Kaid Benfield Archive


America’s poorest and wealthiest big cities

Kaid Benfield

Posted September 16, 2008 at 2:06PM

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Andrew Macurak has a good post on the National Housing Institute's Rooflines blog about the latest census rankings of poor and wealthy cities:

"The U.S. Census Bureau recently released Income, Earnings, and Poverty Data from the 2007 American Community Survey, and with it announced a new class of America's poorest big cities: Toledo,the Vegas Carry-Out in Toledo's East End (by: Michael Meiser, creative commons license) Memphis, Newark, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Miami, Cleveland, and Detroit.

"Compare this with its ranking of America's wealthiest locales: Plano, San Jose, Anchorage, San Francisco, San Diego, Virginia Beach, Seattle, Anaheim, Riverside, and Honolulu.

"The factors behind these rankings may seem obvious. The wealthier cities are newer and farther west; the poorer cities are older and primarily located in the Rust Belt. The disabled and those unable to afford private transportation might have difficulty navigating Anaheim or Riverside, and a plane ticket to Hawaii can be out-of-reach for even middle-class Americans."

Another way of looking at it is that, while both sets of locations have sprawl, it's worse in the wealthy ones.

Macurak points out that there is also a related but more subtle factor affecting the rankings, though, a corporate headquarters in Plano, TX (by: jamo, creative commons license)having to do with how jurisdictions draw their municipal boundaries:

"It's well-established that the poor both gravitate toward and are frequently unable to relocate from center cities due to the myriad factors that perpetuate residential segregation. It's also well-established that many wealthy folks tend to locate on the ever-expanding suburban fringe. And in Pittsburgh's case, the actual municipal boundaries of the City of Pittsburgh largely include only the center city-less than 8 percent of the surrounding urban county's land area, and somewhere around 25 percent of the county's population. Compare this to San Diego, which occupies more than half of San Diego County's land area and holds almost 39 percent of its population.

"Simply put, more residents of far-flung, affluent areas live within the actual municipal boundary of the City of San Diego than the City of Pittsburgh, because the City of San Diego has a wider, more inclusive boundary."

Macurak believes that the rankings of counties give a more accurate picture of the distribution of wealth, with the suburban counties in metro New York, DC, and San Francisco showing as the wealthiest and counties in the deep South and border areas as the poorest.

Read the entire interesting post here.