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Mapping Inequality in Duluth

Mapping Inequality in Duluth

Hey everyone! This is a map I made in college a couple years back that shows patterns of income and racial segregation in Duluth. I have been going through all the files on my computer and figured the fine folks at PDD would appreciate this one. If you want to see more, I have started a photoblog: I will try to post something new every couple of weeks. (Spoiler: My next map is a pseudosociological breakdown of Minnesota’s core regions.)

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52 Comment(s)

  1. I’d love to know how you researched to obtain the information that led to your map. Pretty fascinating stuff.

    Claire | Oct 5, 2011 | New Comment
  2. Thanks for posting! I’d love to know your research methods as well.

    Rob | Oct 5, 2011 | New Comment
  3. I love maps and this is a very nice one. However, I’m not sure I’d label it “Income Inequality in Duluth/Superior.” I’m as socialist as anyone but … “income inequality”?

    Iron Oregon | Oct 5, 2011 | New Comment
  4. This is great. It would be interesting to see how 2008 changed this data.

    conrad | Oct 5, 2011 | New Comment
  5. This data is 12 years old? What did you do with the findings other than create the map (which is well done btw)? Can’t you just drive around town and discern the same conclusions? (These remarks were not meant to be as snarky as they appear).

    john | Oct 5, 2011 | New Comment
  6. The data you are looking for can be found at There are many different tools, views, screen, and mapping tools that be used to harvest data — hours of fun for the statistic and sociology nerd.

    As a librarian instructor I like to make it a point to compare household incomes and educations between North End, Billings Park, Hillside, Lester Park, Spirit Valley, and then Madison, Minneapolis, and Wayzata — this gives students a many different views of social classes and perceptions of poverty and wealth. Great for discussions.

    adam | Oct 5, 2011 | New Comment
  7. Yep! I got the data from the census’s own website. I made it in 2009, so I was a year shy of getting the new Census info. To answer John’s question, this map was for my Geographic Information Systems (GIS) class, so the main part of the assignment was just creating the map itself.

    Basically, I took a census shapefile that has Duluth broken down into “Census Block Groups.” Then I took the middle point of each group, and had the computer calculate the areas between each point (think of temperatures on a weather map, for example). For a detailed illustration of my work, check out this PowerPoint and click “Click here to start download from MediaFire.”

    In response to Iron Oregon’s question, can you suggest a better term to use than “income inequality”? I thought it seemed most suitable, especially considering the stark contrast between some of the neighborhoods. And all “inequality” means is not being equal. If incomes were perfectly equal, the map would just be one color.

    Codie | Oct 5, 2011 | New Comment
  8. How about “Socio-Economic Reality in Duluth”

    Claire | Oct 5, 2011 | New Comment
  9. I grew up in the middle of that dark green blotch. Booya!

    jake | Oct 5, 2011 | New Comment
  10. It seems like one flaw is that Canal Park is white, indicating people who live there make less than $20,000 per year. This must be because few people live there and that screws up the numbers. The handful of people who do live in Canal Park, in condos, make way more than $20,000. The same might also be true of the downtown business district.

    Paul Lundgren | Oct 5, 2011 | New Comment
  11. Those condos in Canal Pk and in downtown are pretty recent, though, perhaps filled by dwellers after Codie did his research? I have a friend who lives in a condo atop the Sheraton. Oh… my … god. If only.

    Claire | Oct 5, 2011 | New Comment
  12. Good point, Claire. In 2000 there was probably one guy living in Canal Park, maybe in the basement of the spring factory, who brought the whole neighborhood down.

    Paul Lundgren | Oct 5, 2011 | New Comment
  13. How about using the title you have on the map -- “Average Household Income Trends in 1999.” To say ‘inequality’ implies some ideal that everything should be equal which is unrealistic. Compared to most cities, I’d guess that Duluth has less difference between the lowest income household and the highest.

    Iron Oregon | Oct 5, 2011 | New Comment
  14. One other quibble is how does this map show “racial segregation”? Aside from those nitpicky items, I love the map and would love to see more. (the BWCAW entry map is simple yet incredibly useful!)

    Iron Oregon | Oct 5, 2011 | New Comment
  15. I’m surprised by the minority population in Hermantown. What’s the story there?

    Barrett Chase | Oct 5, 2011 | New Comment
  16. Paul, very good point! I bet the map would look different now using 2010 Census data. Still, though, it seems that the number of low-income and no-income people living downtown (in the Tri-towers, Gateway tower, and all the row housing) is still significantly higher than the number of people living in upscale condos. Also, Canal Park is in the same Census Block Group as the west half of “old” downtown, which is probably another reason why it appears to be so low.

    Iron Oregon, I definitely see your point. I just feel like saying Mapping Inequality in Duluth is much more eye catching than the generic title. Plus, it’s shorter too, so it only takes up one line.

    Barrett, I don’t know if there is a “story” behind it lol. But that chunk you’re referring to is mostly in the Duluth Heights neighborhood actually, not Hermantown. I just set the parameters to highlight any census block group that has less than 90% white people, and that is what the data showed.

    Codie | Oct 5, 2011 | New Comment
  17. Is that Hermantown minority section over the airport? (I’m bad at maps w/o street names.) I have no idea if that’s relevant or not, but…

    jessige | Oct 5, 2011 | New Comment
  18. I should probably add street labels to this map at some point. I know it can be hard to read without them, unless you’re a total nerd like me. The default GIS labels just looked so crappy that I couldn’t bear to leave them on.

    But, in response to your comment, Jessige, that area is actually mostly over the Duluth Heights neighborhood. It is a single census block group bordered by Arrowhead Rd to the North, Maple Grove Rd to the South, Swan Lake Rd to the East, and Haines Rd/Hwy 53 to the West.

    Codie | Oct 5, 2011 | New Comment
  19. The U.S. census website is particularly useless, cumbersome and non-dynamic at first glance.

    I wish that Zip Skinny would update with 2010 info.

    adam | Oct 5, 2011 | New Comment
  20. Referencing earlier remarks about Hermantown, try this and zoom in on Hermantown (data is 2010).

    Les F | Oct 5, 2011 | New Comment
  21. My first thought was that the Hermantown minority area must be because of the inmate population?

    wildreed | Oct 5, 2011 | New Comment
  22. There are apartments above the Green Mill and some others above the buildings next to the Toga. The residents of these are far from wealthy.

    dbrewing | Oct 5, 2011 | New Comment
  23. The Meirhoffs had one or two condos in the Waterfront Plaza building at least as far back as the mid 90s if not earlier.

    Shane | Oct 5, 2011 | New Comment
  24. I’d be interested to see a map indicating the dog population of various neighborhoods, then layering that on the income map. Then, if we could see a map of Surly drinkers compared to Miller Lite drinkers and layered on the income map. Inquiring minds want to know!

    Gary | Oct 5, 2011 | New Comment
  25. Thanks for sharing. Very cool look at the population of Duluth, even if it is a bit out of date. Too bad there wasn’t labels on a few main roads…would have been a lot easier to look at specific spots. But still, pretty cool.

    Tom | Oct 5, 2011 | New Comment
  26. Income inequality is a well known indicator of social health. Nothing wrong with the term.

    Lojasmo | Oct 5, 2011 | New Comment
  27. I don’t understand the big minority population in Hermantown, either. Maybe they were talking about ten individuals, rather than ten percent of the population.

    Ramos | Oct 5, 2011 | New Comment
  28. I mean Duluth Heights.

    Ramos | Oct 5, 2011 | New Comment
  29. Congdon people are LOADED!

    Chris | Oct 5, 2011 | New Comment
  30. Not to criticize a fine effort, but it leaves me wishing for finer-grained data--I’d love to see a data-driven analysis of wildgoose’s effort to define the true borders of “Cake Eater Country” from a few years back.

    The Big E | Oct 5, 2011 | New Comment
  31. The sad part of this map is that a couple each earning $35K/year falls inside the richest category.

    Barrett Chase | Oct 6, 2011 | New Comment
  32. Why is that sad?

    Ramos | Oct 6, 2011 | New Comment
  33. Because lower middle class is grouped in with the highest level of wealth. It makes it seem like a comfortable income with a decent cushion is rare in our city.

    Barrett Chase | Oct 6, 2011 | New Comment
  34. When Bill Gates walks into a bar, the average income among the patrons is in the millions of dollars, no?

    DaVe | Oct 6, 2011 | New Comment
  35. I would say a couple earning 35K a year apiece should fall into the richest category of Duluth. A comfortable income with a decent cushion is rare in our city. That’s just life. It’s only “sad” if 70K per year doesn’t meet basic needs.

    Ramos | Oct 6, 2011 | New Comment
  36. Retiring when you’re old. Paying for your own education and perhaps that of your kids. Buying a house without government assistance. Decent medical care. Providing your family a healthy diet of fresh foods as opposed to sodium and presevative-laden food from cans and boxes. Are these “basic needs?” Should hard-working people aspire to these things? Or are these just dreams available only to the richest category in that small green dot?

    Barrett Chase | Oct 6, 2011 | New Comment
  37. A big cultural cliche is that people who have served in Iraq are kind of dumb and yet world-wise, and therefore better suited for domestic service.

    I find this to be true.

    Die, if you must, suicide bombers. I hope you don’t.

    Ramos | Oct 6, 2011 | New Comment
  38. I’m not saying more people should be uber rich. I’m saying that if 70K+ is the highest category, the size of the dark green dot shows a serious lack of economic opportunity in our city.

    Barrett Chase | Oct 6, 2011 | New Comment
  39. I don’t understand your last comment Ramos.

    Barrett Chase | Oct 6, 2011 | New Comment
  40. Middle classness is a function not only of income, but of wealth, so Barrett’s points are sharp.

    I type from my two bedroom apartment with a very comfortable (for Duluth) income from the university, yet I know that I’m one medical disaster away from homelessness. I lack the wealth and my family lacks the wealth to survive that kind of financial trauma.

    David Beard | Oct 6, 2011 | New Comment
  41. Most of Duluth is one medical disaster away from homelessness.

    David Beard | Oct 6, 2011 | New Comment
  42. You, my friend, have earned a spot in my bookmarks. I’m looking forward to seeing more of your maps. Do you still make maps, and can we anticipate a 2010 version of this map?

    Mashtato | Oct 6, 2011 | New Comment
  43. David Beard is right. In 2009, 1.5 million Americans declares bankruptcy. More than 60% of those are bankrupted by medical bills. 75% of those medical bankruptcies were in families with health insurance that did not cover as much as they expected. Medical bankruptcies are unheard of in other developed democracies.

    Chris | Oct 6, 2011 | New Comment
  44. First, love maps! Great conversation starters, gets people thinking. For this map, couple of things stand out:

    Institutionalized persons are counted for racial and ethnic demographics, but are not included in the income surveys. Especially in the census blocks with prisons, that can throw things off. Should probably subtract categories not surveyed for income, so the same population is being mapped.

    Something may be borked in the original census data, a mostly uninhabited census block along Miller Creek shows more people than would seem. On this map, the diverse area shown near Hermantown is Block Group 2, Tract 3. From the 2000 tabular data, Block Group 2 is 98.7% white. Block Group 1, just to the north, would meet your 10% threshold. This Block Group includes the county jail.

    pH | Oct 6, 2011 | New Comment
  45. Yeah, that Duluth Heights/Hermantown block group is a bugger… especially sense it’s very sparsely populated, so it seems huge.

    To answer Mashtato’s question, yes I still make maps. However, I no longer have access to UMD’s GIS lab, so it will be harder for me to extract this kind of specific data. Nonetheless, I still have plenty of ideas up my sleeve.

    Codie | Oct 6, 2011 | New Comment
  46. Also, I think it’s funny how East Superior very similiar to Duluth’s Hillside.

    Codie | Oct 6, 2011 | New Comment
  47. I don’t understand my last comment either. I don’t even remember posting it. I may have been slightly intoxicated.

    Ramos | Oct 6, 2011 | New Comment
  48. Awesome maps Codie! Have you considered doing a masters and/or PhD in Cartography? There’s a great, really cutting-edge program I’m in down here in the Geography Department at UW-Madison. Funding isn’t too hard to come by here, too.

    northlandiguana | Oct 6, 2011 | New Comment
  49. With the amount of debt I’m already in, the only way I could enter a masters or PhD program right now is if I could get a free ride. I actually applied, and got accepted to 5 different Masters of Urban Regional Planning programs this past year. However, after figuring out how much my loan payments would be after all is said and done, there was no way I could put myself in that situation. But who knows? Maybe my blog will take off and someone will offer me a big-money scholarship deal, lol.

    Codie | Oct 7, 2011 | New Comment
  50. Thanks Codie, I really enjoyed your map. Your presentation however meant very little to me without some explanation. Sorry, I don’t know enough about the tools used to understand the meaning of the slides.

    Metalist | Oct 7, 2011 | New Comment
  51. I, too, would like to see an updated and perhaps more detailed version of this map. According to the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and the US Census, the poor are getting poorer--and poor people of color are getting poorer a lot faster.

    Sonya | Oct 7, 2011 | New Comment
  52. If East End Superior surprises you think of the nice neighborhood around Fairlawn.

    Mashtato | Oct 8, 2011 | New Comment

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