City Desk

The Underground Economy: D.C.’s Richest and Poorest Metro Stops

Metro doesn’t just run from one part of town to another; it bridges some enormous gaps in income around the D.C. region. Median annual household income along the subway system ranges from $147,630 around the Friendship Heights station on the Red Line to $31,735 in Congress Heights on the Green Line. These figures are from the American Community Survey’s 2011 5-Year Estimates. Each number represents an average of the median household incomes for all populated census tracts within a half mile of the station. (This was inspired by a New Yorker project that mapped income inequality on New York subway lines.)

The most volatile route in our system is the Orange Line, reaching upward of $142,000 at East Falls Church and bottoming out at around $34,000 18 stops later at Minnesota Ave. Just across the Anacostia River from what your realtor will have you believe is Capitol Hill, Minnesota Ave. is also one of the two adjacent stations that boasts the highest level of income inequality between next-door neighbors; the Stadium-Armory station’s surroundings have an annual household income of about $88,000, more than two and a half times Minnesota Ave’s.

Here's another look:

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  • moose

    can I make a pitch for showing the Green line on the same vertical axis as the other lines? Makes for easier comparison.

    Also, a graph with all the lines together would be super duper too.

  • duh

    really interesting. thanks for posting this.

  • ugh

    the nyc one was cool. this...not so much

  • Ryan

    How were these statistics compiled? Is there a certain radius? For example, how does Arlington Cemetery have a median income of $113,000?

  • beepbeep

    interesting. but i wish they'd done more with it. the visuals aren't really that useful. i wish there were names of metro stops on the graphs and the maps.

  • BC

    Stop names would be nice.

  • Steve B.

    What I don't understand is the correlation between the median incomes within the District, and living prices there. It seems unlikely that it is cheaper to live in Gallery Place than it is to live in, say, Huntington. Yet income is greater at the Huntington stop. Something seems off. Then again, I'm certainly no urban analyst.

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  • rock_n_rent

    @Steve B.
    The incomes used here are median household incomes. I believe household size will have an impact - that is, around Huntington stop you have lots of single-family house neighborhoods with families living in them (large household sizes), while around Gallery Place you have apartment buildings with lots of studios (small household sizes, with fewer earners per household). For the kind of comparison you are thinking of, I believe you'd have to look at per-capita incomes rather than household incomes.

  • Simon

    agreed -- put 'em all on the same chart, easier to see. Can't do that in NYC (too many lines) but no problem in DC with only 5 lines (as of now).

  • BD

    @Ryan - the article explains how the information is gathered. "Each number represents an average of the median household incomes for all populated census tracts within a half mile of the station." So the Arlington Cemetery information relates to those who live within a half mile. I'm mostly curious how you account for overlap. Do people get counted twice if they live between two stations?

  • deborah

    Interesting. It's not really news that there's more money in MoCo and Fairfax than other places though.

  • Chase


    According to the article, it says that they used all households within .5 mile of the station to determine the median household income. I am also confused about the Arlington Cemetery station, since, according to the distance measurement tool on Google Maps, there isn't a single household within .5 miles (geographically, not by via streets) of the station.

    I'm also confused about households within .5 mile of two or more metro stops. For example, someone who lives on G and 9th NW is within .5 miles of SEVEN metro stops. Is their income counted on all six? Or just the closest station (in this example Gallery Place)?

  • PCC

    As I understand the methodology, it's vastly superior to the one used by the New Yorker. The NYer only counted the individual census tract that the subway station sat in, rather than the broader area; since Manhattan census tracts are only a few blocks, such tiny geographies are easily thrown off.

    Speaking of census tracts, that's the smallest level for which income estimates are available. There are census tracts near Rosslyn that are within 1/2 mile of Arlington Cemetery station, so the A.C. information is drawing from those.

    As for Gallery Place and Judiciary Square, the nearby homeless shelter may throw off the count. (There really aren't that many residents around there.) And yes, both of those cases would imply that people who live 1/3 of a mile from two stations get double-counted.

  • PCC

    My quibble with the graphics is that it's not immediately apparent on the map how the circle geometries were calculated (the larger circles are much larger; if the author varied the radius arithmetically, their area increases exponentially), and the graphs are not labeled.

  • Patrick

    This is just a great representation of where all of metro's problems come from. Until we ship the poor people farther out (gentrification) we cannot begin to solve Metro's problems

  • Cynthia

    HUGE PROBLEM: I live in Silver Spring. I was counted in this per my distance from the metro station. You add up the "household" income of me and my 2 roommates, you are looking at (I don't know their income, so guessing it is nearly what mine is), well over $200,000....BUT THAT IS THREE PEOPLE! How skewed are these numbers really? Household income does not account for true income. There income has nothing to do with me and vice versa. Per capita income is how this should have been figured. The average person's earnings....not a household. The metro stops which have large numbers are in the suburbs where families live, and more often than not, included TWO working adults mid-level or at peak career pay....umm?

  • Karen

    @PCC, not to quibble, but if they are increasing the radius of the circles linearly, the areas are growing quadratically, not exponentially. Still a problem, but not as big of a problem as exponential would be. If you want a circle where the median family income is twice that of a different stop, then you would want the area to be twice that, not the radius. Infographic error.

  • Fabrisse

    @ Patrick:
    Shipping the poor people farther out only creates a bigger problem: a spike in air pollution from poor commuters. They can't afford new cars. They can't afford upkeep on their cars. It's one of the unintended consequences statistics I've come across. The farther away from public transportation the poor are moved, the higher the air pollution spike.

  • Maya

    This is interesting, but it says nothing new. DC is obviously rife with income inequality--just walk around various parts of the city (and the metro area) and you can see this for yourself. The crux of the issue is how can we address this inequality? I'd like to see a story on that.

  • Alexis

    Can you please add metro stop names to the map? Otherwise, it's quite informative for someone relatively new to the DMV.

  • B

    They should expand to probably include all households within a larger radius or served by the station to determine the median household income. In areas like Brookland and Rhode Island Ave. the houses are not as close to the stations but those areas are rising in terms of the income of the residents. Most of the people who actually live within that radius for Brookland are catholic students now.

  • Gnat_for_life

    All I care is: as long as I can get to Gnats' Stadium from my stop @ East Falls Church, without having to stop in 1 of THOSE neighborhoods, I'm alright...

  • El

    Methodology seems sound but Cynthia raises an interesting point about group houses that never occurred to me. Would this data actually count three 20-something roommates living together to split rent the same way it would a family? That seems more than a little ridiculous.

  • tom buckley

    This is great. And its nice to see a collegial discussion in the comments.

    Another interesting thing to note about the DC Metro "map" is that it is a schematic diagram, and not a geographic map, per se. Because there are only two stops east of the Anacostia, the DC metro map seriously shrinks the geographic space on that side, and the wealthier areas along the Red Line, in the Northwest, get an especially larger relative representation.

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