This Graphic Lets You Ride The Rollercoaster Subway Of New York’s Income Inequality

Tracking the income at each subway stop paints a picture of a city of economic extremes, all connected by public transportation.

Inequality is a New York story, and not just because Occupy Wall Street began here. Manhattan is near the top of any measurement of income, while the adjoining borough of the Bronx is near the bottom. You can see this in dramatic effect by riding the train, which is exactly what the New Yorker has done in a brilliant interactive graphic.


The maps plot median income for the census tract surrounding each subway stop. As you travel on the 2 train you are effectively going on a roller coaster, as high as $205,192 at Chambers Street in the financial district, to a low of $13,750 in the Bronx. Still the ride gets more boring at each end, with income levels staying significantly flatter (and lower) deep in Brooklyn or the Bronx, in contrast with the wild variations within Manhattan.

Those variations make for plenty of inequality within Manhattan, too. The R train oscillates wildly, with sudden drops at Prince St. and Herald Square, plus a spike up to $171,000 in the ritzy theater district, before dropping on the long side in to Queens.

In fact, the greatest leap in income between two consecutive subway stations isn’t between boroughs, but is contained within Manhattan. It’s actually within the financial district, on the A /C, between Fulton St. ($62,927), just North of Zuccoti Park, to Chambers St. ($205,192), about eight blocks northwest.

If you throw out Manhattan, inequality becomes less extreme. The G train–the only subway train that doesn’t enter Manhattan–is missing the massive spikes you see on other lines. Still, at $104,432, the highest median income on the line is nothing to sneeze at (falling, unsurprisingly, at 7th Ave. in Park Slope), and there’s a clear dip as you travel from gentrification’s edge at the Clinton-Washington stop in Clinton Hill ($75,607) to Classon Ave. in Bedford-Stuyvesant ($37,370), with incomes declining until you arrive in Williamsburg, at Metropolitan Ave. ($63,339).

It’s a clever presentation, but it does only present median incomes, which, especially in New York, can mask extreme variations at an even more local level. Morningside Heights looks like another relatively low (for New York City) income neighborhood with a median income of $26,406 at 116th and Columbia University. But as the New York Times reported, the 2010 Census found the highest fifth had a median income of $207,053, while the lowest fifth had a median income of only $6,073.

In other words, to experience the entire range of income inequality in New York City, you don’t have to ride the train from the Bronx to lower Manhattan; you can just walk around a gentrifying neighborhood.

About the author

Stan Alcorn is a print, radio and video journalist, regularly reporting for WNYC and NPR. He grew up in New Mexico.