Atlantic Cities
Maps

Where the Renters Live Now

Alongside a wealth of new data released Tuesday from the American Community Survey, the Census Bureau unveiled a nice new mapping tool that makes it possible to visualize individual neighborhoods by everything from the age of the local population to the median income to the share of residents with a high school diploma. The most recent picture is based on new five-year ACS data from 2007-2012.

But the tool also pulls in results form the 1990 and 2000 censuses, making it possible to compare states, counties and census tracts over time across each of these categories.

We can envision a lot of uses for the new Census Explorer (pick just about any city, for example, and you can watch its population age over the last 20 years). But one less commonly mapped detail about local communities popped out: the share of residents, by census tract, who live in homes they own themselves. This data tells us essentially where homeownership rates are the highest and, conversely, where renters live.

At the broad scale, renters tend to cluster in urban areas, where the housing stock and the cost of housing is more conducive to renting. But these patterns also vary by city. The homeownership rate in St. Louis, for instance, is about 46 percent. In New York City, it's just shy of 33 percent.

Using the key at right, this is what St. Louis looks like in the most recent census snapshot, with the lightest colored census tracts having a homeownership rate below 45 percent, and the darkest having homeownership rates above 85 percent (grayish areas lack sufficient data):

These homeownership rates reflect not only where it's easiest to buy, but also where it's most acceptable not to. In contrast to St. Louis, here is a zoomed-out view of the New York metropolitan region:

Minneapolis has a homeownership rate that's even higher, at about 50 percent. But the city still stands in stark contrast to the surrounding dark-brown landscape. Homeownership rates throughout the Midwest tend to be among the highest in the country.

Detroit's homeownership rate is slightly higher than Minneapolis's, reflecting the low cost of buying in that city. The stretches of town dominated by renters are relatively fewer and smaller in size than in a city like New York:

Here is the Dallas-Fort Worth area, a checkerboard of neighborhoods with varying homeownership levels:

And, from the West Coast, the high-cost San Francisco and Oakland metro region, where homeownership rates rise the farther inland you head:

You can pull up another city, or zoom in even further to your own neighborhood, here.

Emily Badger is a former staff writer at The Atlantic Cities based in Washington, D.C. She now writes for The Washington Post. All posts »

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