Posted by: Josh Lehner | October 29, 2013

Portland Polarization Maps

When doing any research project, many interesting parts end up getting left on the cutting room floor. Our office’s Job Polarization in Oregon report is no different. One very intriguing item that was included in the presentation slides but not the report were maps of where individuals in each wage group live. Such maps for the Portland Metro are shown below.

This is census tract level data that examines the share of residents in each broad wage group (high, middle, low). The American Community Survey occupational groups are slightly different than the Bureau of Labor Statistics ones, however they are very similar overall. Many thanks to the state demographer, Kanhaiya Vaidya, for pulling the detailed data and to Ian Green at the Secretary of State’s office for mapping the data for us.

It should also be noted that these are not polarization by neighborhood, but rather where do people live. These could also double as maps of home values, given that in general, the more income one has, the more expensive housing he or she buys. Examining the changes in neighborhoods over time, such as economic sorting or various measures of integration or segregation, is very interesting and with another year or two of ACS data, we can get good numbers locally as well to compare pre-recession and post-recession trends. This also has been shown to have big implications for economic mobility, as discussed previously.

The first map shows concentrations of high-wage jobs in the Portland Metro. The largest concentrations are clearly in the the west hills and westside suburbs. Although close-in NE and SE  have large concentrations as well, not to mention, say, a place like Cooper Mountain in Beaverton.

Note: The data source labels on the maps are incorrect. The data does come from the published American Community Survey, 2007-11 but are not from the PUMS. Apologies for any confusion.


When it comes to the middle-wage jobs, the map is effectively a mirror image of the high-wage one. Larger concentrations tend to be found on the eastside of the Metro, but more so in the outer regions on both sides of the Willamette.


Where the patterns are a bit more concentrated are among the low-wage job holders. Keep in mind that these are not the majority of job holders and I believe in only 4 census tracts in the whole state do low-wage jobs make up the majority of employed residents. However, the concentration of low-wage job holders is a bit more pronounced then the other wage groups. Here you can see higher concentrations in downtown Beaverton and downtown Tualatin on the westside and then primarily east of 82nd on the eastside of the Metro.


Our Job Polarization in Oregon report focused on trends at the state level and had some discussion on the urban-rural split in job growth, however these processes can be experienced and observed even down to the neighborhood level. I know there is interesting research out there on this economic sorting by income or other socio-economic measures, and the labor market is a big part of the story. With the assistance of our friends at the Secretary of State’s office and the DAS Geospatial Enterprise Office, we can produce similar maps for other regions of the state if people are interested.


  1. Josh: your map of lower wage job concentration appears to be spatially correlated with our high poverty hot spots:

    Click to access High%20Poverty%20Hotspots%202013.pdf

    particularly east Multnomah, tualatin, and along TV highway.

    • Thanks Sue. Unfortunately this isn’t necessarily a surprise, however thanks for bringing it up. For those interested, see the maps on PDF page 121 in the link above for Multnomah County.

  2. […] (see the article for more info), below are job polarization maps of the Salem region. Just like the Portland Maps previously, this is census tract level data that examines the share of residents in each broad wage […]

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