The geography of polarization, 1950 to 2015

Tom Vanheuvelen, Katherine Copas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


In this article, we ask where affluent and economically insecure households reside. We examine the economic conditions of the tails of wage distributions in local areas to make sense of trends in geographical residence. Using census and American Community Survey data covering 1950 to 2015, we draw two main conclusions. From 2000 onward, economic polarization coincided with two kinds of geographic residential patterns: polarized and poor labor markets. We also find divergence in the link between geographical location and wages across the wage distribution. We question whether the concentration of affluent and poor households in polarized places signify moves to better economic opportunity by low-wage workers. Our results illustrate the geographical consequences of low-wage rent destruction and highlight implications for future work addressing geographical stratification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-103
Number of pages27
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • Affluence
  • Local labor markets
  • Low-wage work
  • Poverty
  • Wage inequality

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