Where do rich people live in Los Angeles? If you ask that question to an Angelino (a resident of Los Angeles), you will get many different answers, but one answer you will not get is “South Los Angeles.” Everyone who lives here knows that South L.A. is a dangerous place where you are unlikely to find the wealthy (people who are rich).
Now ask someone from Chicago this same question. Again, you’ll get a variety of (different; various) answers, but few people will say “the South Side.” The South Side of Chicago is, as Jim Croce sang many years ago, the “baddest (worst; most dangerous) part of town.” In fact, you will get similar answers if you ask people that question in Minneapolis, Boston, and many other major (large; important) U.S. cities:. The common perception (opinion; view) is that poor people live in the southern parts of the city.
There is even scientific research to back up (to support) this idea that people generally think that the southern part of any city is the worst part to live in. In one study, researchers gave people a fictitious (made-up; invented; not real) map of a city. Then they asked them to identify the part of the city where they thought someone named “Dr. Bennett” might live. More than 70% of the people said in the northern part of the city. Almost no one chose the southernmost (most to the south) part of the city (10%).
I’m not saying that in all cases it is actually true that poor people live in the southern part of an American city. But that is the common opinion of many Americans.
Why do we think north is rich and south is poor? Some geographers (people who study the physical characteristics of the Earth) and psychologists have speculated (guessed) that it is because our culture associates “up” with good and “down” with bad.
When you’re feeling “up,” you’re happy. If you’re “down,” you’re sad. Christians believe Heaven is somewhere above us, “up there,” and Hell is “down” below. An “Uptown Girl” is, in Billy Joel’s song, a rich girl from the wealthy (that is, northern) part of the city.
“Up” on a map is, of course, the top of the map, which since the discovery of the north magnetic pole and the compass has been used to represent the northern part of whatever the map shows. We put the southern part on the bottom of the map. North is up and happy; south is down and sad.
Do the rich people in your city live in the northern part or the southern part? Is there a similar perception of “north = rich, south = poor” where you live?
Image credit: “Compass” from The Noun Project