Inequality and the Subway, A Love/Hate Story

Yesterday afternoon, The New Yorker posted an interactive infographic about the average income per subway stop, for every line in the city (including Brooklyn and Queens, which are, in fact, still New York City). And, in a twist of brand new information, readers realized just how vast the income gap is between not just subway lines, but the individual stops on the lines themselves.

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For example, you can see here on the L (one of the more popular subway lines among the younger crowd) that income disparity increases dramatically once you go through the tunnel into Brooklyn. The total income per stop is still generally laughably high, considering the fact that everything, including salaries, is almost always higher in NYC. But still, the slice through Manhattan on 14th street tells you pretty much what you need to know about the way things are structured here, which is part of the reason I chose the L for this example. I personally live just about halfway through the Brooklyn half of the graph, where median income is still fairly high, although almost everyone I know out here works in a low-paying service industry job, living in Brooklyn to make it work.

Quoth Gothamist,

For instance, despite severalarticlesto the contrary, it appears that even artisan-packed Williamsburg has a ways to go before it will even approach Manhattan’s level of wealth—the median income drops precipitously between 14th Street and the hipster belt, dipping to $23,865 at Montrose Avenue, and enjoying a brief resurgence before plummeting to $12,288 at Sutter Avenue—the lowest point of any stop in the system. For comparison, the median income at 14th Street is $150,110. In just 18 stops—an estimated 30 minutes—there’s an income disparity of $137,822. The line with the most sweeping range, however, is the 2, which shuttles straphangers all the way from Lower Manhattan (Chambers Street: $205,192) to the Bronx (East 180th Street: $13,750).

The most ridiculous part, too–though it’s hard to pick just one–is that this is from 2011. With the way Brooklyn has come into being the hip new place to live, especially off the L in Williamsburg and Bushwick, this data may be more invalid than it seems. For example, I really doubt that Montrose Ave is the second-lowest on the income step anymore. Rent increased in Bushwick almost 300% in the last year, which means the average income may be higher now and the next US Census will probably see a sweeping change in the makeup of residents.

None of this is shocking to me, I guess. Everyone knows that Manhattan is ridiculously expensive, and it’s really no surprise that Brooklyn and Queens are headed that way, too. It doesn’t change the fact that I love living here and that every day makes it worth it for me. But really, this isn’t about me, and it is worth studying. As always, things are changing in New York, and only time will tell if it’s for the better.