Windows on Urban Poverty: Describing and Mapping
Concentrated Poverty in the 2000 Census
The Windows on Urban Poverty project has two main objectives:
- a research paper on the changes in the concentration of
poverty between 1990;
- an interactive web site to help interested persons learn
about the concentration of poverty in their city.
* The paper has been released as a Brookings Institution Policy Brief,
"Stunning Progress, Hidden Problems: the Dramatic Decline of Concentrated
Poverty in the 1990s. You can obtain the report by
* The web site allows you to create, print, and copy
neighborhood level maps of any neighborhood in the United States on several
demographic and economic variables. You may use the maps freely for any
non-commercial purpose, but please cite the source as the Bruton Center,
University of Texas at Dallas. (For commercial use, permission is
required. Please contact the project director, Paul Jargowsky, by letter
email explaining the nature of the intended use.)
Neighborhoods are approximated by "census tracts," which
are small, relatively homogeneous areas defined by the census bureau and local
public officials. On average, census tracts have about 4,000 persons.
Neighborhood boundaries change over time, especially in places where there is
rapid population growth. All of our maps use a constant set
boundaries based on the 2000 census. For the 1970, 1980, and 1990 data
interpolated to the 2000 Census Tract grid, we rely on the Neighborhood Change
Database (NCDB). This product is available from
Unless otherwise noted, the variables below can be mapped at
the neighborhood level for 1970, 1980, 1990, or 2000. Changes in
the value of the variable can be mapped between any two of those years. To
change the variable or year, use the drop down menus at the upper right of the
map page, and then click "Change Map."
- Poverty. Based on
the federal poverty line. For example, in 2002, the poverty level was
$15,260 for a family of three and $18,400 for a family of four. Any
person living in a family with income below the poverty threshold is
designated as poor. The poverty rate for a neighborhood is determined by
dividing the number of poor persons by the total population of the area,
excluding some individuals who live in college dorms, nursing homes, and other
group quarters. Shades of red indicate
high-poverty neighborhoods, those with poverty rates of 40 percent or more.
Dark green is neighborhoods in which fewer than 1 in 5
persons are poor. The lighter green
shades indicate "borderline" neighborhoods with at least 20 percent poverty
but less than 40 percent. For
changes, red shades are used for increases in the poverty rate, and green
shades for decreases. The exact shade is determined by the percentage
point change in the poverty rate, as shown in the legend.
You have the choice of Non-Hispanic White, Non-Hispanic Black, or Hispanic.
The map shows the percent of the group out of the total population of the
neighborhood (or the percentage point change in that figure for the change
maps). Red shades indicate that the group is
more than 50 percent of the population, or increases in that percentage in the
change maps. Green shades indicate the
group is less than 50 percent, or that the percentage that group is of the
total population is declining.
- Population Density.
The density is the population divided by the area. We divide all census
tracts nationwide into quartiles by density for graphing purposes. The
change maps show the percentage change. Note that the areas are
constant over time, so the percentage change in density is identical to the
percentage change in population. Two maps for the price of one!
- Median Year Built.
This variable is based on the existing housing units at the time of 2000
census. The housing units are sorted by the year of construction.
Then the median year build is determined. The maps show the decade
(1950s, 1960s, etc.) of construction of the median housing unit.
Neighborhoods in which the median year built is after 1990 are essentially
brand new neighborhoods. More than half of the units were built between
the 1990 and 2000 Censuses.
- Median House Value.
For 2000 only, we show the median value of owner-occupied housing units.
(With medians, it is hard to do the spatial interpolation to prior years.)
The best way to learn to use the web site is to experiment.
If you get stuck, click on the "How to Use" button on the main page, or