In January of 2016, a city of Austin Employee was put on leave for using the “Judgmental Austin Map” as the backdrop for a presentation. Since the Map’s creation many Austinites have expressed displeasure about the map.
“Enough negativity exists in this world that it pains me to see our city labeled in such away that suggests that we’re all displeasing stereotypes,” wrote Lauren Modery on her blog Hipstercrite when the map appeared on Twitter a few years ago.
Now that Lauren has been living in Austin for eight years, she has found herself re-evaluating the map with a new outlook. “When I wrote [that post], four years ago, I think I was still pretty enamored of the city and protective of it. When I saw the map I was like how dare someone do something like that to [Austin]? Now I think I can look at the map and see it more as a social commentary, rather than an attack.” she said.
While many of the statements on the map may at first appear to be empty, inflammatory labels, these stereotypes do reveal certain truths about Austin when considered in conjunction with socioeconomic data.
Nielsen, among the largest consumer data collectors in the US, identifies demographic information and target markets by zip code. By applying this resource to the Judgmental Austin Map, anyone can investigate the validity of these stereotypes.
Of course there are labels on the map that are solely subjective. For example, there is no data that could confirm that the inhabitants of the Zilker and Barton Hills neighborhoods are “Fake Hippies.” However, for certain zip codes, the data and the map illustrate concerning parallels.
The middle of the map features the title “Ex-frat High Rises” over downtown Austin. If we assign that title to the zip code 78701, we see that the area is overwhelming white 21-44 year olds with no kids, whose majority earners make in excess of $150,000 a year.
78724 is the area labeled “Blacks Resisting Gentrification.” The demographic data for this area clusters into two groups. It is historically poor, with about 25% of people making under $25K a year, and has the largest percentage of African Americans in Austin. The other group makes significantly more money, with about 20% making $50,000-75,000 a year. In these figures, we see the growing divide spearheaded by gentrification.
While all the groups in Austin should be celebrated for what they bring to make our city weird, it’s important to embrace the differences rather than let them divide us.
“I hope people see it as a commentary, and they look at the map and say this is a problem. What can we do to be proactive? Instead of just laughing at the map, what can we do too make it not exist in reality?” said Modery.
MacLean is an advertising freshman from Austin. Follow her on Twitter @maclean_josie.