The Manhattan income barbell

By Felix Salmon
December 2, 2009

Did you know that there are more rich households (anything over $192,000 a year for a family of four) in Bay Ridge than there are on the East Side south of 14th Street?

I’m not surprised that the East Village and Chinatown have more extremely poor households, with household income for a family of four under $23,000 a year — it’s exactly these people that my credit union was designed to serve. But I always assumed that the East Village had more of a barbell distribution than this glorious chart shows. Play around with it: it’s addictive.

Clearly there is a barbell situation going on in Manhattan as a whole, which is split up into nine neighborhoods. In every neighborhood except the East Village and Harlem, the high-income households outnumber any other income group. Meanwhile, in the four neighborhoods constituting Harlem and the East Village, the extremely low income households are the most numerous. In not a single neighborhood is the median income group anywhere between $23,000 and $192,000 for a family of four.

The chart comes via Mike Konczal, with whom I had dinner last night. We were talking a bit about places to live in New York, and most of the conversation was about Brooklyn and Queens. Certainly if you chose a place to live just by looking at the chart, you’d probably end up in the Brooklyn Heights/Fort Greene neighborhood, which comes the closest to having an even income distribution. And indeed that’s where the plurality of my own peer group has ended up. It’s a great place to live, and not nearly as extreme as most of Manhattan.


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