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Windows on Urban Poverty

Windows on Urban Poverty: Describing and Mapping Concentrated Poverty in the 2000 Census

The Windows on Urban Poverty project has two main objectives:

  1. a research paper on the changes in the concentration of poverty between 1990;
  2. an interactive web site to help interested persons learn about the concentration of poverty in their city.

* The paper has been released as a Brookings Institution Policy Brief, "Stunning Progress, Hidden Problems: the Dramatic Decline of Concentrated Poverty in the 1990s. You can obtain the report by clicking here.

* The web site allows you to create, print, and copy neighborhood level maps of any neighborhood in the United States on several demographic and economic variables. You may use the maps freely for any non-commercial purpose, but please cite the source as the Bruton Center, University of Texas at Dallas. (For commercial use, permission is required. Please contact the project director, Paul Jargowsky, by letter or email explaining the nature of the intended use.) Neighborhoods are approximated by "census tracts," which are small, relatively homogeneous areas defined by the census bureau and local public officials. On average, census tracts have about 4,000 persons. Neighborhood boundaries change over time, especially in places where there is rapid population growth. All of our maps use a constant set boundaries based on the 2000 census. For the 1970, 1980, and 1990 data interpolated to the 2000 Census Tract grid, we rely on the Neighborhood Change Database (NCDB). This product is available from GeoLytics, Inc. Unless otherwise noted, the variables below can be mapped at the neighborhood level for 1970, 1980, 1990, or 2000. Changes in the value of the variable can be mapped between any two of those years. To change the variable or year, use the drop down menus at the upper right of the map page, and then click "Change Map."

  1. Poverty. Based on the federal poverty line. For example, in 2002, the poverty level was $15,260 for a family of three and $18,400 for a family of four. Any person living in a family with income below the poverty threshold is designated as poor. The poverty rate for a neighborhood is determined by dividing the number of poor persons by the total population of the area, excluding some individuals who live in college dorms, nursing homes, and other group quarters. Shades of red indicate high- poverty neighborhoods, those with poverty rates of 40 percent or more. Dark green is neighborhoods in which fewer than 1 in 5 persons are poor. The lighter green shades indicate "borderline" neighborhoods with at least 20 percent poverty but less than 40 percent. For changes, red shades are used for increases in the poverty rate, and green shades for decreases. The exact shade is determined by the percentage point change in the poverty rate, as shown in the legend.
  2. Race/Ethnicity. You have the choice of Non-Hispanic White, Non-Hispanic Black, or Hispanic. The map shows the percent of the group out of the total population of the neighborhood (or the percentage point change in that figure for the change maps). Red shades indicate that the group is more than 50 percent of the population, or increases in that percentage in the change maps. Green shades indicate the group is less than 50 percent, or that the percentage that group is of the total population is declining.

  3. Population Density. The density is the population divided by the area. We divide all census tracts nationwide into quartiles by density for graphing purposes. The change maps show the percentage change. Note that the areas are constant over time, so the percentage change in density is identical to the percentage change in population. Two maps for the price of one!

  4. Median Year Built. This variable is based on the existing housing units at the time of 2000 census. The housing units are sorted by the year of construction. Then the median year build is determined. The maps show the decade (1950s, 1960s, etc.) of construction of the median housing unit. Neighborhoods in which the median year built is after 1990 are essentially brand new neighborhoods. More than half of the units were built between the 1990 and 2000 Censuses.

  5. Median House Value. For 2000 only, we show the median value of owner-occupied housing units. (With medians, it is hard to do the spatial interpolation to prior years.)
The best way to learn to use the web site is to experiment. If you get stuck, click on the "How to Use" button on the main page, or click here.

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