Sunday, February 1, 2009

Wealth in the United States

So how is wealth distributed spatially across the United States?

Here's a quick effort at analyzing the Forbes list of the top 400 wealth holders in the U.S. Here is a snapshot of the graphic included on the page:

It is logical enough that there is a great concentration of these wealth holders in a few important cities -- Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, San Francisco, New York, Boston. But this snapshot is of limited value in helping us get a handle on the social geography of wealth. It tracks only the very tip of the wealth iceberg.

We might take a different tack and try to use the concentration of million dollar homes across the United States as an index of the concentration of great wealth across space. Unfortunately, I can't locate a convenient data source that provides this information -- though it's probably not too difficult to find. But here's a related approach. The map provided below represents counties by their median home rental prices; this ought to be a reasonable proxy for house values. So we might reason that the highest home rental counties are also the counties with the highest income.

It would be interesting to see a series of maps on this theme along the lines of the treatment that Richard Florida offers for the spatial distribution of various salient social characteristics -- for example, his maps of the distribution of different personality types across space.

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