The gap between “urban legends”—such as, “no one works in inner-city neighborhoods”—and urban realities is wide, and often the private marketing data that people rely on to provide accurate neighborhood information actually exacerbate these myths. These marketing data have several problems. They are often based on infrequently updated Census information that undercounts central city residents; they make misleading generalizations (e.g. crime statistics are not based on the number of crimes committed in the neighborhood but estimated from the “type” of people living there); and they fail to review local data for trend analysis, thereby missing many positive developments in cities. The data have serious repercussions for cities, influencing the location and product decisions of businesses; government policies on welfare, housing and bus routes; and even prospective students’ choice of university. As an alternative to inadequate national data sources, this study provides a more precise description of neighborhood purchasing power in Milwaukee by zipcode, block level, and specific address using a variety of local- and state-level data sources. It thereby offers a template for retrieving similar data and preparing commercial-district economic profiles elsewhere.
Pawasarat, John and Quinn, Lois M., "Exposing Urban Legends: The Real Purchasing Power of Central City Neighborhoods, prepared for The Brookings Institution" (2002). ETI Publications. 115.