Rich block, safe block ≠ poor block, not-so-safe block

In the Jan. 2 Dead Trees edition of LEO Weekly, contributor Joshua Poe offered an incisive look at the racial and geographical dividing lines that separate west and east Louisville. As Poe noted, the segregation that still plagues the city today was deliberate and a prime example of institutional racism, the effects of which can be seen today in a myriad of ways — not the least of which is an absence of west Louisville eateries in bourgeoisie gastronomical indexes.

Despite running the risk of  filing a dispatch from the Desk of Obvious Truths, we’ve lashed together a couple of handy interactive maps that illustrate the geographic legacy of Louisville’s segregation across economic and criminal lines.

The first map, dubbed Rich Blocks, Poor Blocks, offers a Google Maps-powered view of the city under the emerald and scarlet hues of wealth and poverty, respectively. Based on data compiled by the American Community Survey from 2006 through 2010, the resultant map of the city-proper should look pretty familiar to those of you abreast of the poverty beat:

The color gradient in the bottom right corner depicts the range of median incomes for 2010, with deep red representing $19,571 or less and dark green yielding median incomes of $83,636 or more.

As you can see, the yellows and reds are distributed more so throughout west Louisville, the historically black working class Newburg area, and the growing sectors of Okolona and beyond, which have been home to clusters of the majority of the city’s immigrant populations for the better part of the last 20 years. (For formatting purposes, much of south Louisville was chopped off of this map, and can be found in its entirety here.)

Of particular interest is the area immediately east of Ninth Street, which can be thought of as the Great Barrier Reef between Louisville’s disparate hemispheres.

You might have to squint to see it, but the highlighted median household income (give or take about $1,150) in this sliver of the city is an abysmal $8,707. Compare that to the Census tract enveloping the Cherokee/Seneca Park region, whose median income of $92,128.

Now, let’s move on to Metro Government’s crime mapper:

As depicted above, the city reported 6,732 criminal acts in three months’ time, with the highest concentration of crimes occurring in and around the western portion of the Central Business District, closer to Ninth Street. The yellow dots represent higher concentrations of reported crime, and the blue dots represent smaller concentrations. Beyond that, reported crime rates were generally higher in the west and the city proper than in their eastern counterparts. It doesn’t take repeated viewings of “Les Miserables” to connect the dots here, and I won’t belabor much longer in connecting them for you.

While Mayor Fischer’s Violence Prevention Workgroup rightly identified the painfully obvious socioeconomic roots of criminal activity, it also wisely understood the solutions to the problem are more intertwined and nigh-intractable than the plot threads in any given season of “The Wire.”

But that shouldn’t prevent us from trying the (seemingly) impossible. The alternative, however far-fetched at the moment, isn’t pretty.




  1. Puhn Tang
    Posted January 16, 2013 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Ah,yes, The Desk of Obvious Truth, so often located in the Office of Political Correctness which can only be entered by those with approved credentials.

  2. karaman
    Posted January 22, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Permalink