Comment of the Day: The Common Divide

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE COMMON DIVIDE “. . . regarding the splitting of houston into east/west, is there any city in the US where the east side has higher average incomes and more infrastructure spending? seems that with most every city i can think of the east side is generally much more destitute than the west.” [joel, commenting on This Week, Houston Begins Slicing What’s Left of the Katy Prairie in Two]

18 Comment

  • Oakland, California…for that matter, pretty much the entire East Bay.
    On the other hand, SF, the Peninsula, and Marin are further up the ladder than the East Bay if you want to go to a more macro level.

  • The upper East side of NYC is pretty nice.

  • A little closer to home, I would suggest Tulsa and Dallas as meeting that test.

  • Tulsa, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Kansas City, South Florida, Salt Lake, Montreal; Atlanta, Seattle and Dallas with a certain squint; but anecdotes could easily fuzz out the general trend that in cities old enough to predate water systems it was common for the favored side to grow upstream. Even after city sanitation, flood control, and car ownership that makes it possible to live ‘way up a hill without having to have the leisure to live so far from things – and even where that legacy doesn’t hold over in property investment – air quality is generally better higher up, nevermind views: so that in North America, where our water often flows to the east and south, even newer cities often favor west and north. Especially north. Nashville, Monterrey, East Bay, Memphis, and others where the east or south is higher ground, or cities where race riots took place after city sanitation came around, prove the rule by suggesting how much it takes to buck it and confirming why. Think about it and see why else you can come up with!

  • @Austin–I remember this being a question in an eighth grade textbook. [“Why are cities usually nicer on the west side?”] It was one of those questions without an answer in the text, and it has, I am not kidding you, bothered me for 23 years. Your answer is probably the one they were looking for.

  • Kansas City? Nope! West side is the best side there. Phoenix’s east side is the more affluent side with Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, Mesa, et. al.

  • When Denver was a young city, the Platte River was the western-most border of the city and the adjoining city to the west was named Auraria. The monied gentry lived on the east side of the river and the poorer people lived on the west side of the river which was lower ground and was prone to flooding. Eventually, Denver absorbed Auraria with the upshot being that the east side of the city has always been the wealthier side of town.

  • Chicago’s East Side is pretty nice…then again it is along the lake :)

  • Charlotte, Memphis, and Nashville. To some extent Atlanta ( better neighborhoods to the north and to the east).

  • thanks Austin, figured it was some combination of old trends in that cities were just originally populated on the east side first, so the higher incomes always moved west to leave behind the crowds/poverty or something of the like.

    i’m just not that well traveled in the US to know how most cities stack up.

  • @ Austin & Shadyheightster

    K.C. and Nashville are the opposite. East side is the less affulent side in both of those cities.

  • Detroit’s East side is mostly better than the West side. It’s more of a North-South city, though.

  • Shreveport/Bossier City, not as big of a city as others but the east side (bossier) is much higher income despite being geographically boring in comparison to the western side (shreveport). But really the highest incomes there are north east and due south.

  • East Houston is the industrial engine of the city.

    Most of the desolate east sides y’all mention don’t have economic engines on the east sidelike we do.

    Main reasons the incomes are not higher is becuase who wants to live near the port or refineries.

  • My thought initially was that in most cities not constrained by geographical features (mountains, oceans), it will often have to do with water flow and higher ground … Austin came up with a much more complete answer on this question. In Houston, Montrose and the Heights were two of the early wealthier suburbs outside of the original city, followed by River Oaks, all upstream of the original city. The map on my wall of Houston in 1913 shows a very pronounced unbalanced westward and northward trend by then. The more wealthy residents in a city would be more likely to move upstream of the current development (this is normally higher ground, too), which would often be west and north. The less affluent residents were left going the other direction, or at least taking over the abandoned older parts of town, which coupled with industry generally going on the downstream side of cities, would reinforce the bifurcation. Once a trend starts for even relatively minor reasons, it is often self-reinforcing even if the original conditions no longer apply.

  • UES is old money.

    Boston’s easternmost neighborhoods (Back Bay, South End, Charlestown) are extremely wealthy compared to the Western/Southern ones (Mattapan, Roxbury, Hyde Park).

  • Regarding the east-west divide, I have heard an explanation which may not be true but certainly seems plausible. I have also puzzled as to why the west side of US cities tends to be the most affluent and have the best housing stock.

    An urban planner friend of mine shared that since the prevailing winds are from west to east and industry historically was located near the urban core, then those that could afford to built their homes to the west of the industrial areas so that they were not impacted by the resulting pollution. Airborne pollution and smoke typically was blown away to the east of the city.