Top incomes and median incomes vary throughout area, state
BY ED CULLEN
Advocate staff writer
October 03, 2012
The year-old Occupy Wall Street movement got Americans thinking about “The One Percent,” the fraction of the population that accounts for more than 40 percent of the country’s wealth.
But who knew the second highest median income in the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) was in Watson in Livingston Parish.
At $78,750 median income, Watson ranks just behind residents of Prairieville, in Ascension Parish, whose median income is $80,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey.
A high income relative to the neighbors’ is one thing. To crack the one percent of Baton Rouge, your income must be higher than $357,514.
“There aren’t many people who earn that large an income,” said LSU demographer Troy C. Blanchard, a professor in the Department of Sociology. “To get there usually takes more than one earner in the household.”
In Baton Rouge, if you live north of Florida Boulevard you only need to make a combined household income of $144,000 to put an “I’m a One-Percenter” sticker on the bumper of your car.
South of Florida Boulevard, a household must make at least $379,431 to be in the top one percent of earners of that part of the city.
Statewide, the one-percenter threshold for MSA households is pretty even: Shreveport, $326,265; Baton Rouge, $357,514; Monroe, $357,367; Alexandria (no figure because of too few households for reporting purposes); Lake Charles, $334,397; Lafayette, $357,716; Houma-Thibodaux-Bayou Cane (too few households); and New Orleans, $362,348.
Source: New York Times analysis of University of Minnesota Population Center data.
Blanchard clicked on an income map and up popped the northern half of Caddo Parish whose biggest city is Shreveport.
“That’s kinda cool,” he said. “If I made $102,000 (he doesn’t), I’m in the top 10 percent in the northern half of Caddo. That’s not bad.”
As it happens, Blanchard, his wife and two small children live in Zachary, median income $65,227.
“Baker’s not a high income area,” he said. “It’s working class. Baton Rouge is more diverse. Zachary and Central are middle to upper middle class.”
There are pockets of poor people in Zachary. Unlike other parts of the parish, income isn’t always color coded.
Blanchard’s neighborhood is about equally divided among black residents and white residents.
“We’re racially diverse, but class or income homogeneous,” he said. “That’s a fair statement for much of the city.”
In more racially and income segregated Baton Rouge, you have to make $379,000 to be a one-percenter in what most Baton Rougeans know as south Baton Rouge (LSU and City Park lakes, Garden District, Baton Rouge Magnet High School, Hundred Oaks and down Perkins Road).
Even including some poorer neighborhoods around Baton Rouge Magnet High School and the newly named Old South Baton Rouge north of LSU, what many black people call “The Bottom,” the part of town most Baton Rougeans call South Baton Rouge is better off than parts of the city north of Florida Boulevard.
Since so few households make the cut for one-percenter status, it may be more meaningful to express wealth close to home as median income.
Median income means there are as many incomes below a certain point as there are above.
“(Median income) means more than average income,” Blanchard said. “An average can get skewed by one very large number.”
LSU football coach Les Miles would be unhappy to learn that his star recruit at running back earned his 25-yard rushing average with one goal-line to goal-line run of 100 yards and three other carries for no gain.
In the city limits of Baton Rouge, median income is $36,964. Prairieville’s is $80,000. Denham Springs’ median income is $47,401; Watson, $78,750; Central, $64,390; Baker, $39,603; and Zachary, $65,227.
Some more median incomes by city: St. Francisville, $44,605; Walker, $57,509; Port Allen, $38,250; Brusly, $57,798; Addis, $53,854; and Plaquemine, $33,832.
Blanchard who interprets economic and U.S. Census data for a living might subtract from your income what you owe the car dealership, the bank, the government on your college loan and the credit card company before declaring you wealthy.
On the other hand, some wealthy Louisianians owe enough money to put them in the one percent, if a negative number got you in, but are rich because they’re able to manage their debt to make money.
Some Louisiana one-percenters might just as easily be one-percenters in Michican, New York or Ohio. But they retired to the Pelican State and brought themselves and their wealth closer to their families who’d moved to Louisiana ahead of them.