Thursday, December 16, 2010

Census Numbers Tell a Tale of Two Cities

Posted By on Thu, Dec 16, 2010 at 10:39 PM

The New York Times has posted a series of interactive maps based on US Census data, and they seem to confirm the view that Bend really is two cities.

There’s always been an argument over what the real line of demarcation between East Bend and West Bend is. The Parkway? Third Street? The railroad tracks? The Deschutes River? The census people seem to have used the river as the dividing line.

On that basis, the maps (based on the Census Bureau’s latest release of its American Community Survey, not the 2010 census) show dramatic differences between East Bend and West Bend in income and education.

The median household income of the “richest” census tract on the Eastside – an area roughly bounded by Reed Market Road, Third Street and 15th Street – is only a bit more than $52,000. The census tract that comprises northwest Bend, on the other hand, has a median income of almost $75,000, and the one covering southwest Bend has a median income of over $65,000. (The estimated median household income for the whole city in 2009 was about $53,000.)

Since income tends to correlate with education, it’s not surprising that levels of educational attainment also are generally higher in West Bend.

In northwest Bend, 55% of residents have at least a bachelor’s degree and 23% have a master’s degree or higher; in southwest Bend, the numbers are 61% and 21%. In the most highly educated census tract east of the Deschutes – an area that might be described as East Central Bend, including the downtown and adjacent residential neighborhoods – only 36% have at least a bachelor’s degree and 10% have a master’s or higher.

That area, incidentally, presents an interesting exception to the more-education-equals-more-money rule: Its median household income is only about $35,000, the lowest of any census tract in the city. My hunch is that a relatively high concentration of young single people working in the service sector accounts for that.

Ethnically and racially, though, there’s almost no difference between East Bend and West Bend – both are almost as white as a fresh dump of powder on the Cascades. Even the most “diverse” census tract, in the northeast area, is 83% white.

FOOTNOTE: Bend merchant and blogger Duncan McGeary makes another interesting point: Google's map of foreclosures in Bend shows "an amazingly even distribution of red dots -- east, west, north or south. ... I'm guessing the financial stress is pretty widespread in Bend, and distributed alike between rich and poor and the middle class."

If anything, I suspect those rich folks in West Bend might be feeling more stress because they paid a lot more for their houses.

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