For the study of urban geography, Springfield, Ohio is a nearly perfect laboratory. Once one of America's prominent industrial cities, in 1880 Springfield led the nation in the production of agricultural machinery; today it remains a repository of a various urban ills. Spatial patterns of unemployment, poverty, segregation, crime, and drug dependency are typical of those found in America's largest metropolitan regions. With a population of 70,487 in 1990, Springfield is small enough that these patterns are presented on a scale that is readily comprehensible.
This report provides a summary of several of America's most serious urban problems as they occur in Springfield. The data base is the Census of Population and Housing, which supplies data for census tracts within more than 350 cities. Tracts are supposed to be socioeconomically uniform subareas with about 4000 residents. Springfield's census tract boundaries can be seen on Map 1; study this map carefully! Try to pinpoint the various major thoroughfares for orientation, so that the locations of the various tracts are clear in your mind. You will need to refer to this map throughout this report because the tract data are presented on computer maps that lack city boundaries, tract numbers, and other points of reference.
The distribution of wealth in American cities is an underlying cause of a long list of urban problems. Income is an obvious indicator of relative wealth, and income data are provided by the census. Median family incomes in Springfield's census tracts (Map 2) are arranged in a typical pattern, with very low incomes in central areas and much higher incomes in the periphery. Springfield differs from many larger cities in that it is not seriously underbounded; that is, tracts with high incomes occur within the city limits instead of in separate suburban political units. The highest median income in 1990 was in Tract 18; Tracts 11.2, 19, 24.1 and 24.2 also registered median family incomes above $30,000.
Real estate is another form of wealth, and the census data include values of owner-occupied housing units. In Springfield, the more expensive homes are highly concentrated in the area north of Buck Creek. Tracts 18, 19, 24.1, and 24.2 have median house values in excess of $65,000. The lowest valued properties are on the near east side of town and to a lesser extent in the southwest quadrant.* Other forms of wealth are not listed by the census.
Springfield's Black population, 17.4 % of the total in 1990, is the only large minority group; relatively few Hispanics and Asians reside here. Residential segregation is pronounced, as is clear from Map 3. African-Americans are concentrated in the southwest quadrant of the city, and
peripheral areas toward the northwest and east have experienced minimal integration.
* Home owners are less numerous in some tracts; poor people, for example, are mostly renters rather than home-owners. Median rents are high relative to median housing unit value in Springfield's east side tracts (especially tract 14) and near Wittenberg. Rents are low relative to house value in Tracts 19 and 17; otherwise the correlation between these variables is very high.
Changes in the distribution of the Black population over the past 20 years may be studied by comparing the 1970, 1980 and 1990 patterns (see Maps 4 and 5). In 1970, segregation was more extreme than at present. By 1980, a process social scientists, using ecological terminology, have referred to as an invasion-succession sequence is clearly visible in the southern periphery and in the northeast. Tracts in which Black population percentages increased are highlighted in Map 6. It is apparent that the largest increases occur within the Black ghetto and in tracts immediately east of the 1970 concentration. Similar sectoral growth patterns have occurred in many northern cities and involve little integration. Another significant increase between 1970 and 1980 occurred in tract 17. This was due primarily to the construction of a public housing project, Ronez Manor; the Black population within this tract remains highly segregated.
The 1980s contributed little to the process of integration in Springfield. Notable increases in Black occupation occur only in the Black sector. While the modest growth of the Black population in the northeast periphery (Tract 24.02) continued, other northern tracts (17, 18, and
19) which had experienced some integration during the 1970s actually suffered a decline in the
number of Black residents during the 1980s.
Levels of segregation may be quantified through a graphing technique called a Lorenz curve. Construction of a Lorenz curve begins with a ranking of the tracts by, in this case, number of Black residents. Then, cumulative percentages are calculated for both the Black and White population for each tract, and these are plotted on the graph, as is shown below for Springfield in 1990. Once the curve is drawn, a number of indices can be used to calculate the degree of segregation. We will use the index of concentration,
I = (C - 550) / (1000 - 550) where C = c.
The values of c are determined by marking off ten equally spaced points on the horizontal axis. From each of these points we project vertically to the Lorenz curve then perpendicularly to the vertical axis. The 10 c values are then added to give C.
With total integration, the Lorenz curve will follow the diagonal line, and C = 10 + 20 + 30 + 40 + 50 + 60 + 70 + 80 + 90 + 100 = 550, so that I = 0. With total segregation, all but the last c value will be zero, so C = l00, and I = 1. The index thus measures departures of the Lorenz curve from the diagonal. The indices of concentration for Springfield's census tracts are listed in Table 1. A rough interpretation of the 1990 index of 70.6 would be that 70.6 % of Springfield's Black families would have to exchange houses with White families in predominantly White tracts in order to achieve complete integration. While segregation decreased throughout the period, the decline in the index was 2.4 times greater during the 1970s than during the 1980s. Incidentally, the 1990 index of concentration for Clark County was 84.3; levels of segregation for the county as a whole have been much higher than those for just the city.
Table 1 - Indices of Concentration for Springfield
|Census Tract Data||77.4||72.6||70.6|
Census tracts are rather large units of area; various open spaces or thoroughfare barriers could effectively separate two groups within a tract. For example, Ronez Manor in tract 17, although integrated, is isolated from the rest of the tract. Aggregated tract data could show integration even when segregation is complete. Some census data are published for city blocks; block data allow more accurate determinations of levels of segregation. Indices of concentration have also been calculated for block data in Springfield. Block data reveal a greater decline in segregation (over 10 %) during the 1970s (Table 1) and a similar slowing of integration during the 1980s. But a much higher degree of segregation is indicated for 1970, 1980, and 1990.
It is important to remember that spatial patterns of poverty and Black residences do not coincide. While a larger percentage of America's Black families have low incomes, the majority of America's poor people are White. Referring to Maps 2 and 3, we can see that some of the lowest incomes occur on the east side. Tract 3 also has the lowest median house value. The southeast sector adjacent to Selma Road is populated mainly by White families, mostly of Appalachian origin. Large numbers of White Appalachian migrants have settled in Ohio's industrial cities, but because Appalachians are not recognized by the census as a distinct ethnic group, numerical data on their distribution within Springfield are not provided.
The low-income areas in the more central tracts in the southwest sector house predominantly Black populations. Note that Black ghetto expansion has been most rapid toward the more expensive neighborhoods to the south. In fact, Black percentages have decreased in adjacent predominantly White low income tracts (Map 6). The largest Black percentage decreases have occurred in tracts in which deteriorating housing stock has contributed to total population declines. In the North Hill area (Tract 6), urban renewal programs in the early 1970s led to Black family removal. Similar Black population declines have continued in Tract 3 on the east side and Tracts 9.02, 10, and 21 on the west side during the 1980s.
Census tracts with high percentages of female-headed families with children under age 18 in 1990 are plotted on Map 7. Extremely high percentages are evident for a number of tracts. As was the case across America, a dramatic increase in the percentage of families headed by females with children has occurred in Springfield, from 14 % in 1970 to 30 % in 1990. This variable, thought to be strongly associated with poverty status, seems to be more closely tied to racial status in Springfield.
Sociologist William Julius Wilson has written about an urban underclass in America's largest cities. His highly regarded book, The Truly Disadvantaged, based on Chicago census tract data, has been widely read. Wilson's work is somewhat controversial because of his emphasis on poverty rather than racism as a cause of our social ills. He believes these social ills are based both on the dynamics of the contemporary economy and on the nature of poverty neighborhoods. Among the economic factors are a weak national economy, the shift away from an industrial economy, and a large "critical mass" within the youthful age cohort in the inner city. His poverty neighborhood explanation was described in detail in the introduction to this collection of papers.
The key to Wilson's poverty neighborhood explanation is the spatial concentration of poverty that has occurred since 1970. Poverty areas, defined as census tracts with over 20 % of families with incomes below the poverty level, have increased in number. In America's 50 largest cities, the poverty population rose by 12 %, while the number of people living in poverty areas was up 20 % by 1980. In the five largest cities (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Detroit), these numbers were 22% and 40 %. Few extreme poverty areas (40% or more) existed in 1970. Looking only at these extreme poverty areas, Wilson found only modest increases in the total White population living in such areas during the decade, while Black population increases within such areas were stunning.
Concentration of poverty in the Black ghetto is attributed to the movement of middle-class families out of the inner city toward the periphery. For decades, Black families of varying economic status had shared ghetto space; the reason was racial discrimination in the housing market. Since 1970, Wilson suggests that the situation has changed. This is why increasing percentages of truly disadvantaged families create an urban underclass.
The explosive expansion of Springfield's poverty areas during the 1970s and 1980s may be seen on Maps 8, 9 and 10. The spread of the high poverty zone (with poverty rates over 30 %) is particularly significant. If we compare these maps to the Chicago maps Wilson examined and to Map 3, poverty concentration has occurred in Springfield, but it seems to be more color-blind than in our largest cities. In 1990, 27,072 White people and 9,008 Black people* lived in designated poverty areas. White and Black population increases in these areas during the 20-year period were 145% and 118 % respectively. There was a significant movement of Black families to the more expensive southern periphery. But the extreme poverty area (Tract 3 and largely depopulated Tract 1) is predominantly White Appalachian. A Lorenz Curve for the concentration of poverty shows just how far Springfield is from an equal distribution of poverty in each of our census tracts. It shows visually how concentrated poverty is in Springfield.
Racial segregation is nothing new in American cities. What does seem to be new is that we are now concentrating those who are poor in certain neighborhoods. This is certainly true in Springfield's traditionally Black southwest. With each census the percentage of people who are poor by official standards has increased in these tracts. Again, this is typical of American cities. __________
* Note that the percentages of Springfield's White and Black populations living in poverty areas (47 % and 74 %) were greater than the percentages of these populations with incomes below the poverty level (18% and 33 % respectively).
Between 1970 and 1990 there has been a 118% increase in the number of Black people living in tracts with higher than 30% poverty rates. Springfield follows Wilson's Chicago pattern.
However, Springfield also adds to Wilson's analysis. If we consider the census maps for 1970, 1980 and 1990 we can see just what Wilson found in Chicago. Tracts that were less than 20% poor in 1970 moved over that line by 1990. At the same time those that were 20% poor in 1970 were over 40% poor by 1990. The darkness on the maps deepens and widens with each decade.
What is different in Springfield is that our poorest census tract is the largely White Census Tract 3 in the Selma Road area. As in the country at large, we have more poor White people than poor Black people in Springfield. While 33% of Black Springfielders are poor, 18% of Whites are poor. Since Whites make up more than 80.5% of the city's population, there are four times as many poor Whites as poor Blacks in Springfield.
Across America, the Black poor are concentrated; around 75% live in neighborhoods 20% or more poor. On the other hand, the White poor mostly live in neighborhoods that are not poor; only around 25% live in neighborhoods 20% or more poor. If Wilson is right about the differences between poor and composite neighborhoods, this difference between the Black poor and White poor nationally is very significant because opportunity is so much greater in composite neighborhoods. Springfield follows the national trend for our Black poor; 75.2% live in neighborhoods that are 20% or more poor. However, in Springfield our White poor are also concentrated; 53.8% of the White poor live in neighborhoods which are 20% or more poor. This does not mean that Blacks are better off in Springfield than elsewhere so much as that poor Whites are worse off in Springfield than elsewhere. That is a major challenge for our community.
Most American cities have higher concentrations of poor people than their surrounding suburban areas. This places bigger demands upon city governments as they try to meet the additional needs of their poor citizens. Cities that are experiencing a declining tax base and a higher percentage of poor citizens find that they have fewer and fewer resources to try to do something about bigger and bigger problems. In Ohio, counties are primarily responsible for the social services and criminal justice costs that go with poverty. As the accompanying pie chart shows, social services and criminal justice take up the lion's share (70% in 1997), and the fastest growing parts of the Clark County budget.
One way Rusk has approached this problem is with his concept of the fair share of poverty. He believes it would be fairest if poverty were shared more or less equally across a metropolitan area. He has even developed a fair share of poverty index. This has a lot in common with the Lorenz Curve in relation to racial segregation. A score of 100 for a city in comparison to the area around it would indicate that the area's poor are just as likely to live in the city as in the surrounding area. The higher the number, the more the burden of poverty is borne by the center city. Springfield=s score is 176, slightly better than the 192 score for all of Ohio=s cities, but higher than the average for North Carolina cities (124).
Cleveland is the clearest example of inelasticity in Ohio; more locally, Dayton is a good recent example. Both are surrounded by growing suburbs that have captured most of the growth in their metropolitan areas. At the same time both are experiencing greater demands for public services, represented here by larger proportions of poor people. Poor persons depend much more on public services, everything from bus service to housing inspection to drinking water and sewers, than those with more money who can afford cars, good housing, and wells and septic systems. Elastic cities are better able to deal with metro-wide problems than are inelastic cities, both because they have more resources and because their problems, such as poverty, tend to be less concentrated. On this and most other of Rusk's measures of how healthy a city is, Springfield tends to fall somewhere between healthy Columbus and unhealthy Cleveland and Dayton.
Table 1 illustrates this situation further. It shows city-to-suburb income ratios and fair share of poverty percentages for 1990. The average Springfield resident has 69% of the income that residents of outlying areas have, lower than the Ohio average. In North Carolina, Rusk's favorite state for elasticity, city residents actually have higher incomes than their suburban counterparts. The second column shows that the situation has gotten worse for all Ohio cities. The city to suburb income ratio has fallen in just 10 years, by 13% in the case of Springfield. These data suggest that the rate of growth of incomes has been greater in the outlying areas, lending more urgency to the policy implications of the Rusk hypothesis. Cities must capture growth on their edges or face very difficult financial conditions in the future.
Table 2 - Income Ratios and Fair Share of Poverty (1990 Census)
|City / Suburb
Income Ratio in %
|Change in City/Suburb Income Ratio, 1980-1990||City Fair Share
|North Carolina Average||110||-2||124|
How will the decade of the 1990s affect America's urban poverty areas? Can the trend of increasing numbers of people living below the poverty level be reversed? If not, how will it affect our cities and our society? As a microcosm of most large metropolitan regions, Springfield lends support to Wilson's thesis but extends it in interesting ways.
An Editor's Note on Applying Wilson to Springfield?
What is the point of all of this analysis of the concentration of poverty in Springfield? First of all just what have we found? Poverty is concentrated in Springfield, has become more so, and seems likely to continue to become even more so. Unlike what Wilson found in Chicago, Black and White poverty is concentrated here. With this concentration comes problems which we have documented. Housing deteriorates, crime increases and schools produce lower test scores and more disciplinary problems. We assume we could have found many other examples of problems made worse by the concentration of poverty. None of this correlates with the racial makeup of the neighborhoods.
What it does seem to confirm is the insight that has made Wilson the most influential urban sociologist in America today. Neighborhoods that have high proportions of low income residents are very hard neighborhoods in which to live. Life is a challenge and many of the human resources that make other neighborhoods work are missing. In no way do we place blame upon the residents in these high poverty neighborhoods for these realities. There are fine people living in these neighborhoods -- people who care about their children and their homes just as much as people in any other neighborhood. Many manage to raise good kids and build a sense of community in spite of all of the statistics we have summarized here. But, all too often these good people and their families are victims of the harsh realities we have found.
We are particularly aware of those people who have organized to fight these problems. We have taken our classes to visit their neighborhoods and have welcomed them to our classrooms to tell their stories. Indeed, one of the most positive local stories of the past decade has been the revival of neighborhood organizations in Springfield. This has culminated in the formation of the Council of Neighborhood Associations (CONA). However, if these valiant efforts at neighborhood revitalization are to be successful, the larger forces discussed in this analysis must be faced somehow. Otherwise, all of this hard work will be overwhelmed by bigger and bigger problems. How we can deal with this concentration of poverty we leave up to David Rusk to tell us. We look forward to hearing and discussing his ideas.