Stratified race and economic relations are nothing new for Louisville, and just this week, Insider Louisville reported that civic leaders finally are getting serious about tackling the city’s historic segregation problem.
Now, IL has put together an interactive map with the most current census information to visualize what segregation looks like across Louisville Metro.
By using detailed race and income data from the U.S. Census 2013 American Community Survey and interpolating it with census tract boundaries, the resultant map offers a visualization of where Louisville’s haves and have-nots live according to ethnicity and geography. After only a brief perusal, what becomes clear is that despite some gains in desegregation over the last 20 years and an at-least-on-paper commitment to the promise of merger’s “one tide lifts all” ideal, Louisville-Jefferson County remains nearly as segregated as ever.
Clicking on a census tract will reveal up-to-date income and race information for that tract.
Let’s examine the census tract that includes Prospect — one of a handful of wealthy and predominantly white “bedroom communities” that encircle Louisville’s urban core. It reports an estimated median household income of $122,045 and is just over 90 percent white. By contrast, the city’s poorest area, according to the data, comprises the southeastern tip of the Portland neighborhood and an eastern swath of Russell. That area reports an estimated annual median income of $8,777 and no white households.
It’s a trend writ large across the city, for the most part.
Census tracts including the enclaves of Prospect, Cherokee Triangle, Hurstborne and St. Matthews command an average income of just under $89,000 per household, per year, and are nearly 100 percent white.
The predominantly black census tracts that include Russell, sections of Portland and Chickasaw report a combined average household income of $17,921, following along familiar “Ninth Street Divide” conventional wisdom: Even decades after the Civil Rights movement ended, race remains an arbiter of economic destiny in Louisville.
Such data also deflates a contingent of well-meaning but nonetheless inaccurate cheerleading when it comes to addressing the problem.
In March of this year, for example, former Greater Louisville Inc. VP of Economic Development James Reddish told the Atlantic that the organization understands the problem of race-and-class-based disparities, but added: “Prosperity in part of the county feeds into the same city-county government as where there is lack of prosperity in the other.”
The data also suggests that, if neighborhood affluence does indeed transmit via osmosis, it is occurring slowly, if at all, and already affluent counties will continue to remain relatively affluent in large part because they are buffered from the worst-suffering areas by miles.
The same Atlantic article cited a recent report by Michigan University’s Population Studies Center, which found that Louisville ranks 49th out of 108 large metropolitan areas for rates of segregation, and that desegregation increased by 10.6 percent from 1990-2010.
Although segregation in Louisville-Jefferson County remains dependent upon race and income, there exist some outliers of note.
- Berrytown, a historically African-American neighborhood near Anchorage, defies the rules thus far defined by the dataset. Even though African-Americans comprise a mere 7.6 percent of households in that neighborhood, their median income is a whopping $150,481 in median household income. That figure is well above their white counterparts in the area, who make $94,211. Additionally, Hispanics in the area also earn more than their white neighbors, at $129,531.
- Based on the map, we can see that Hispanics are not an economic power player in the city despite their rapid influx into the region, especially over the last 20 years. Indeed, that influx has concentrated predominantly in Shelbyville, according to a University of Louisville report, and their immigration to Kentucky as a whole has led to the state ranking seventh for largest increase in that population between 1990-2000. Therefore, Louisville’s Hispanic populations largely concentrate in the South End, nearest Shelybyville and Churchill Downs. Many Hispanic neighborhoods do not report income, and those Hispanic households that do report their income routinely make less than their black and white counterparts.
- Black neighborhoods are generally less homogenous than white neighborhoods, as even neighborhoods with the highest concentration of African-American residents tend to have more white residents than conversely white-dominant neighborhoods tend to have black residents.
- Income parity comes closest in those neighborhoods with near-equal amounts of white and black residents, with blacks usually eking ahead of their white peers in terms of income. For example, the census tract that includes Shively reports about 50 percent white households and 45 percent black, yet whites earn about $30,788 and blacks earn $32,688. Generally speaking, the data holds that if there are more blacks in a neighborhood, then they’re making more than their white counterparts, and vice versa, although there are exceptions to that exception: The Algonquin neighborhood, for instance, reports over 93 percent black households earning $22,023 a year, but Caucasians in the same neighborhood earn more than double that, at $58,906.
Addendum/Notes: A few areas, such as the Louisville International Airport, do not include any households and, thus, do not provide any accompanying data. One census tract, dubbed 193, did not proffer any data; however, as it represents less than 5 percent of the total data in the set, its occlusion is marginally negligible.