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Idaho’s poverty rate continued its upward climb in 2011, rising to 16.5 percent. That’s higher than the national rate of people living in poverty, which grew to 15.9 percent last year.Put another way, more than 255,000 Idahoans lived below the federal poverty guideline last year.The state’s poverty rate has climbed each year since 2007, when 12.1 percent of state residents lived below the poverty line. While the rate grew by 1.4 percent from 2008 to 2009 and again from 2009 to 2010, it grew by less than a percentage point from 2010 to 2011.

5 Ways To Visualize Poverty And Wealth In Garden City

This map shows the census tract that covers southeast Garden City. The area is among the poorest in the Treasure Valley. The northwest section of the town has a higher than average median household income.

You can’t understand Garden City, Idaho without understanding that compared to the cities surrounding it, it's a place of poverty and wealth and not much in between. That was the theme of one of the stories in our recent series, Growing Garden City.

In that story we relied on data about census tracts. The map above shows that the census tract that covers southeast Garden City is among the poorest in the area. The northwest part of town on that map has high median household income but the northeast and southwest seem pretty average.

Census tracts are useful, but they have limitations.

If you break the area down into smaller chunks than the census usually does, things look different. Ethan Mansfield with Idaho’s Department of Labor made the map below using block groups, which are smaller than tracts. It shows that all of southeast Garden City has a median household income between $20,378 and $29,036.

According to this data, most households in the northwest and northeast are in the $49,890 - $56,255 range with a small area of the northwest in the $64,228 - $78,125 range.  But the southwest part of Garden City includes incomes that are lower, a mix of households making $29,036 - $34,487 and $34,487 - $39,413.

Credit Ethan Mansfield / Idaho Department of Labor
Idaho Department of Labor
Garden City is divided into four unequal parts by the Boise River and Glenwood. On this map, southeast Garden City is the orange arm pointing toward the top center. It includes the light blue areas above that and the lighter orange and beige area to the west.

The wealth and poverty picture changes even more if you use per capita income as the measure.  The map below looks at Garden City in this way.

Credit Ethan Mansfield / Idaho Department of Labor
Idaho Department of Labor
Southeast Garden City is the long narrow orange strip pointing to the top center. Garden City's northern border is State St. On the south it stops at the sharp rise of the Boise Bench. It's not quite an island in the sea of Boise, it touches Eagle in the west end of town.

On this map, the southeast is still defined by low-income households, but with a section in the middle that's distinctly poorer. The northeast part of Garden City seems to be the wealthiest when per capita income is the measure, rather than the northwest. And the southwest is still the area most in the middle.

The per capita measure includes income for every adult and child while household is everyone who lives in a house, apartment, mobile home or rented room. So things like the number of single people versus large families in an area might make things look very different switching from one parameter to the other.

Other ways of looking at wealth and poverty change the picture even more. We’ve mostly used median incomes, half of households or individuals are below the median and half are above. In Garden City the median household income is $34,571, Boise’s is $48,524 and Idaho as a whole is $46,767. But if you look at mean household income, Garden City’s is $60,070, which is higher than Idaho’s mean household income ($59,974). The people at the top of the town’s income spectrum bring up the average significantly.

In our story on wealth and poverty, we had a chart that shows 38 percent of Garden City households made between $30,000 and $100,000 a year compared to 55 percent statewide. It also shows that 45 percent of Garden City households make less than $30,000 compared to 31 percent statewide, and 17 percent of households in the city make more than $100,000 compared to 15 percent in the state.

Not only are there more people at the bottom and the top of the income spectrum in Garden City, but the people at the bottom have less income and the people at the top have more than their counterparts in surrounding cities.

Credit Idaho Department of Labor
Idaho Department of Labor

This chart, shows Garden City’s top 5 percent of income earners make more than Boise or Meridian’s top five. All three cities are even for the top 20 percent, but everyone else in Garden City makes less.  The top 60-80 percent in Garden City make less than the top 60-80 percent in Boise or Meridian. That's also true for the 40-60 percent in the middle, the bottom 20-40 percent and the bottom 20 percent.

Of course charts and maps only go so far in visually representing ideas. If you drive or walk around the neighborhoods where Garden City’s 11,000 residents live, you’ll clearly see the wealth and poverty divide. But if you don’t have time for that, try looking at Garden City real estate online.

You can buy this northwest Garden City house for $610,000. But about a quarter of Garden City's housing stock is mobile homes where average rent is $540 a month by one estimate.

Credit zillow.com
With a pool and pond, this house is more impressive from the back than the front.

Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam

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