Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Mapping America's Vanishing Middle-Class


Metrocosm has created an interesting 3D mapped visualization of the median household income in each census tract in 10 of America's largest cities. Each of the 10 city maps show the median household income in neighborhoods for both 1970 and 2015. The map therefore allows you to compare how household incomes have changed at census tract levels over the last 45 years.

The Income Polarization in U.S. Cities map visualizes median household income by color and height. The central argument of Metrocosm is that there is a widening gap in cities between those with the highest household incomes and those with the lowest. If this is true then the census tracts in the 3D city maps should show a more uniform height in 1970 than in 2015.


The Metrocosm map is very similar to a Wall Street Journal visualization of how the middle class in Philadelphia, Chicago and Baltimore have suffered at the expense of the super rich.

In The Carving Out of the Urban Middle Class the WSJ uses 3d choropleth maps to visualize the dominant income groups living in city neighborhoods in 1970, 1990 and 2014. By toggling through the dates on each of the city maps you can clearly see how the middle income neighborhoods ($50,001 - $70,000) have dwindled in number in each of the three cities.


According to a 2016 Pew report the number of people living in the middle income tier fell in 108 of 229 metropolitan areas between 2000 and 2014. The result is that American cities are becoming more economically divided than they have been for decades.

The Esri story map, Wealth Divides, explores the effect of this growing income divide in American cities and the effect it has on the geographical boundaries between wealthy and low-income areas. In a series of interactive maps Esri has plotted where the richest and poorest live in a number of the country's biggest cities. The maps reveal the new economic dividing lines which are emerging in the major metropolitan areas.
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