Regional
4:40 pm
Mon December 2, 2013

Southeastern Wisconsin's Super Rich and Super Poor are Practically Neighbors

Southeastern Wisconsin's richest residents live less than 10 miles away from its poorest.
Credit Washington Post

The Washington Post recently created an interactive map that lays out, by zip code, where the nation's richest and most educated populations reside.

The Post used 2010 Census data to find 'Super Zips' - the zip codes in the 95th percentile (or higher) when it comes to college educated and wealthy residents. The Milwaukee-area has two such zip codes: Elm Grove and Whitefish Bay/Fox Point/Bayside.

However, some nearby zip codes are home to some of the poorest, least educated populations, according to the map.

The Milwaukee-area's 'Super Zips':

  • 53122 - Elm Grove had a score of 97 with median household income at $110,673 and 70% of its residents with college degrees.
  • 53217 - Whitefish Bay/Fox Point/Bayside rank in the 95th percentile. Median household income is $95,150 and 70% of the population has graduated from college.

Our area's (and some of the nation's) poorest, least educated zip codes (meaning the 5th percentile or lower for income and education):

  • 53206 - Milwaukee (W. Capitol Dr. to W. North Ave. and N. 27th Street to the freeway) had a score of 2 - median household income is $22,602 and only 7% of its residents have graduated from college.
  • 53205 - Milwaukee (W. North Ave to W. Juneau Ave. and N. 27th Street to the freeway) is not very different than 53206 -  with score of 2, median household income of $22,838 and 8% of the population with college degrees.
  • 53204 - Milwaukee (Canal St. to W. Becher St. and S. Layton Blvd. to the Kinnickinnic River) scored a 3 - with the median household income at $26,297 and 7%  of residents with college degrees.

Distance between our 'Super Zips' and our poorest zip codes:

  • Less than 10 miles between 53122 (97th percentile)  to 53205 (2nd percentile).
  • Less than 5 miles between 53217 (95) to 53206 (2).

Find out how your zip code ranks.

Where someone lives is often a predictor of their future economic status, says UWM professor David Pate. He cites a report by the Equality of Opportunity Project which says where you live has a big impact on whether or not you can climb higher on the economic ladder.

So in Milwaukee, the chance that a child born into bottom fifth of the population economically will rise to the top fifth is only 5.6 percent, according to the report. The New York Times' coverage of the study concludes "climbing the income ladder occurs less often in the Southeast and industrial Midwest."

That creates an unofficial "caste system" in America, says Anne E. Price of Closing the Racial Wealth Gap (GRWG) Initiative at the Insight Center for Community Economic Development in Oakland, California. She says this economic inequality amounts to economic segregation that often coincides with racial segregation. It has been exacerbated by the legacy of discriminatory housing policies put in place decades ago as well as the current trend of locating jobs far outside the city, where the poor cannot access them.

She says the situation creates an almost vicious cycle, where parents aren't able to accumulate or pass down wealth, which in turn affects their children's future opportunities for upward mobility.