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you know, that one guy

About That Subway Map

As Dr. James Correia correctly pointed out to me, the data contained in The New Yorker subway inequality map did not match the words in the description. Specifically, this line (emphasis mine):

New York City has a problem with income inequality. And it’s getting worse

The problem is that only 2011 data is shown. The New Yorker’s statement is passed along as if the reader should know this fact - the presentation is sloppy. It wasn’t my intent to post information that self-confirmed some economic worldview. Instead, I was mainly intrigued to see how much the local economy changed across various subway lines. In fact, the graphic shows that there is a link between commute time and income (income decreases as one moves away from downtown Manhattan). To that end, I agree with Dr. Correia that a more apt title would have been “Financial Melting Pot And The New York Subway.

In regard to the statement of worsening income inequality, it is true. One has to click through several levels of links to actually find supporting data (again, a sloppy presentation). The U.S. Census Bureau does track income inequality through the Gini Index. In the latest report, published in 2012, the Gini Index is described as:

Summary measure of income inequality. The Gini Index varies from 0 to 1, with a 0 indicating perfect equality, where there is a proportional distribution of income. A 1 indicates perfect inequality, where one household has all the income and all others have no income.

According to the report, there was an increase in income inequality across the entire country between 2010 and 2011. The Gini Index increased during that time for 20 states, while the remaining 30 states and Washington, D.C. showed no statistically significant change. One of the states that demonstrated a widening income gap was New York. In fact, New York is one of only five states to have a Gini Index higher than the U.S. value.

In short, the New Yorker presented a cool graphic, but in a sloppy manner. With a little more work, it could have been great. For instance, it would have been more meaningful to see how the economic disparity for each subway line changed between 2010 and 2011.

This is just something to consider when viewing the New Yorker’s inequality subway map.


© 2011-2018 Jeremy A. Gibbs