Income Data from the 2009 American Community Survey

In Kenneth Jackson’s Crabgrass Frontier, the author observes that “social change usually begins at the top of society. In the United States, affluent families had the flexibility and the financial resources to move to the urban edges first.” Written in the 1960s, the observation had already been confirmed by multiple economists.  The middle and upper-class did indeed move to suburbia first.

Fast forward a half-decade and the remnants of this fact are still evident throughout American suburbs. While recent studies show that poverty is now growing at the same rate in both city and suburb, the latter remains much more affluent. Data taken from the U.S. Census Bureau only serves to further illuminate the two contrasting landscapes.

The following data was taken from the 2009 American Community Survey, as part of an annual estimate that supplements the decennial census reports.

For the purposes of this data set, suburbs are indicated as “metro areas, not in principle city”.

Metro Areas

In Principle City

Metro Areas

Not In Principle City

Total Population

(in millions)



Median Household Income



Mean Household Income



Per Capita Income



People Below the Poverty Line



All estimates have a +/- .1% margin of error.

**Author’s Note:  This post is meant to serve as a reference point for the current income contrasts between cities and suburbia. Detailed analysis and observations on the overall socioeconomic climate of the United States will be provided in a forthcoming article.  


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Categories: Data and Trends


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