Several days ago I posted this brief piece looking at income in Seattle and Washington State, qualifying some of its statistical misportrayals and pointing to a few of the general patterns we’ve seen in the rest of our series mapping race, class and gentrification in the greater Seattle area.
I’ve dug through my hard drive and found some other recent maps (this time from the King County GIS center) which go into much greater detail on all these issues—all are also drawn from the same American Community Survey and Census datasets used in the previous series. Instead of embedding the hefty original .pdfs, I’ve converted each map into a simple image file, which will be expanded if you right-click it and select “view image.”
For whatever reason, I cannot find the original website these were on (possibly because this specific project has recently lost funding), but for a list of the county GIS center’s maps, you can go here. And for those familiar with GIS mapping programs, you can view their data portal here (which has much, much more data than that already mapped on their website).
I’ll start with another income map:
This is effectively the same as the map in the last article, showing what appears to be a weak north-south and east-west income division, with a few distinct outliers caused by particular census distortions (such as income reporting in the core of the U District).
But the King County data gives us another metric which adds much of the detail lost when we limit ourselves to the “income” category:
Here we have the county mapped according to the federal poverty level. Some distortions remain, but others (such as the issue with wealthy waterfront households in certain neighborhoods) have disappeared since this metric depends on percentage of households, rather than giving a median value. Still, the core of the U-District is clearly not accurate, and it’s unclear whether the data includes a census of the homeless (I actually assume it does, since the entire downtown area appears much poorer than it otherwise should).
Now the north-south split is made even more apparent—both as a distinct pattern and in its severity, with much of the south-end marked by more than 30%, 40% and 50% of its population below 200% of the federal poverty level—this 200% figure is more useful because it actually better corresponds to living wages, costs of rent, transport and basic necessities, etc. If you want the figures for just those below the federal poverty level, cut the percentages in half.
These county maps also offer more detail when it comes to race—both through an actual demographic mapping of Seattle and a mapping of the different languages spoken.
I’ll post the maps of self-identifying racial category first.
Here is the county’s “Black or African American Not Hispanic or Latino” population.
We see immediately a general correlation between this map and the maps of income and poverty. But we also see the same kind of “light diversity” that marks the class composition of wealthier neighborhoods (which are no longer exclusively white—except for the bottom of Mercer Island, all of Bainbridge island, and a few scattered districts throughout the city). At the same time, that light diversity does not seem to extend into the wealthier semi-rural districts approaching the Cascades.
But this “light diversity” still does not appear to include that many black people. For contrast, here is the map of the Asian population:
Here it becomes clear that the “diversity” promoted by the higher class is strongly predisposed toward certain groups traditionally considered “non-white,” while still maintaining a clear white dominance. However, the “Asian” category is itself a somewhat sloppy demarcation, as it excludes important differences between people of different Asian ancestries. Even while someone who is Korean, Japanese or Chinese might relatively easily be able to buy into a higher class status in Seattle, the fact remains that someone of Vietnamese, Filipin@ or less privileged Chinese background would confront enormous barriers to that same class mobility. This will be seen in a little more detail with the Vietnamese language map (a few maps down).
To solidify the pattern, here is the map for the “People of Color” category:
The north-south split is unavoidable here. Seattle is a segregated city. It is split into areas of high diversity (50% or more POC) and areas of “light” diversity (less than 25% POC). That “light” diversity is still very much white dominated and still excludes phenotypically black people much more than people who are phenotypically lighter skinned.
To further emphasize the white-dominance of the region, let’s look at the final map, which shows non-hispanic/latin@ whites:
The pattern is undeniable. But it also points out that there are still many white households well within the impoverished parts of the county, composing a large portion of the Seattle region’s underclass. It’s thus important to note that, though there are far, far fewer wealthy people of color, this does not mean that there are not also many poor whites. Any revolutionary movement in the city must take the character of a multiracial alliance—even while still being oriented against white supremacy as such.
Within this poor white population, it is also important to remember that many may be fairly recent immigrants from the collapsed Soviet bloc, and that this immigrant population is also largely concentrated on the south end:
This is the first of the language maps, this one showing those who speak Russian. Note that a few of the larger districts where between 3% and 7% of the population speak Russian are also some of the largest, most impoverished parts of the county, with more than half the population sitting below 200% of the poverty line.
The second language map is of Spanish speakers:
For some reason I do not have a map of Hispanic/Latin@ population as such, but (cross-referencing this language map with other sources) it appears to be a pretty accurate general portrayal of the distribution of Hispanic/Latin@ people overall. Particularly relevant here is that Seattle contains a much stronger black/brown separation than many other cities—even though both populations largely occupy the “high diversity” half of the city, they are still separated east-west, sitting (roughly) on either side of Beacon Hill or the Duwamish as they stretch southward.
This is not necessarily true for Vietnamese, Chinese and those who speak African languages:
In each of these maps we see large language overlap. It also becomes clear that, though the general Asian population may be relatively more included in the wealthier “light” diversity areas, there is still a notable concentration on the south end of Chinese and Vietnamese speakers (I could not find a map for Tagalog). These language maps hint that there is a lot more behind that general “Asian” category that is being missed.
Here is the final language map:
This last map is a good indicator not so much of POC population, but of first-generation immigrant population. It exhibits many of the same features we’ve seen above, though there are also a few notable blips in the eastern part of the county near Bellevue/Redmond—these blips are matched on the Spanish-speaking map, hinting that they are likely settlements reserved for those employed in the service and domestic sectors of Bellevue and the wealthy suburbs.
This final map is maybe the best indicator of where some of the key faultlines (of gender, race or class) might lie within the south end itself. The particular settlement patterns of recent immigrants are important because it is in these areas that we see both scapegoating by “native” residents, particularly (but by no means exclusively) among working class whites being driven into further poverty as their unions are routed, and we generally see fights for greater inclusion (often by the children of these first-generation immigrants). The south end also, naturally, includes most of Seattle’s factories, its key transport hubs (interstate, rail, airport and seaport) and lacks the same kind of well-funded, heavily organized developer-police-politician complex that marks most of surveilled central Seattle.
In short, I think that all of this ought to greatly encourage revolutionaries in the area to pry our eyes away from Capitol Hill and the CD for a while. The pattern of urbanization in the US right now is the destruction and re-valorization of formerly poor “inner city” neighborhoods and the simultaneous destruction and de-valorization of formerly white suburbs ringing the city.
In Seattle, this means that the biggest battles will be rolling up from the south.