Answer to Map #14b
Geography Awareness Week 2016

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Answer: This week’s choropleth depicts the median prices of residences in each of the wards of Greater London. Areas with higher house prices are colored in darker green, while areas with lower house prices appear in lighter green or white.

The data used to make this map comes from the London Datastore, which is a useful repository of statistical data about London. On this map, each shade of green refers to a range of £250,000 in median house prices. In other words, the lighest shade of green indicates wards where the median home price is below £250,000, while the second lightest shade of green indicates wards where the median home price is between £250,000 and £500,000. As mentioned in Friday’s hint, however, we have distorted the scale slightly at the high end. According to our scale, the very darkest shade of green should indicate wards with a median home price greater than £2 million. In actuality, the median home price in the ward of “Kensington and Belgravia” is a staggering £2.9 million—a value that ought to be indicated by a color fully three shades darker than the color we have used. Maybe we should have just made it black?

As promised in the introduction to this map, we have also accepted submitted answers of statistics that correlate very closely with median home price, such as average rents. We have also made the decision this week to accept answers of average income as a correct answer. Obviously, people who make more money tend to live in more expensive houses, so these statistics are correlated. It is interesting to compare this map with a choropleth one might showing average income. In both cases, Kensington and Belgravia would need a color of its own to indicate its extreme wealth, and in both cases the second darkest color would be used liberally in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Nevertheless, there would be some interesting differences between the two maps. Consider, for example, Millwall in Tower Hamlets, the ward which is home to the commercial area of Canary Wharf. In the past several decades, the old docklands of the area have been transformed into a major financial center home to many of London’s tallest buildings. The incomes of people who work in the financial industry have risen faster (relatively speaking) than have the home values in the area. As a result, Millwall is now 111th out of London’s 625 wards in average income, but only 236th in median home price. This is just one example of disparities that might have helped you to distinguish between home prices and income levels—but if you submitted an answer about income levels, we gave you the points anyway.

One of the most interesting features of this week’s choropleth of London is the alternating pattern of property values in northwest London, which is partially the result of proximity to Underground stations. In general, people are willing to pay more money to live in a neighborhood that is more convenient to public transportation. This pattern is a good reminder that home prices are determined by much more than just the amenities within a particular neighborhood, such as parks or entertainment venues.

This map also demonstrates how much the eastern part of London continues to lag behind the western part of the city in terms of development. Thursday’s hint mentioned Barking and Dagenham, one borough of east London that has long faced a particularly difficult situation. The ward with the cheapest median home prices, however, is actually located on the other side of the Thames in the east London borough of Bexley. If you want to live in the Belvedere ward of Bexley, you can get a home for a median price of £179,995—enough to buy you about 6% of a median home in Belgravia. This disparity suggests that London, like all cities, is a place that is home to both very rich people and very poor people, though they may not in fact be living side by side.

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