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The Class Geography of New York City

Where do the five boroughs live and work?
One World Trade Center looms over lower Manhattan as children play basketball.
One World Trade Center looms over lower Manhattan as children play basketball. Brendan McDermid/Reuters

In his election campaign three years ago, Bill de Blasio famously targeted the $1,000 caviar-pizza-eating wealthiest of New York City in his “tale of two cities” speech, which called attention to the city’s fading middle class and ever-widening gap between the rich and poor.

Writing here just a few months before de Blasio made that famous speech, I outlined the geography of those class divides. The affluent creative class of knowledge workers, professionals, artists, and media workers clustered in Manhattan and adjacent parts of Brooklyn; the growing class of food service, retail, office/clerical, and personal care workers spread across the outer boroughs. And the blue-collar working class was in full retreat.

Working with my colleague Steven Pedigo at the NYU School of Professional Studies Urban Lab at the Schack Institute of Real Estate, we took a fresh look at the city’s divided class structure for the three main employment classes (the creative, service, and working class) across two dimensions: the places where they work and the places they live. We did this for the city as a whole and for each of the five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, and Staten Island. Our data on work and employment come mainly from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as organized and updated by EMSI, while the data for place of residence come from the 2015 American Community Survey.