I spent some time this morning playing around with a nifty tool that breaks down American neighborhood incomes by census tract. It’s a great way to see how divided a city is along income lines. So is D.C. more income-segregated than other major American cities? Let’s take a look. Green = rich, red = poor, yellow/white = somewhere in the middle.
The District of Columbia:
So how does D.C. stack up? On the face of it, not so well. There’s a whole lot of green in the northwest corner of D.C.’s map and a whole lot of red in the southeast. Indeed, no city (and I’m excluding suburbs here) has its wealth as concentrated in one area as D.C. does in a section of its Northwest quadrant.
On the plus side, D.C.’s poverty isn’t as concentrated as, say, Philly’s, where there’s just a sea of red in North and West Philadelphia. D.C., by contrast, has splashes of green east of the Anacostia, and splashes or red west of the river. (Though don’t be fooled: The poorest census tract in the city may be in Foggy Bottom, but it presumably consists mostly of George Washington University students without any income of their own but plenty of cash in their parents’ bank accounts.)
One thing that’s striking about D.C.’s map is its sharp dividing line. Yes, people are richer west of Rock Creek Park than east of it, and poorer east of the Anacostia River than west of it. But neither of these barriers separates income levels as starkly as 16th Street NW. Granted, most of the area west of 16th Street is also west of Rock Creek Park. But even to the east, the pattern is noteworthy: Mount Pleasant and Adams Morgan are much wealthier than Columbia Heights, Crestwood is much wealthier than Petworth, Dupont is much wealthier than the midcity areas between 14th and 16th streets, etc.
Still, all of these figures are from a census survey conducted between 2006 and 2010. I’d bet that if we could see a map for 2013, there’d be more green bleeding over to the east of 16th Street, particularly in the Columbia Heights/U Street/Logan Circle area and around H Street NE. I suppose an update is due sometime after 2020.