Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Indy Income, Wealth, and Poverty - 1990 to 2012

Over the last twenty years, much of the focus of City government has been on downtown.  Of course, we also endured the Great Recession in the last ten years.  So where were we and where are we? 

To get a better feel for things, I went to the Census Bureau's Census Explorer website and found some mapping functions that make the data kind of painless.

I'll go ahead and apologize right now for the quality of the animations - its the best I can do with the programs I have.  I also included crisper single versions of each map that appears in the animations.

The maps illustrate the data from the level of census tracks.  For each map, I added a blue line that shows three sides of the downtown mile square; I-70, the split, and I-65.

So - let's start with median income.  The data are from three Census years - 1990, 2000, and 2012.

Animation of maps of Indianapolis-Marion County, Indiana, showing median household income by census track for 1990, 2000, and 2012.
 What can be seen is that median income increased between 1990 and 2000, but was served a huge setback by 2012 - pushing median income throughout most of Indy back by more than two decades.  The mile square maintained its income base just fine through this time; after the infusion of hundreds of millions of public dollars.  However, there is a lot more to Indy than downtown.

Here are the individual maps with a greater definition - click on one to maximize.

Median Household Income - 1990
Median Household Income - 2000
Median Household Income - 2012

 To get another view, I pulled the data for the percentage of households with incomes over $150,000 - the wealthy end of the income spectrum.  Below is the animation of the maps, again from 1990, 2000, and 2012.

Animation of maps of Indianapolis-Marion County, Indiana, showing the percentage of households with incomes over $150,000 by census tract for 1990, 2000, and 2012.

Looking at the trend for the wealthy, we see that the same pattern as before - things got better through the 90's, but were pretty tough through the 00's.  However, between 2000 and 2012, downtown grew in the percentage of those with incomes over $150,000, unlike the rest of Marion County.  The broader maps, showing the donut Counties, have a similar pattern to the bulk of Marion County - suggesting it is not mainly a migration out of Marion County, but rather a lowering of actual income.

Below are the three individual maps used in the animation.

Percentage of Households with income over $150,000 - 1990

Percentage of Households with income over $150,000 - 2000

Percentage of Households with income over $150,000 - 2012

The Census website mapping for the percentage of households below the poverty level only allowed for census years 2009 and 2012 - so it is a very condensed timeline. 

Animated maps of Indianapolis-Marion County, Indiana, showing the percentage of households with incomes below the poverty line by census tracts for 2009 and 2012.

Between the two maps, we can see that things got worse for a lot of folks during those 3 years.  The mile square was affected only slightly - but the ring around downtown, still inside Center Township, suffered great increases in poverty.  All of the donut Townships saw increases in poverty, as well.

Here are the two individual maps.

Percentage of Households below the poverty line - 2009

Percentage of Households below the poverty line - 2012
With this limited information we cannot draw quality conclusions.  The loss of median income could be from net migration in of the poor, a net migration out of the wealthy, a loss of wages across the board, or a shift to lower paying service jobs being offered in the 'new' downtown - or any combination of those factors.  The shift to service sector jobs would have a more structural and permanent hold on Indianapolis than the alternatives. 

Regardless of the causes, which are important to figure out, we can certainly see much more clearly that the entire City needs attention, not just the downtown area.  While the thought that you can't be the suburb of nothing has a ring of truth to it, it is equally true that a downtown requiring a substantial, ongoing infusion of cash from an ever weakening surrounding base cannot long endure either.


Anonymous said...

since income, and not property taxes, is going to drive the ability to expand city services (to anyone), I suppose it's reasonable to assume we'd like to attract higher income people into Marion County, and perhaps not so much very low income earners. Government doesn't much crate jobs, so perhaps it just sprinkles feathers around in the hope it encourages nesting here.

Had Enough Indy? said...

I don't agree with your premise.

Anonymous said...

that income & not property taxes are going to drive Marion County revenue in the future?

Had Enough Indy? said...

yes. I'm sure they'll try to increase income taxes for City-County government, but they won't roll back any property taxes. Few governmental units get income tax revenues to any great extent.

This City gets plenty of cash running through its fingers. Choosing to reward developers pick 'winning' areas for development instead of paying for basic services is a choice being made.

Anonymous said...

In my case the city will lose my income because I'm tired of the cities poor choices. The current administration only cares about itself and enriching their pal's pocketbooks.

Had Enough Indy? said...

I cannot blame you. It does get wearisome. Paying more and more for less and less pulls at me.

Anonymous said...

the idea, my poor lost Pat, is that it's better to have more people with higher incomes, and fewer people with lower incomes, because the alternative is to raise income taxes. Those were ideas expressed by Peterson, so tit's not a uniquely administration oriented idea.

Had Enough Indy? said...

Save you pity for someone who is actually lost.

Nobody gets to say who lives in our community. Sure, you can pay perfectly good money to get 'upscale' condos built. Maybe Nordstrom's will regret leaving Circle Centre Mall some day. But, twenty years of sprinkling the feathers hasn't given them enough high earners to stay put.

I say, make Indy a great place to live - not just create a downtown playground to try and attract a few wealthy folks. Spend the money on basic services that make it a family friendly, high interest place to live.

Now, don't have a stroke, but I'd also suggest we get a handle on how many of our families living below the poverty line hold down at least one full time job. Maybe we have to increase the minimum wage to a living wage. That could 'magically' change the Census map.

Trickle down/on never did work. Pulling up the average does.