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Map of the Day: The Uneven Spread of Urban Poverty

Last week I posted a map of the "poverty belt" based on the new results from the U.S. Census. That same special briefing report [PDF] also included this map of poverty in the District of Columbia. 

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.

Richard Florida is Co-Founder and Editor at Large at The Atlantic Cities. He's also a Senior Editor at The Atlantic, Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management, and Global Research Professor at New York University. He is a frequent speaker to communities, business and professional organizations, and founder of the Creative Class Group, whose current client list can be found here. All posts »

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