A Closer Look at Kansas City’s Income Change
by Jeff Pinkerton
We pulled together a couple of maps last week that I thought were interesting. The first map below shows the median household income by census tract, minus the metro median household income in the year 2000. For clarification, census tracts are census defined regions used to analyze data at a more detailed level. Each bubble in the map represents a census tract. The blue bubbles represent tracts that have a median household income above that of the metro as a whole, and the red bubbles represent tracts with incomes below the metro’s median. The larger the bubble, the further away they are from the metro median.
No real surprises in this map from 2000. Lower income tracts are concentrated in the urban core. Higher income tracts tend to be in the suburbs, especially in Johnson County. There is also a concentration of higher income tracts in the area around the Plaza, Brookside and Northeast Johnson County.
Fast forwarding to 2011, it is difficult to see much difference. The tracts that were blue in 2000 tend to still be blue in the 2011 map below.
Whatever change there was is difficult to see just looking at the two maps side by side. So we took the difference between the two maps to create the map below.
This map needs some clarification. The bubbles show the change in the tracts’ median household income relative the metro median. So the blue bubbles represent tracts that saw median household incomes rise relative to the metro median, and the red bubbles saw a decline. In other words, if a tract had a median household income that was $5,000 greater than the metro median in the year 2000 and $7,000 greater than the metro median in 2011, it’s bubble would be blue (and rather small since the increase was slight, only $2,000).
The interesting aspect of this map is how the relative change is more widespread throughout the region. First Suburb areas in Northern Johnson County, the Waldo area, Raytown and Independence look pretty good. Parts of the Northland also show up well, especially the area around Shoal Creek. But parts of the urban core appear to have fallen even further behind the metro median between 2000 and 2011. The larger red bubbles in southern Johnson County are likely more an artifact of a rapidly developing area that is becoming more income diverse. If these tracts were relatively sparsely populated in 2000, mostly with high-income households, and then grew by adding more modest income households, the relative median would almost have to go down for 2011, even though it is still likely to be high relative to the region as a whole.
We recognize that the story of this map could be analyzed any number of ways, but what jumps out to us is the amount of blue right in the middle of the map. This area, running from downtown south to Bannister (95th Street) and westward into Northeast Johnson County and the KU Med Center area in Wyandotte County shows encouraging change. Whether these areas have incomes greater than or less than the metro median overall, this map shows that they are seeing real income growth compared to the rest of the region. This is a positive sign as we hope to see our region begin to grow in a more balanced fashion in the future.