The decline of America's middle-class neighborhoods
The decline of America’s middle-class neighborhoods
New research shows a steady increase in the extent to which Americans are geographically divided by income. The below charts are from a paper by Kendra Bischoff and Sean Reardon, professors at Cornell and Stanford respectively, on what they refer to as “residential segregation by income”. (h/t to Kevin Drum)
They find a shrinking number of Americans live in middle class neighborhoods, and a growing number of people living in poor, affluent, or high income areas.
Drum worries the trend means that the “well-off have less and less interaction with the poor outside of the market economy, and less and less empathy for how they live their lives.”
The researchers also found a marked increase in family income segregation by race.
Bischoff and Reardon discuss the impact of black and Hispanc families living in increasingly income-segregated neighborhoods:
These trend lines can be thought of as describing the extent to which families’ exposure to same-race neighbors of varying income levels has changed over time. Increasing income segregation among black families means that poor black families have fewer middle-class black neighbors in 2009 than in 1970.
The trends… highlight the growing socioeconomic diversity within historically disadvantaged groups. This pattern among black and Hispanic families may exacerbate “concentrated disadvantage” when coupled with the persistent racial segregation that pervades most American metropolitan areas. In short, racial segregation coupled with income segregation means that low-income black and Hispanic families will tend to cluster in communities that are disadvantaged along a number of dimensions, such as average educational attainment, family structure, and unemployment.
The researchers also note that “during the last four decades, the isolation of the rich has been consistently greater than the isolation of the poor,” a topic they argue deserves further study:
The increasing geographic isolation of affluent families means that a significant proportion of society’s resources are concentrated in a smaller and smaller proportion of neighborhoods. This has consequences for low- and middle-income families: the isolation of the rich may lead to lower public and private investments in resources, services, and amenities that benefit large shares of the population, such as schools, parks, and public services.