Rich White People Self-Segregate More in Philly ’Burbs Than Most Anywhere Else

Is the concentration of wealth in Philly's suburbs eroding empathy for poor city residents?

Researchers from the University of Minnesota mapped where wealthy white people cluster, as well as where poor people of color are concentrated, in 15 of the country’s biggest metropolitan areas.

They found that the Philadelphia region has 70 “racially concentrated areas of affluence,” the second-highest amount out of the 15 locations that were studied. Boston was No. 1, with 77 areas of concentrated affluence.

All of the areas of concentrated affluence (seen in red in the images below) are situated in Philly’s suburbs. Conversely, the Philly metro has 86 “racially concentrated areas of poverty” (seen in blue below), nearly all of which are located in the city.

Courtesy of X

Courtesy of Ed Goetz, Tony Damiano and Jason Hicks

In the working paper, the researchers defined “racially concentrated areas of affluence” as places where at least 90 percent of residents are white and the median income is four times the federal poverty level or more. “Racially concentrated areas of poverty” are those where more than 40 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and more than half of residents are non-white.

Could concentrated wealth make it more difficult for regions to address major problems, such as poverty and unemployment? Ed Goetz, a co-author of the paper, said segregation “can erode a sense of common destiny, and it can erode a sense of empathy for others.”

Goetz also told CityLab that government policy has often “focused on the concentration of poverty,” which has “shielded the other end of the spectrum from scrutiny — to the point where we think segregation of whites is normal.”