On this page, we describe economic data sets of Williamsburg and evaluate them comparatively. In our first economic data set we look at median household income, an indicator of the “middle” values of household income in Williamsburg. The median household income in Community District 1, which is composed of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, is estimated to be $41,646, according to the American Community Survey conducted from 2007 to 2009. This value was further examined in a study by the Center for the Study of Brooklyn across demographic lines. Using this data, we made a graph shown in Figure 1. of median household income across racial lines, for the four largest racial groups in Williamsburg-Greenpoint: Latinos, Asians, Whites, and Blacks.
It is important to note that Whites and Latinos are by far the most populous groups in Williamsburg-Greenpoint, with Whites estimated as 88,094 and Latinos at 40,423 (Asians at 7,528 and Blacks at 5,106). The disparity between these two major groups is striking, with Whites’ median household income almost twice that of Latinos. The same study provides us with median household income across ethnic lines, and we made a graph of this as well for Williamsburg-Greenpoint that is shown in Figure 2. This data is vital because it takes into account the ethnic enclaves that exist in this area and differentiates among groups so that we can avoid generalizing.
Those who identified themselves as Italian reported the highest median household income, and those who identified themselves as Puerto Rican reported the lowest median household income. Another noticeable disparity emerges, as was the case in the previous data. Additionally, the group that identified themselves as “Americans” in this study reported a median household income of $43,300, but their population was listed as 3,141; do “Americans” live in the gentrified area of Williamsburg, and could their income indicate their residency? While there is no data in this study that provides any specific residencies for any of these groups, we know that Americans probably don’t live in the ethnic enclaves of Williamsburg-Greenpoint – if Americans live anywhere, it’s in the gentrified area. In a final graph from this study to help confirm this, we compared native-born Whites to all of Williamsburg-Greenpoint, with native-born Whites comprising approximately 31% of the whole population (44,476 out of 144,552) as shown in Figure 3.
The Brooklyn Neighborhood Report on Community District 1 by Brooklyn College provides us with data on jobs, demographics, education, and other factors. From 2000 to 2009, the project reports a 6.8% decrease in poverty and a 5% decrease in unemployment, along with reductions in felony and property crime – both positive indicators of economic improvement in Williamsburg-Greenpoint. However, the median gross rent increased by 35.5% from $780 to $1,057, and the noise complaints per 10,000 people increased from 11.8 to 56.3 – the gentrification ‘boom’ commenced in the late 1990s, so the data implies that gentrification has had these positive and negative effects on Williamsburg. Mikki Halpin from New York Magazine treats “Williamsburg’s economic reality” harshly, as he notes that the neighborhood lags “behind other parts of New York in terms of income, with significant populations needing social services such as food stamps, soup kitchens, housing assistance, and SSI.” Yet, the data from the Brooklyn Neighborhood Report presents a more positive picture of Williamsburg – one that doesn’t forget about poverty, but highlights economic improvement, even if the improvement isn’t whole across cultural lines.
A final data set called “Income and Benefits” for households from the American Community Survey shows an unusual development of inequality in Williamsburg-Greenpoint (Figure 4.): the third largest group is the households making less than $10,000. If this worrisome trend continues so that those making greater than $100,000 eclipse not only the poor but the middle class as well, gentrification’s positive effects maybe far outweighed by the negative.