New Mapping Tool Helps Illustrate Just How Segregated Houston's Income Remains
Houston's supposed to be one of the most haphazard, heterogeneous cities in America. That dearth of zoning tosses neighborhoods, incomes and races into a wonderful stew of strangeness and desegregation. The lack of framework -- the lack of regulations, the lack of ordinance -- has painted Houston as one of the most unique urban areas in the West, at turns aimless and beautiful and diverse.
A convenient arrow, pointing directly to Houston's lower-income tracts.
And so it sells itself. But a new spate of data visualization -- a new map, courtesy of a 23-year-old man named Christopher Persaud -- challenges a few of these basic assumptions. While you can still drive within the Loop and find any kind of cuisine and costume you'd so desire, Houston may not yet be quite the pot its reputation carries.
In creating his newest map, found at RichBlocksPoorBlocks.com, Persaud didn't mean to burst any reputations or challenge any wisdom, conventional or otherwise. He simply wanted to take the fiscal data already available and turn it to something a wider audience could digest.
The New York Times had tried something similar a few months back, publishing their Mapping America project to measure the nation's breadth of financial, racial and educational diversity. However, while the NYT's project received much worthwhile acclaim, there was one drawback to such a product.
"[The NYT] used the 2005-09 American Community Survey data to map median household income, but in their version it's one scale for whole nation," Persaud, a recent graduate from Florida Atlantic University, said. "And this was nice, but what if I wanted a scale for each state?"
One week after the idea first cropped into his head, he was done.
"I wanted to see more detail in the division of income in each state and city," Persaud, who lives in West Palm Beach, Florida, said. "There have been similar things done, but not in the way I've been doing it, so I thought it could be unique in that way."
And, indeed, it is different, and far more illustrative of urban geography in America. After all, $40,000 can go much further in Houston than, say, the Upper West Side. Where the NYT's project allowed folks in Seattle and Santa Fe and San Antonio to compare their livelihoods to the national average, Persaud's Rich Blocks, Poor Blocks allows them to see their lives relative to those of their direct neighbors.
The feedback has been, naturally, positive.