Insight: Class and Education: New York and LA

This Insight is the second in the Martin Prosperity Institute’s continuing Geography of Class and Education Insight series, which depicts the occupational class and human capital divide within cities in the U.S. We here at the MPI are constantly analysing the relationships between geography, occupation, and education, which is furthered in this series by examining census tract results within metros as opposed to across metros. While the last Insight displayed the results for the entire U.S., this week’s focuses on two of the largest metros in the nation: New York and Los Angeles. At opposite ends of the country, no two cities are more influential or well known for being creative hubs than New York and LA; this Insight will outline the class and education divide in these two metros.

Exhibit 1 displays the divide in the metropolitan area of New York City. Revered as one of the financial and economic capitals of the world, it is well known that the City attracts a myriad of creative professionals and businesses. While New York has one of the highest Creative Class (CC) shares in the U.S. (36%), Exhibit 1 reveals the stark internal polarization within the city between the different classes and education levels. The degree share averages within New York for SC occupations was found to be 24%, while the CC average is 56%. Not surprisingly, most of Manhattan is home to the most educated tracts within New York, but many satellite communities in Brooklyn, and suburban areas of New York and New Jersey also have high numbers of educated residents. Conversely, when looking at most of Brooklyn (especially Brownsville), Jamaica, Queens and most of the Bronx, the degree shares are quite low (the 10 least educated, tracts for example have a degree share range from 0% to 2.90%) Outside Manhattan, an educated suburb vs. less educated city core divide is apparent within the New York Metro, as this disparity is found in the NY Boroughs, Newark and Patterson as well.

As previous Insights have noted, education is not always a reliable predictor of regional economic capacity, as many educated people work within Service occupations, while many members of the CC do not have a BA or above. Exhibit 1 displays that there are neighbourhoods such as Williamsburg, Brooklyn and numerous areas in Queens where the dominant class is the SC, yet the degree share is quite high. Also found in Staten Island and some parts of Brooklyn are certain tracts in which the degree share is lower, yet the primary class is the CC, possibly due to a large population of artists or entrepreneurs in the area. Both maps are labelled as follows: each census tract is filled with a shade of grey in which the darker the shade, the higher the percentage of residents 25 or older that hold a Bachelor’s degree or above. Each shaded tract is also outlined according to the dominant occupational class of the residents within that tract (purple represents Creative Class, red for Service Class, blue for Working Class, and lastly, green for the Farming, Fishing, and Forestry Class). To view the entire occupational breakdown and degree share within each, click the desired tract. For a complete explanation of the data used within each map, please refer to the previous Insight here.

Exhibit 1: Class and education map: New York (interactive map)

Click to view the full-size interactive map.

Our second map displayed in Exhibit 2 is of the Los Angeles metro. At first glance, the relatively light shade indicating lower degree shares is apparent within many tracts of Los Angeles County. In Los Angeles, the most educated tracts, like in New York, also hold the highest CC shares. The degree share averages for all SC occupations was found to be 20%, while the CC average is 53%. Marina Del Ray, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and Pasadena (home of Cal-Tech) are all neighbourhoods with extremely high degree shares. These highly educated communities surround the inner cities of Los Angeles County, creating an educational divide shaped like a ring outside the city. The top 10 most educated tracts hold a degree share from 79%–86%. Many of the inner cities of Los Angeles County (especially South Los Angeles) such as Compton, Watts and East Los Angeles have the lowest degree shares, with the lowest shares being from 0.00%–1.30%, which is lower than the lowest tracts observed in New York City. Most of the areas with the highest degree shares in LA are also within a close proximity to small tracts of highly educated primarily SC shares. A pattern displayed within the map in accordance to this, is that the highly educated residents, despite occupation, are within a close proximity of each other. LA’s map not surprisingly presents a labour force in which many high-skill residents are working within SC occupations. There are also numerous neighbourhoods, especially along the coast near Redondo Beach in which there is a less educated, primarily CC population. Los Angeles has always been known for its vibrant art and cultural scenes, which add to the city’s overall prosperity, and often employees within these occupations do not hold a BA or above. A similar educational divide is found within Anaheim, yet a more educated SC labour force is present, than within the city of Los Angeles.

Exhibit 2: Class and education map: Los Angeles (interactive map)

Click to view the full-screen interactive map.

When comparing the maps of New York and Los Angeles, noticeable similarities and differences become apparent. In both LA and New York, a pattern of educational segregation is apparent within both cities, as similar tracts are clumped together according to shares of human capital, often despite occupation. In Los Angeles for example within the downtown core there is a combination of really low degree shares across primarily SC, WC and CC tracts. Within the surrounding communities of LA, highly educated tracts are usually clumped together, despite occupation. In contrast to each other, New York’s main core (Manhattan) has a very educated Service and Creative class, while certain edge communities in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx have low education rates despite the primary occupation. In LA, the reverse is apparent as the largest section of the core has very low education rates despite which occupation is dominant. Overall, New York is displayed as a higher educated metro than Los Angeles as there are more dark shaded, tracts within the New York map. What the maps also display in contrast to each other is the greater amount of highly educated SC tracts and the less educated CC tracts in LA compared to NY. This possibly displays that many educated residents within LA are being underutilized, while human capital is associated with CC occupations much less than in NY.

While New York and Los Angeles are two of the largest financial and creative capitals in the world, when it comes to shares of human capital, New York seems to stand above Los Angeles. Despite the fact that both metros have numerous highly educated neighbourhoods, great disparity exists between neighbourhoods in both cities. It seems as if in these two cities that educated residents cluster together, despite occupation. Los Angeles and New York throughout their history have been known as racially and economically segregated cities, despite their diverse populations, the maps in this Insight help to illustrate neighbourhood segregation across education and occupation.

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The Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto‘s Rotman School of Management is the world’s leading think-tank on the role of sub-national factors — location, place and city-regions — in global economic prosperity. We take an integrated view of prosperity, looking beyond economic measures to include the importance of quality of place and the development of people’s creative potential.