American median income, poverty rates, and inequality by county

Check out these maps of American inequality and income using the latest American Community Survey data.

The below five maps were created by Calvin Metcalf, Kyle Box and Laura Evans using the latest five-year American Community Survey estimates provided by the Census Bureau for last weekend’s National Day of Civic Hacking (we’re geeking out on these projects this week).

Working from Boston, the group has so far mapped nearly a dozen demographic points from the data, including a few they calculated on their own (be sure to check out the very bizarre map of America’s gender ratios by county). These five maps, however, jumped out at us for how they each illustrate deep and lingering differences between the American North and South, as seen through several different data points. Of course, the patterns aren’t perfect, and exceptions abound; major cities in the North turn out to be hotspots of inequality on par with much of the Deep South…

Median income (in annual dollars)

Population living below the poverty line (by percent)

Income inequality (as measured by the Gini coefficient, the closer to zero the better)

There do seem to be seem some regional differences. But, these three maps raise other questions:

1. This may be a good place for population weighted maps. While counties are one unit of geographic measure, they can obscure finer-grained data. For example, the map of median income shows higher incomes in urban areas but this glosses over poor urban and suburban neighborhoods. Plus, many of the counties in the South, Great Plains, and Mountain West have relatively fewer people.

2. The income map shows one story – generally higher incomes in urban areas – and the inequality, measured by the Gini coefficient, shows that these same urban areas have high levels of inequality. This may be an issue with the county measure but it also highlights that while cities are economic engines, they are also homes to pronounced inequality.

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