Economic Polarity

In North America, at least, it appears that in most cities, the north side is well off, while the south side is rundown. Is that generally true in the Northern Hemisphere and the reverse true in the Southern Hemisphere?

Ray (has never run down to the SH to see.)

Interesting theory. An exception that I can think of: Harlem area of Manhattan.

One explanation (MWAG): Rivers (in general) in North America run north to south. The sewage treatment for any municipalities would be at the lowest elevation, i.e., the south end of town. People don’t want to live next to them, so property values go down. Eventually, the income levels of neighborhood stratify as the well-off buy the high ground and poor working stiffs live in the valley.

Exception to my WAG: Arlington, VA. Crystal City/Aurora Hills are right next to the waste treatment plant, and they’re pretty ritzy. But the prevailing wind is from the north, so there’s no smell. I once lived in an apartment in CC. One day the wind came from the south. “What the @!?#!@ is that!?” I asked. That smell penetrated everywhere!

I think Cecil would have a field day with this one…

On a related note, do people in North Dakota fear going to South Dakota?

Yer pal,

I had also heard that the west side of a town tends to be more affluent than the east side, for the prevailing winds theory mentioned by AWB.

Denver is Mercedes on the south (Greenwood Village, my city), Explorers on the west (Genesse/Evergreen), mini-vans on the north (Thorton), Camrys on the east (Aurora), and a cess pool in the center called the City and County of Denver.

There is no safety for honest men but by believing all possible evil of evil men.

–Edmund Burke

Of course, Detroit and Cleveland do not have clean North/South divisions (unless you’re going to make Detroit “south” and Oakland County “north”), following more of a concentric ring pattern. In addition, the old money, in both Cleveland and Detroit, is on the East side.

I think you may find that it is a coincidence.

How do cities with recent new growth fit in to the original question? Phoenix? Houston? Denver? Portland?


What cities are you thinking about, Nano? I don’t think really large cities can be so characterized - they have too much area. But off the top of my head, can’t think of any city that has a good north side and bad south side besides the popular conception of Chicago…

I think it’s coincidence. Here in St. Louis, the south side is somewhat better off than the north side, but the real money concentrated in what we call the “central west end”. As the area grew, development baically stayed the same, blue collar to the north and south, professionals and executives to the west.

Aside from a few bedroom communities, Dallas’ south side is considered to have fewer economic advantages and more crime. Racial balance also tips heavily towards black and hispanic in south Dallas.

North Dallas mushrooms up into the suburbs of Plano, Carollton, Addison, and a few others. To the west is the midcities (Arlington, Irving, Grand Prairie), which are a little better off than south Dallas, but not by much. North of the midcities are a few more rich suburbs - Las Colinas and its ilk.

Ft. Worth, I don’t know too well.

In the city where I live, the “north end” is the “bad” side of town. I live on the southwest side of town, the middle/lower middle class part.

OK, to Esq – who is out to prove lawyers will argue anything with nothing – and all the others:

-1. I agree that there is also an economic +W-E bias.
0. Yes, NYC is different

  1. Why should I believe anything about Chicago that is not the common perception; of course its +N-S and +W-E.
  2. Philly is +N-S and, incl. suburbs, is +W-E.
  3. San Francisco is +N-S.
  4. L. A. is +N-S and +W-E.
  5. San Jose is +W-E (with a small + community in the E hills.
  6. Oakland is underlyingly +N-S, but several things disrupt this pattern. There is an old black district in the NW from WWII, because of the shipyards that were there because the bay is there. The only hills lie to the E, so that is where the present bulk of residential wealth lies. The bayside plain lies NW-SE, thus setting an oblong major axis in that direction. The main change there, since I was a kid is serious degradation of all of the SE except for the hills.
  7. Berkeley is +N-S, with the reversed -W+E (hills on the E).
  8. Santa Cruz is +NW-SE.
  9. I don’t know what to make of Sacramento. To me, nothing in the Central Valley is inhabitable anyhow.
  10. Not too clear on San Diego, other than that it has an old +W.
  11. Mill Valley, CA is +N-S.
  12. San Rafael, CA is +N-S.
  13. Isn’t Seattle pretty much +N-S?
  14. I think Vancouver, BC is pretty much +NW-SE.
  15. Of course, many smaller towns in CA-US have compass points wiped out by the +hills-flats pattern.
  16. Palo Alto is +N-S.
  17. San Mateo, CA is +N-S and +W-E (of course the hills there are on the W).

I think the predominance of NW-to-SE tradewinds in the temperate and subtropical Northern Hemisphere determine this, in the absence of local natural geographical features or quite large cultural ones, by providing, most of the time, better air in the N and W than in the S and E.

Ray (Money is where the largest trees grow.)

Did someone say Ft. Worth?

The biggest poor section is Northside. That’s where the stockyards have always been.
Originally, the south side was the place to live. The location of the good neighborhood has moved around since then, for the most part west and south.

Southside is an interesting mix. Being the place to live at the turn of the century, there is one street where the finest homes were built. As the builders strayed farther from this street, the homes became smaller and not as nice. The smaller homes lost value. As a result, on Elizabeth Ave, there are million dollar homes; three blocks away there are poverty level neighborhoods.

“Why should I believe anything about Chicago that is not the common perception; of course its +N-S and +W-E.”

West Side good, East Side bad? Oh, really not so much! The West Side, even more than the South Side, is popularly considered to be the worst part of town. There are pockets of “good neighborhood” on the South Side (Hyde Park, Bridgeport) but the West Side is uniformly a “bad neighborhood” once you get west of the U of I campus. And the East Side (Hegewisch and the like) is commonly perceived as blue-collar middle-class. Heck, that area (10th Ward) produced old Alderman Vrdolyak (sp?), the infamous nemesis of the late Mayor Harold Washington.

Mind you, there is actually a lot of new development (read: frou-frou restaurants, new townhomes, and the loftification of old industrial buildings) on the nearer parts of the West Side, down the old Randolph Street market and as far west as Union Square and the United Center, but we’re talking popular perception, not necessarily reality.

zyada: Southside is an interesting mix. Being the place to live at the turn of the century, there is one street where the finest homes were built. As the builders strayed farther from this street, the homes became smaller and not as nice. The smaller homes lost value. As a result, on Elizabeth Ave, there are million dollar homes; three blocks away there are poverty level neighborhoods.

I noticed this too. My wife and I stayed in Ft. Worth one weekend this summer. We stayed at a bed & breakfast (Bloomsbury House) on the south side of town. It and the surrounding neighborhood were nice (Elizabeth St., Page St.,Lipscomb St.), but the immediate neighborhoods were rather run-down (8th). (Frankly, I’ve never seen so many businesses with boarded up windows outside of a hurricane zone.)

You’re all wrong.

It has nothing to do with compass direction. The important criterion is the location of the railroad.

This side of town is the nice area. The rundown part is on the other side of the tracks.

Kansas City is sort of +E-W. KC KS in general is not as nice as KC MO (though there are some fairly ritzy and expensive suburbs on the Kansas side). It’s more or less +N-S as a whole, though one of the most expensive and prestigious areas (Country Club Plaza) is right next to one of the areas I’d least like to be wandering around in at night (The Paseo).

St. Joseph MO is also +N-S and +E-W, though there is a fairly new and nice section in the extreme south.

San Diego is probably +N-S +W-E.

NanoByte posted 09-25-1999 03:09 PM

My understanding is that one of the best places in San Diego is La Jolla, in the NW, and one of the worst is Chula Vista, in the south. I don't find that particularly surprising; the Ocean is to the west, which makes western land more valuable land. And the farther north you are in SD, the farther you are from Mexico.

Albany, NY – Arbor Hill, the most depressed area, is in the north of the city.

Schenectady, NY – Hamilton Hill, same, is east of the “city center.” Geographically, it’s more central than east.

Troy, NY – The entire city is a depressed area. . . . well, no. The worst areas are near the river, on the west side of the city.

I think it’s purely random.

Well, what do you expect. Even the examples given by Nano are in some cases incorrect, to wit:

Only depending on what part of the city you are looking at… Almaden is south of downtown and quite nice… and Willow Glen, now the pits, was once a garden spot.

Almost impossible to make this statement, or any other geographic generalization about LA (is the Valley good or bad?). North of downtown is both Hollywood and a relatively poor section (remember Chavez Ravine?).

Not even close. Some of the worst sections of town, including the porno district and parts of Chinatown, are to the north. Of course, weird things happen when your biggest urban renewal project is an 8.1 earthquake and subsequent fire.

I could give other examples from the list, all of which would show something important about the concept: it depends on WHEN you are looking and WHAT you are looking at. I suspect strongly that prevailing wind patterns WOULD influence development of certain cities. Certainly, the example of London with its East End (the direction the sewage on the Thames flows) is classic. But as time passes, and cities spread out, these influences must be surpassed by other issues, such as availability of land, etc. Also, urban flight patterns affect the issue…

In a lot of small cities that grew only after World War II, the most affluent suburbs are to the east, while the second-rate suburbs are to the west, because the people who lived to the west would always have the sun in their eyes when they drove to and from their jobs downtown.

To throw a few more cities into the mix:

Evansville, Ind.: +E-W, +N-S
Dayton, Ohio: +E-W, +S-N
Cleveland, Ohio: +E-W, +S-N

RealityChuck: Don’t forget Albany’s South End, which is just as bad as, if not worse than, Arbor Hill. Basically, in Albany, the closer you are the the Hudson, the worse off you are.