Census data shows increase in people living in neighborhoods with concentrated poverty

New Census data shows that the population of the “poorest poor” in America has grown (about 20.5 million Americans), particularly in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty:

After declining during the 1990s economic boom, the proportion of poor people in large metropolitan areas who lived in high-poverty neighborhoods jumped from 11.2 percent in 2000 to 15.1 percent last year, according to a Brookings Institution analysis released Thursday. Such geographically concentrated poverty in the U.S. is now at the highest since 1990, following a decade of high unemployment and rising energy costs.

Extreme poverty today continues to be prevalent in the industrial Midwest, including Detroit, Grand Rapids, Mich., and Akron, Ohio, due to a renewed decline in manufacturing. But the biggest growth in high-poverty areas is occurring in newer Sun Belt metro areas such as Las Vegas, Riverside, Calif., and Cape Coral, Fla., after the plummeting housing market wiped out home values and dried up construction jobs.

As a whole, the number of poor in the suburbs who lived in high-poverty neighborhoods rose by 41 percent since 2000, more than double the growth of such city neighborhoods.

Elizabeth Kneebone, a senior research associate at Brookings, described a demographic shift in people living in high-poverty neighborhoods, which have less access to good schools, hospitals and government services. As concentrated poverty spreads to new areas, including suburbs, the residents are now more likely to be white, native-born and high school or college graduates — not the conventional image of high-school dropouts or single mothers in inner-city ghettos.

Two things to note: the percentage of people living in poverty concentrated areas is back at 1990 levels and these areas themselves have shifted to new places like the suburbs and the Sun Belt. Are we any better off in addressing this issue than we were when scholars called attention to this like William Julius Wilson in the 1980s and Paul Jargowsky in the 1990s?

It is interesting that there is very little in current political or cultural discourse about the “poorest poor” as most of the current talk centers on the middle class or perhaps the working class. Even Occupy Wall Street seems to be about the middle and working classes. Perhaps much of this group’s anger is driven by the middle-class who now feels the pinch of the economic crisis but the “poorest poor” have been dealing with similar and/or worse concerns for decades.

Comparing where Occupy Wall Streets protests are versus where the super wealthy live

In looking at which metropolitan areas have bigger shares of the top 1% of income earners in the United States, Howard Wial hints at an interesting relationship: are the Occupy Wall Street protests taking place in the same places as where the wealthiest live?

These very high-income households are disproportionately metropolitan. While about 85 percent of all income tax filers have metropolitan addresses, about 93 percent of the very rich live in metropolitan areas. The top 3 percent are highly concentrated in a relatively small number of large metropolitan areas.

Only twenty metropolitan areas — New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, San Francisco, Boston, Houston, Philadelphia, Dallas, Miami, Atlanta, San Jose, Seattle, Minneapolis, San Diego, Detroit, Phoenix, Baltimore, Bridgeport (Fairfield County, Connecticut, is the center of the hedge fund industry and home to many corporate headquarters), and Denver — have at least 1 percent of all the nation’s very high-income households. Collectively those areas account for 56 percent of the highest-income households but for only 37 percent of all households…

There are Occupy movements in nearly all the metropolitan areas where the top 3 percent are concentrated. All of the 20 metropolitan areas with the most top-income households have groups listed in the directory on the Occupy Together Web site. So do all but six of the 54 metropolitan areas where the very rich are disproportionately located.  (The missing six are Bridgeport, Connecticut; Naples, Florida; Sebastian, Florida; Lafayette, Louisiana; Midland, Texas; and Tyler, Texas.)

Yet movements in support of Occupy Wall Street also exist in many places other than those where the very rich are concentrated, including such seemingly unlikely locales as Anderson, Indiana, and Texarkana, Texas.  Geographically, their reach is greater than that of the very rich.

This would be interesting to follow up on: how much of the protest activity is being driven by places where the richest and everyone else live relatively near each other? And for those protesting outside of these wealthier areas, is the process of setting up a protest much different in order to face a more anonymous opponent?

David Brooks: blue inequality versus red inequality (exemplified by places like Naperville)

David Brooks approaches inequality in America a little differently than the 1% vs. 99% of Occupy Wall Street. He suggests that there are two big kinds of inequality and the suburban/smaller city kind is more important:

In the first place, there is what you might call Blue Inequality. This is the kind experienced in New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, Dallas, Houston and the District of Columbia. In these places, you see the top 1 percent of earners zooming upward, amassing more income and wealth…

Then there is what you might call Red Inequality. This is the kind experienced in Scranton, Des Moines, Naperville, Macon, Fresno, and almost everywhere else. In these places, the crucial inequality is not between the top 1 percent and the bottom 99 percent. It’s between those with a college degree and those without. Over the past several decades, the economic benefits of education have steadily risen. In 1979, the average college graduate made 38 percent more than the average high school graduate, according to the Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke. Now the average college graduate makes more than 75 percent more.

Moreover, college graduates have become good at passing down advantages to their children. If you are born with parents who are college graduates, your odds of getting through college are excellent. If you are born to high school grads, your odds are terrible…

[Compared to the attention paid to the wealthiest 1%], the fact is that Red Inequality is much more important. The zooming wealth of the top 1 percent is a problem, but it’s not nearly as big a problem as the tens of millions of Americans who have dropped out of high school or college. It’s not nearly as big a problem as the 40 percent of children who are born out of wedlock. It’s not nearly as big a problem as the nation’s stagnant human capital, its stagnant social mobility and the disorganized social fabric for the bottom 50 percent.

Interesting analysis. Some quick thoughts:

1. Though I didn’t quote it above, Brooks argues further that getting mad at the 1% is easier than dealing with issues like family and education that affect so many people. Brooks is probably right here. This doesn’t necessarily mean that people shouldn’t be upset about the top 1%  but Brooks is suggesting they could do much more good focusing on the bigger, yet more difficult to deal with, issues.

2. Is Brooks dealing with the same kind of concerns expressed in the Moynihan Report that was vilified for years?

3. If Brooks thinks that college is the answer, I’d be interested to see his plan of action in order to pay for all of this and provide the educations necessary to getting to a college experience. Brooks is not alone in suggesting college is the answer but this is not an easy plan to accomplish either.

4. It is interesting that Naperville is mentioned among other Red State cities. Naperville is located in a clearly Republican county (though the Republican lead isn’t what it used to be) but is also in a state that consistently has gone Democratic in recent years. Additionally, Naperville is wealthier than the other cities Brooks lumps it in with: the median household income is just over $100,00o in a city of over 140,000 people . Within these red states, Naperville would be a good example of a place that has thrived with college educated residents with many of them working in professional or high-tech positions either in Naperville or nearby suburbs.

New Census data on income inequality by state, metro areas

Based on American Community Survey data from 2005 and 2009 and working on the assumption that “Spatial income inequality is neither intrinsically bad nor good,” the Census has a new report on income inequality. Here are some of the findings:

The report, by Daniel H. Weinberg, analyzed income data at various geographical levels and found that the region encompassing New York, northern New Jersey, Long Island and parts of Pennsylvania had the highest income inequality of any large metro area.

New York State also has the highest income inequality of all 50 states (although Washington, D.C., was worse).

Below is a map showing three measures of income inequality for each state: the Gini index (which ranges from 0.0, when all households have equal shares of income, to 1.0, when one household has all the income and the rest has none); a ratio of household income at the 90th percentile to that at the 10th percentile; and a ratio of household income at the 95th percentile to that at the 20th…

After New York, Connecticut, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas have among the most unequal income distributions. At the low end are New Hampshire, Alaska and Utah, which is the most economically homogenous state in the nation.

The states that are above the US averages are an interesting group: Texas, New York, and California (tied to larger populations?) but also Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Washington D.C. Table 8 and 9 of the report have correlations and regression coefficients to look at the relationship of inequality measures to demographic characteristics. (Intriguingly, the regression is a stepwise regression analysis.)

Of more local interest: Illinois is lower than the US averages on two of the three measures and Chicago has a very similar Gini Index to the US average. And of places with more than 100,000 people, Elgin, Illinois has the lowest Gini Index value.

Here is part of the conclusion of the report:

This paper has shown that low income inequality at the neighborhood level is most likely a result of income sorting. In other words, it may be that higher-income households, when they can, choose to live away from lower-income ones, sometimes forming “enclaves” with little income variation. Alternatively, it may be that developers concentrate higher-end houses in certain tracts and those can be afforded only by households of higher incomes.

This uses more neutral language of sorting but we could probably tie this to larger processes of residential segregation: those with money (with wealth related to race) have the opportunity to live in their own communities and leave everyone else behind.

It will be interesting to see how this report gets spun by Occupy Wall Street supporters and those opposed and in the ongoing presidential race.

“Occupying Naperville 24/7 on Facebook” and “Saturday[s] at 10 AM”

The Chicago Sun-Times has another report on the Occupy Naperville efforts of this past Saturday. While there are more quotes from the participants than the Chicago Tribune report, the last quote in particular intrigues me:

“We’re going to be occupying Naperville 24/7 on Facebook,” Alesch said. “And we’ll be here Saturday at 10 a.m.”

Several thoughts:

1. Is Occupy Naperville on Facebook really the same kind of protest? See the Facebook page here. Apparently, no one is protesting around-the-clock but there is a sign-making operation in conservative downtown Wheaton.

2. Is the reason this group is only gathering on Saturdays at 10 AM versus an around the clock protest like in New York City because: (1) there are not enough protestors to go around-the-clock (2) they are suburbanites who can’t be there all the time (3) Naperville wouldn’t allow this or there isn’t space for it (imagine if the Riverwalk became the site – what might the city do?)?

Occupy Wall Street in Naperville

National coverage of the Occupy Wall Street groups has emphasized the city gatherings. But Occupy Wall Street has even made it to conservative Naperville:

About 50 people joined the event, forming a group just slightly larger than the one gathered outside a nearby Apple Store, for demonstrations modeled after the Occupy Wall Street encampment that began last month in lower Manhattan.

Organizers said they will return each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon until their demands are met. It’s a list that includes increased regulation of banks, rollbacks on the rights of corporations and forgiveness for student loans…

“Well, there’s at least a couple dozen people over there, and there’s what? Maybe (140,000) people here in town? I’d say that’s probably an accurate representation” of support for the demonstrators’ agenda, said Eloe, grinning.

Alesch began planning the event last week with a few friends at a Wheaton coffee shop after hearing about an Occupy Aurora demonstration.

This reminds me of research I’ve seen regarding the diffusion of riots in the 1960s. How widespread are the Occupy Wall Street protests? Is it unusual to find one in a suburb like Naperville that has over 140,000 residents? Are suburbanites more or less likely to support the movement?

If this group continues to protest in Naperville, it will be interesting to see how onlookers and the community responds. An Occupy Aurora protest might make more sense since Aurora is more diverse and less wealthy. But would a continuing protest in Naperville draw more attention?