Visualizing Gentrification: an economic Geography perspective

In my last post, I mapped and discussed gentrification in the District of Columbia from the point of view of race and ethnicity. I showed, to quickly summarize, the prevalence of the “White alone” population group in gentrifying neighborhoods in the mid-Northwest and Capitol Hill. Of course, relying purely on racial/ethnic data is a recipe for disaster and I questioned whether or not gentrification was occurring within older racial/ethnic communities. In this post, I present and discuss this economic geography perspective of gentrification in D.C.

As always, let’s start with the data. As you probably already know, I’m utilizing freely available data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Unlike last time, however, I’m operating at a different scale and with different products. Whereas I used the two Decennial Censuses and the block group in the race/ethnicity post, I’m forced to use the 2000 Census and the 2011 American Community Survey (ACS) for this one, at the Census Tract level. Apparently, Census didn’t include income questions on the 2010 Census (I wouldn’t know since I never got a Census form) since they had been a part of the ACS since 2008 (or so). In addition, information at the block group level was supposed to be available by 2010 but I searched American FactFinder (…) and couldn’t come up with anything related to income, at the block group level, except for the 2000 Census. So I moved to the Census Tract scale, still effective for community analysis and the data was available from the 2000 Census and 2011 ACS. Sometimes folks you can only analyze what the data gives you… At any rate, I pulled average Median Income across all households in a census tract in 1999 and 2011.

The first graphic below depicts median income by census tract in the District for 2000 and 2011. The images paint a fairly rosy picture overall, between 2000 and 2011 most areas of the District experienced growth in the median income. Particularly dramatic is the far western and northern areas of Northwest and Capitol, which experienced a number of census tracts reaching over $100,000 for median income. Even census tracts in the more economically depressed areas of the southeastern quadrant (particularly across the Anacostia River) experienced income growth moving many areas from below $25,000 a year to between $25,000 and $40,000. Most interesting from the point of gentrification, however, is the mid-Northwest where some census tracts with median incomes between $25 and $40 thousand a year in 1999/2000 were in the $60 to $99 (and higher) category by 2011. Give this some thought, over a little more than ten years the median household income (that is the income earned by the “middle” household when incomes are rank-ordered) increased from say $33 thousand a year to $80 thousand a year. For a bit of description, the average median income in D.C. in 2000 was about $42,000, equivalent to the “yellow category”, with a minimum of $8,000 and a maximum of over $160,000. By 2011, the average median income increased to $66 thousand (equivalent to the “orange category”) with a minimum of $13 thousand and a maximum of over $200,000.

Median Income in D.C., 1999/2011 (via ME!)

Median Income in D.C., 1999/2011 (via ME!)

For the most part, we would expect incomes to increase over time and typically they do, unless there’s a depression or recession (which there is, of course), but there’s inflation as well. While I don’t have the skills to convert the 1999 median income to 2011 inflation-adjusted dollars (which apparently are what the ACS numbers are), I can provide the compound annual growth rate (i.e. the average growth each year from 1999 to 2011) to give an idea of how quickly each median income grew. Keep in mind, this assumes a nice even growth rate between 1999 and 2011, since we all know a recession started about 2008 that the following numbers are this high are telling.

The left-side map below depicts the data holes (the white areas in the right-hand map). They are due to two reasons. First, some census tracts didn’t report any median income (in 1999, 2011, or both). Second, I attempted to account for census tract boundary changes between 1999 and 2010. This is illustrated by the interaction between red lines (2010 Census) and dark grey lines (2000 Census). In most cases, 2000 census tracts were split into two tracts for the 2010 census (population growth being the most logical reason). In two cases, 2000 census tracts were combined in the 2010 census (either population decline or combining two lower populated tracts into one larger tract). The right hand shows the explosive growth in median income for the District’s two primary areas of gentrification, mid-Northwest and Capitol Hill. In these areas, annual growth in median income averaged over 5.0% a year between 1999 and 2011. For comparative purposes, the District wide compound annual growth rate is 3.8% (the medium red category). While most of the strongest growth is occurring in these gentrifying neighborhoods, the other story are the stagnating neighborhoods (experiencing less than 2% growth if any) in the northern areas of Northwest, Northeast, and some areas in Southeast. However, it should be noted that there are also pockets of strong median income growth in Southeast as well. In addition, I’ve also reproduced the earlier map depicting the changes in D.C.’s “White alone” community, for comparative purposes.

CAGR of Median Income, 1999/2011 (via ME!)

CAGR of Median Income, 1999/2011 (via ME!)

Concentration of D.C.'s Whites, 2000/2010 (via ME!)

Concentration of D.C.’s White Community, 2000/2010 (via ME!)

In this post, we’ve taken an economic geographic (rather than cultural geographic) view of gentrification in the District of Columbia. Previously, we saw that the Mid-Northwest and Capitol Hill neighborhoods have become more populated by census respondents claiming to be “White alone”, while the District in general lost substantial numbers of “Black alone” claimants. With the data presented in this post, we have solid anecdotal evidence that strong median income growth correlates with increasing numbers of “White alone” residents in gentrifying neighborhoods. In addition, we’ve also seen that while median incomes in the District generally increased between 1999 and 2011 the increases, unsurprisingly, were not evenly distributed geographically. While the strongest growth rates are associated with the gentrifying neighborhoods, large areas of the northern quadrants experienced more stagnated median income growth, while some areas in the Southeast quadrant experienced negative growth over the period.

I believe a worthwhile follow-up post on this will focus on assessing whether or not there is an actual statistically significant correlation between race/ethnicity growth and median income growth. Stay tuned!

1 thought on “Visualizing Gentrification: an economic Geography perspective

  1. Hello DCgrapher! I see no way to reach out to you…I am looking to contact you about potentially featuring one of your maps from this DC/Gentrification series here in my DC-based Dissertation (space/place). Please let me know how I can get a hold of you to request!

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