New York City has experienced a stratification of wealth over the past 25 years as developers cater to high earners with their pricey apartments located in the most desirable enclaves of the city. While this in itself could be seen as problematic, the issue has worsened as the development has spread into some of the areas that are not traditionally viewed as high-earning areas, such as the neighborhoods of Long Island City, Williamsburg and Lower East Side. This has created additional shifts in the neighborhood’s population as lower-income earners are forced to seek refuge due to the rising housing costs.
While there is not a single answer in terms of where people are going after they are priced out, taking a closer look at the change of income distribution throughout the city’s five boroughs over the past 20 years does offer a bit of insight into determining which areas are still strongholds for middle-income residents.
Crunching the Numbers
To determine where middle-class residents are still residing, researchers used census block group data. They then compared the household median income of the New York City metropolitan area to the household median income of the New York City metropolitan area to determine whether that area was low-, middle- or higher-income. These numbers were then used to determine the percentage of people throughout the city who are living in those particular neighborhoods. This data clearly shows that there has been a decline in the number of middle-class neighborhoods just as there has been growth in upper-income neighborhoods.
A Change in Wealth Distribution
According to the data, Manhattan has seen a significant amount of growth in its higher-income neighborhoods between 1990 and 2015. In fact, as of 2015, nearly half of Manhattan’s residents live in upper-income neighborhoods. The data also shows that 29 percent of Manhattan residents lived in middle-income areas in 1990, but this figure dropped to just 18 percent in 2015. The number of Manhattan residents living in low-income neighborhoods also fell from 47 percent to 35 percent during that same period of time.
In Brooklyn, the data shows that 56 percent of residents live in lower-income neighborhoods compared to 11 percent living in higher-income neighborhoods. While this figure may be relatively small, it is more than double the percentage that lived in higher-income neighborhoods in 1990. Furthermore, just 33 percent of Brooklyn’s residents live in middle-income neighborhoods, which is a figure that is close to the overall percent of New Yorkers who live in middle-income neighborhoods at 35 percent.
Queens is the borough that is home to the largest percentage of middle-class neighborhoods, with 54 percent of the population falling into this category. Meanwhile, 33 percent are in low-income areas with many being on the edge middle-class status. Similarly, those who live in upper-income areas are not classified as being “super rich”.
On the low-income end of the spectrum, the Bronx has the largest percentage of those living in low-income areas at 77 percent. Only 18 percent of the borough’s residents live in low-income areas. The trend in the data seems to indicate that the number of middle-class neighborhoods in the Bronx is in danger of shrinking further.