Killing Fields of InequalityThis is the quote I will be using to start my unit on social stratification and social inequalities, from Goran Therborn, at the very beginning of his latest book, The Killing Fields of Inequalities:

“Inequality is a violation of human dignity; it is a denial of the possibility of everybody’s human capabilities to develop. It takes many forms, and it has many effects: premature death, ill-health, humiliation, subjection, discrimination, exclusion from knowledge or from mainstream social life, poverty, powerlessness, stress, insecurity, anxiety, lack of self-confidence and of pride in oneself, and exclusion from opportunities and life-chances. Inequality, then, is not just about the size of wallets. It is a socio-cultural order, which (for most of us) reduces our capabilities to function as human beings, our health, our self-respect, our sense of self, as well as our resources to act and participate in this world. (1)

The US Census Bureau has released a series of recent maps showing the wealthiest and poorer counties, nationwide, using data from the Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates program.

First, median incomes (for all, click on the images for larger view):

Median Income_001

The Northeast metropolitan corridor is pretty striking: where the power elite is. As the report notes:

“The U.S. Census Bureau reports that five of the counties or county-equivalents nationwide with the highest median household income in 2012 were located in Northern Virginia. Among them were Arlington County, at $99,255, Fairfax County, at $106,690, Falls Church (an independent city), at $121,250, Loudoun County, at $118,934, and Stafford County, at $95,927. Falls Church and Loudoun also had among the lowest poverty rates in the country.”

Then, poverty rates:

Poverty Rates_001

Now, one can see a Southeastern corridor of high poverty, with a few other spots (the tips of Texas, and parts of South Dakota).

Thirdly, child poverty:

Children Poverty_001

The patterns are a bit harder to distinguish (partly because of the color scheme), but you can clearly see that the east coast wealthy corridor is very white and that the same Southeastern corridor is there as well.

Finally, shifts in median income:

Change in Median Income_001

Now, one can see a red (as in increase) crossing the central part of the country, from North to South. If I remember correctly, this was also the region least affected by the economic recession and high unemployment (especially the Dakotas). The Southwest is impressive in its decrease (the West overall, but really, the Southwest, especially).

As the report states, again:

“he findings also show that median household income is higher in nearly half of the counties in the Dakotas now than it was before the recession began in 2007. Between 2007 and 2012, 55 of the 119 counties in North and South Dakota experienced a statistically significant increase in median household income. In contrast, of the remaining 3,023 counties or equivalents nationwide, the same was true of only 56 of them. Of all the U.S. counties with a statistically significant change in income relative to 2007, 89 percent experienced a decline.

Emphasis mine.