fear of community change.