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Mace and Crown | May 22, 2018

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Income Inequality in Norfolk

Income Inequality in Norfolk

Chris Steadman | Contributing Writer

The purpose of this study is to visualize the income disparities in Norfolk. The divide in income and quality of life in this city is evident. For residents, these conditions are normalized. It is fairly clear that the city has deep gaps in income levels, but for residents it is a part of everyday life that is normal, and many are numb to.

The way to best visualize the high and low concentrations of wealth is to map hot and cold spots of median household income within Norfolk, and see where their distribution falls. Putting these phenomena on a map can help understand the city’s inequality on a local level. Based on prior knowledge of the spatial distribution of wealthy districts, it is expected based on a median household that income per block group will be heavily concentrated.

The traditionally wealthy communities of the Larchmont area and its surrounding blocks are where the highest concentrations of wealth take place, and the areas east of downtown in Brambleton, Huntersville, Barraud Park and Lindenwood are the points of lowest concentrations of wealth. The distribution goes beyond wealth, and a map retrieved from the University of Virginia shows one dot per person color-coded by race, illuminating the inequality this distribution shows (See Fig. 1 on the referece page).


Green dot – African American, Blue dot- White (Non-hispanic), Orange – Hispanic, Red – Asian

Within the city, the clusters of median income levels are racially homogenous. The only deviation in racial homogeneity within the high-income areas is a very small Asian population, otherwise, the hotspots are nearly entirely non-Hispanic white.

Closeup on the Hot Spot of median income


in NorfolkAn even greater level of homogeneity is seen within the cold spots of income, where a clear majority of those living in the poorest parts of Norfolk are black (again with a very small Asian population). When comparing the racial makeup of the city with income data, it looks racially segregated except for areas which experienced white flight in the early ’60s, such as Park Place. Those are areas in which gentrification had a large impact on the cost of living in certain neighborhoods, namely the downtown area and Ghent. The neighborhoods’ racial makeup looks essentially the same as during the height of segregation. This happened because of blockbusting on the behalf of real estate business, a general lack of access to credit, and the process of redlining (refusing home loans to ethnic minorities in traditionally white neighborhoods), in addition to a host of other factors.

Closeup on the Cold Spot of median income in Norfolk


Norfolk is incredibly divided in terms of wealth. Integration was proven in the ’50s to be a compelling state interest, therefore using the analysis conducted a focal point for urban development and relief plans are found. Gaps between wealth and the ability for social mobility between class levels continue to be wide in the city. If the public continues to be aware of the issue and the ability to normalize such inequality is thrown out, real progress can be made.