Posts Tagged ‘maps’


Yesterday, I discussed new findings concerning the fact that, while the United States is getting richer every year, American workers are not.

That same problem is showing up in American cities, which since 1970 have experienced a “hollowing-out” of the middle-class.

The graphic above shows the change in income distribution in 20 major U.S. cities between 1970 and 2015. In 1970, each of these cities exhibits a near-symmetrical, bell-shaped income distribution—a high concentration of households in the middle, with narrow tails of low and high-income households on either end. By 2015, the distributions have grown more polarized: fewer middle-income households, and more households in the low-income and/or high-income extremes.

1970 2015

Chicago is a good example of what has taken place in urban areas across the country. It boasted a thriving manufacturing sector in 1970. As illustrated in the map on the left above, incomes were lowest in the city center, growing higher radially outward toward the city’s borders. And while Chicago was largely successful in transitioning away from manufacturing to a service-based economy by 2015, that transition created a heavy concentration of wealth in the business/financial district and marked decline in most of the surrounding areas (as indicated in the map on the right).

To listen to the champions of American capitalism, cities represent the solution to growing inequality and the decline of the middle-class associated with the “old” manufacturing economy. But, as it turns out, urban centers are characterized by the same kind of grotesque inequalities and hollowing-out of the middle-class as the rest of the country.

cause-2016 2016_shot_clock

Sure, there are lots of gangs. And, it’s true, most homicides in Chicago, where a person is shot every 2 and a half minutes and murdered every 14 hours, are from gunshots.


But, in the City of Neighborhoods, not everyone is affected equally by gangs and guns. In fact, as the New York Times explains,

Whether exacerbated by gangs or guns. . .Chicago’s killings are happening on familiar turf: Its poor, extremely segregated neighborhoods on the South and West Sides.


Those segregated neighborhoods also happen to be where rates of unemployment and poverty are highest.


The more or less inevitable result of creating and perpetuating an urban economy characterized by high rates of unemployment and poverty, in which racial and ethnic minorities are forced to endure much higher rates of unemployment and poverty and are then segregated into a few neighborhoods, is the fact that “the South and West Sides are on par with the world’s most dangerous countries, like Brazil and Venezuela, and have been for many years.”

Thus far in 2016, 1530 Chicagoans have been shot, of whom 1299 have been wounded and 231 have been killed.

And, while on the surface they’ve been assaulted by gangs and guns, too many Chicagoans have actually been wounded or killed by a City of Unequally Unemployed and Impoverished Segregated Neighborhoods.

source [ht: nk]

As the authors of the report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition explain,

the number of full-time jobs that a household must work at the prevailing state minimum wage to afford the average two-bedroom FMR [Fair Market Rent] ranges from 1.3 jobs (Puerto Rico) to 4.4 jobs (Hawaii). In other words, in no state can an individual working full-time at the minimum wage afford a two-bedroom apartment for his or her family. Overall, there are very few places in the U.S. where even a one-bedroom unit at the FMR is affordable to someone working full-time at the minimum wage.



Mainstream economists treat the United States of America (like other countries) as a single entity, as if everyone were equal or had an equal stake in the outcome. They do it when they measure national wealth (via Gross Domestic Product) and wealth per capita (by dividing GDP by the population), when they measure the “gains from trade” (where all nations benefit from free trade based on relative advantages), when they discuss macroeconomic policy (as if all gain from price stability or balance of payments equilibrium), and so on.

The fact is, inequalities in the United States are so glaring right now that they’re finally being put on the map. And, when they are (as in the screen shots of the two interactive maps above [ht: mg], based on measuring median incomes by county), we have to ask the question, can we really talk in any reasonable way about the united states of America?