Wealthier Whites Prefer the City

In a trend that bodes well for the future of America’s core urban jurisdictions, the white people living in central cities are wealthier on average than their suburban counterparts — and the city/suburb wealth gap is actually widening. That’s the conclusion of University of Virginia scholars William H. Lucy and David L. Phillips in their latest research, “Whites Lead Cities’ Income Revival 2000 to 2005.”

The situation is different for African-Americans who, as they increasingly enter the middle class, are moving into the suburbs, and for Hispanics, who are swelling the ranks of the poor through massive immigration.

Write the authors: “This finding reverses the standard belief that most middle and upper-income whites had left cities before 2000 and that white middle and upper income newcomers usually choose suburbs over cities, leaving mainly low and moderate income whites in cities.” The finding also confirms the oft-state contention of fellow Bacon’s Rebellion columnist Ed Risse that Americans with greater financial resources, who enjoy wider latitude in the places they can afford to live, have demonstrated through their decisions in the marketplace that they prefer more compact human settlement patterns.

A driving force in rising city incomes in recent years, say Lucy and Phillips, is the surge in condominium construction. “We believe the condominium construction has contributed to relative income increases in cities, especially for young professionals and middle-aged and elderly empty nesters.”

Note: The authors are tracking per capita income, not household income. Because central cities contain disproportionate numbers of single people, average household incomes may be lower even if per capita incomes are higher.

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6 responses to “Wealthier Whites Prefer the City”

  1. Ray Hyde Avatar

    How many wealthy people do you know who are living in a condominium?

    To be sure there are high dollar luxury units, but these are usually used by the wealthy as their in-town pad. Their main home will be out in Horse country somewhere.

    Condos are still considered to be a)starter homes, b) inferior investments compared to those with actual land attached, and c) a vehicle for speculators.

  2. E M Risse Avatar


    Thank you for posting this update on Bill and Dave’s work. I have been too busy to keep track of their recent efforts.

    Their work is among the most important underway since they use small cell analysis and carefully defined terms that does not reflect the bias of municipal borders and popular misconceptions. Unfortunately they bury their work by using some Core Confusing Words.

    I have on my list of things to do a review of their most recent book. I have not gotten to that task, in part because I refuse to write down the title that APA editors apparently convinced them to use.

    In draft form the book was known as “Metromorphosis” and there are references to it in past columns that can be searched at db4.dev.baconsrebellion.com.

    One can look the book up under the authors names at Amazon or at your local Borders.

    The unfortunate title has kept people from reading the book and thus obsured the very important information it contains. APA does not even list the book in its fliers sent to prospective planning book buyers.

    Unless one reads their work with care, their findings are a playground for those who would like to profit from Business As Usual.


  3. Anonymous Avatar

    Just a couple of comments –

    1. This study does not look at household income, it looks at per capita income. People buy houses based on household income, not individual income.

    However, the household income numbers do not result in the desired outcome.

    2. This study does not use a consistent base for the areas being compared – the metro areas change during the study period.

    I’d question whether the same results would come from comparing the SAME areas.

    The appearance, to me, is that the numbers were gamed to get the desired result. I had much the same opinion of the study that purported to show that it was riskier to live in the city than the country – which, if I remember correctly, only included murders in risk of injury, and included injuries to non-commuters (folks driving from FL to NYC) in the statistics.

    Remember that expression? There are lies, damn lies, and statistics.

  4. E M Risse Avatar

    Anon 10:47 provides a great example of attempts by those who do not like an outcome to discredit a study without understanding what they are attacking.

    The SMAs did change in size but the small area analysis is not impacted.

    Anon also mis-remembers the fact of “Death at the Hands of a Stranger.”

    If there is a problem with Bill and Davids work it is that the data is gathered and aggregated by illrational geographic entities. They cannot control that and do their best to overcome the problems as a careful reading will show.

    Anon 10:47 demonstrates why Anon comments are not worth the bytes they use up.


  5. Anonymous Avatar

    EMR, that is not argument, that is personal attack.

    I don’t “not like” the outcome – I don’t like what appears to be shoddy logic in attempts to influence public policy.

    The areas studied did change. That instrinsically means that the analysis is impacted. The study is NOT comparing uniform areas. I am familiar with statistics and study design. Don’t insult my intelligence.

    I also do not “mis remember the fact of Death at the Hand of A Stranger” – if I misremember facts, WHAT facts exactly do I misremember? You don’t point out a single one.

    Anonymous comments that are intellectually honest and include facts and not jargon are useful. Signed comments that are simply personal attacks and ignore the points raised, IMHO, do not contribute to an intellectually honest discussion of these issues.

    Your main problem appears to be that I’m questioning study designs. The designs appear, on their face, to be set up to reach pre-determined conclusions. If that is not correct, WHY is it not correct? Argue my ideas, don’t attack me personally.

  6. E M Risse Avatar

    As a rule we do not respond to Anon comments or questions. The original post of Anon 10:47 / 11:10 was so bad that I broke my own rule.

    Several have emailed me requesting that I respond to the above lest his / her last statement be viewed as having validity. Since I broke my own rule once I will do it again.

    Please note: We did address the substance of the original comment: Read the Lucy / Philip’s work with care.

    No one of sound mind could read their work and make the comments that were submitted. Had Anon 10:47, 11:10 used his name, I would have been less direct but the bottom line is the only way one could make those statements is if they were looking for a way to discredit the authors without bothering to reading the material.

    If someone has a ligitimate question Bill and Dave have always been more than happy to talk thourgh any question and if something needs correction or clarification they are the first to make that clear.

    If Anon 10:47 / 11:10, or anyone else, has a well founded problem after a careful reading, call the author and ask, do not post an Anon comment that attempts to smear and discredit the authors and their intent. Anon 10:47 / 11:10 obviously knows who the authors are and where he / she could reach them given he / she disliked the conclusions from some of their earlier work.

    Specifically the “areas studied” did not change because of changes in MSA boundaries.

    Bill and Dave work hard not manipulate a study design or prejudge an analysis to reach a predetermined conclusion. The most important findings in “Metromorphosis” are contrary to what Bill and others belived for years about the Core of New Urban Regions.

    Early on in the work that became “Confronting (___ a word we never use _____) Design” they showed me the results which again were surprising to them. I suggested their analysis unit was too large and demonstrated that in R=5 to R=15 Radius Band these geographical units were very large and conditions varied widely within the unit. They went back to the drawing board and figured out a way to use smaller analysis units.

    Enough on that topic.


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