Thursday, June 22, 2006

Middle Class Declining in NYC

Here's an interesting article from the Times today, noting that New York has a smaller proportion of middle class residents than any other city in the US except Los Angeles. They define middle class as those who earn 80-120% of the area's median income. The graphs below show that there was a big shift between 1970 and 1980, where the middle class lost a big chunk to the lower class. More recent decades show a gradual trend.
One detail that surprised me was in the bars that show income type by borough-- most people would probably expect Manhattan to have the highest concentration of higher-income people, but actually Staten Island wins. I suspect this must be because Staten Island doesn't have as many public housing projects as Manhattan does. But look how tiny the middle bar is for Manhattan-- aside from housing projects and rent-controlled apartments that keep low-income people in Manhattan, high-income people have pretty much taken over. I think this is one of the interesting things about arguments as to whether or not there should be rent control-- would things even out if there was a completely free market in Manhattan and no subsidized housing? Or would it just become a 100% high-income zone? I suspect the latter.

As the article points out, things may have changed a lot since the 2000 census on which this data is based. The real estate boom in recent years may have shifted more high-income people into Brooklyn, in particular. I hope someone will try to analyze that before the next census!

7 comments:

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The Travelin' Man said...

I think I am more surprised by the seemingly upscale nature of Queens. Frankly, Queens always seemed a little like a dump to me. I guess I am thinking of the neighborhoods that surround Shea and areas like LI City.

I also agree with you. If you took the rent controls out of Manhattan, you would have no affordable housing.

Madame X said...

I was a little surprised by queens too, but I think Forest Hills and some other areas are quite nice, and again, maybe there are just fewer housing projects in Queens?
But also, the "higher" income bracket here is defined as about $50,000 and up (120% of $42,000, which was the 2000 median income)-- if you split that up more, say 120-300% of median income ($50k-126k), and then 300% and up, then you'd see more of a difference between Queens and Manhattan.

Madame X said...

I was a little surprised by queens too, but I think Forest Hills and some other areas are quite nice, and again, maybe there are just fewer housing projects in Queens?
But also, the "higher" income bracket here is defined as about $50,000 and up (120% of $42,000, which was the 2000 median income)-- if you split that up more, say 120-300% of median income ($50k-126k), and then 300% and up, then you'd see more of a difference between Queens and Manhattan.

Anonymous said...

Queens has at least 3 of the wealthiest zip codes in the City. There was an article on this a few weeks back in Crains (top 10 wealthiest zip codes in NYC) Breezy Point is one of them, Little Neck, Douglaston... Most people have no idea the amount of wealth in the outer boroughs. Even in the Bronx. Riverdale, Fieldston, City Island, Country Club... And old Brooklyn--Mill Basin, And yes, Staten Island too--Tottenville, Todt Hill. Manhattan and Brooklyn are filled with "paper wealthy" yuppies (present company excluded of ourse" who, because they pay $3500+ for their 550 sq ft cell with a view and va-k in the hamptons and eat at bobbo twice a week, that they are rolling in it. think again.

Madame X said...

I know what you mean, Anon 3:50-- those of us who are more recent arrivals to Brooklyn don't tend to think of those outer areas-- it's almost like they are suburbs rather than part of the city itself. But yes, there's plenty of money in places that aren't at the top of people's minds when they think of Brooklyn, like Sea Gate, and-- who knew?-- Gravesend, which is in today's paper because people are spending as much as $11 million on mansions-- and then tearing them down to spend millions more building bigger mansions!!!

Anonymous said...

see also brighton beach and sheepshead bay which is literally beverly hills for the russian noveau riche.