Posts Tagged ‘cities’

Map of the day

Posted: 20 September 2015 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,


As Emily Badger and Lazaro Gamio explain,

Kansas City, St. Louis and and Baltimore are missing holes on a map of American prosperity. They are relatively low-income, encircled by wealth. Cross their county lines into the suburbs, and households there make, in many cases, nearly twice as much.

Same with Detroit, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Dallas.

The pattern is a classic American one, built through decades of postwar wealthy flight to the suburbs and disinvestment in cities. But it’s striking today how deeply entrenched this geometry remains at the county level, especially in an era when poverty is expanding into the suburbs and wealthier households are moving back in.

Map median household income by county as we have above with new Census data — showing every county with more than 65,000 people — and, over and over again, you get a similar pattern. There’s a lot of money in the suburbs, and a shortage of it in the city center.


[ht: ja]

Cities are back on the nation’s radar—as the dynamic location of the “knowledge economy” and the “creative class.”

What, then, about the other cities, the spaces of concentrated poverty, structural racism, and police violence? Well, for the past year, we’ve been learning about some of them: Detroit, Ferguson, and Baltimore.

Still, how are all these other cities—three of which are in New York (Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo), according to a new report from the Century Foundation—not on the nation’s radar?



As it turns out, the list of ten metropolitan areas with the highest concentration of Hispanic poverty includes seven of the same areas in the previous list: Syracuse, Detroit, Rochester, Milwaukee, Fresno, Buffalo, and Cleveland.


The concentration of non-Hispanic white poverty, in contrast, is highest in a somewhat different list of metropolitan areas. Detroit, again, and McAllen stand out with more than one-third of their white poor living in high-poverty areas. Detroit, Fresno, and Syracuse are the only metropolitan areas on all three lists, but the concentration of white poverty is much lower in Fresno than in Detroit or Syracuse. Smaller metropolitan areas with fewer than 1 million persons dominate all three lists, but New York, the largest, is included in the list of cities with the highest concentration of white poverty.


There’s no doubt that economic inequality is growing within the great cities, in the United State and around the world. The question is, is inequality killing what is great about those cities?

According to a new report by Alan Berube and Natalie Holmes for Brookings (in an update to an earlier study), inequality in the 50 largest cities in the United States (measured in terms of the disparity between the bottom 20 percent and the top 5 percent) is much higher than the national average.



Across the 50 largest cities, households in the 95th percentile of income earned 11.6 times as much as households at the 20th percentile, a considerably wider margin than the national average ratio of 9.3. This difference reflects the fact that in big cities the rich have higher incomes, and the poor lower incomes, than their counterparts nationally. From 2012 to 2013, the inequality ratio widened in both cities and the nation overall, as incomes at the top grew somewhat faster than incomes at the bottom. Notably, incomes grew faster for both the rich and poor in cities than they did elsewhere.

Similar trends have been reported elsewhere, in London and other major cities. (Baltimore, for those keeping track, was ranked twelfth in 2013 inequality, with a 95/20 ratio of 12.3.)

So, are these obscene levels of inequality destroying our cities?

Paul Krugman is not too sure about the historical lessons—but he does admit that “we’re now arguably looking at something new,”

as the really wealthy — domestic malefactors of great wealth, but also oligarchs, princelings, and sheiks — buy up prime real estate and leave it vacant, creating luxury-shopping wastelands at best (I know, snobbish Upper West Side bias), expensive ghost districts at worst.

David Harvey [ht: sk], for his part, sees increasing urbanization around the world connected to widespread “discontent emerging around the quality of urban life.”

So you can see this discontent producing uprisings in some instances, or mass protests like Gezi and what happened in Brazil shortly after Gezi. There is actually a long tradition of urban uprisings — the Paris Commune in 1871 and other instances well before that — but I think that the urban question is really becoming a central question today, and the qualities of urban life are moving to the forefront of what contemporary protests are about. . .

So we are seeing these sorts of emerging urban uprisings in a patchy way all around the world: in Buenos Aires, in Bolivia, in Brazil, etc. Latin America is full of this sort of stuff. But even in Europe we have seen major urban unrest: in London, Stockholm, Paris, and so on. What we have to do is to start thinking of a new form of politics, which is what anti-capitalism should fundamentally be about. Unfortunately, the traditional left still focuses narrowly on workers and the workplace, whereas now it’s the politics of everyday life that really matters.

The problem, as I see it, is neither Krugman nor Harvey offers a convincing class analysis that connects inequality with what is happening to and in the world’s cities. For Krugman, it’s a tiny group of wealthy oligarchs versus everyone else; Harvey seems to believe the “revolts in Baltimore and in Tahrir Square and so on” have nothing to do with the proletariat, at least as envisioned by Marx and Engels.

Now, I’m the first to admit the world has radically changed since the mid-nineteenth century. But that only means we have to update our class analysis of what is occurring within cities—where, to my mind, there is a broad class that is still doing most of the work and a tiny class at the top that is managing to capture a large portion of what those workers produce (within those cities and, in some instances, from cities across the globe). Otherwise, we’re going to fail to recognize the complex class dynamics of what is currently happening in our cities, and of course how they might be reshaped into urban centers that are worthy of the name of great cities.


Special mention

studet debt 163661_600


Special mention

163288_600 163208_600

economic segregation

It is not just that the economic divide in America has grown wider; it’s that the rich and poor effectively occupy different worlds, even when they live in the same cities and metros.

That’s the conclusion of a new study by Richard Florida and Charlotta Mellander [pdf]. What they do is construct an index of economic segregation based on three variables—income, education, and occupation—which are themselves highly correlated.

The ten large metropoles with the highest values on the Overall Economic Segregation Index are Austin, Columbus, San Antonio, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Dallas, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Memphis. When the listed is expanded to cover all metro areas, a number of college towns rise to the top: Tallahassee (home to Florida State University) jumps to first place and Trenton-Ewing (Princeton University) to second, while Austin falls to third. Tucson (University of Arizona) and Ann Arbor (University of Michigan) also make the list, along with Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk.

The least segregated large metropoles include Orlando, Portland, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Providence, and Virginia Beach. Rustbelt metros like Cincinnati, Rochester, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh also have relatively low levels of overall economic segregation.

Another notable finding is that economic segregation tends to be more intensive in high-tech, knowledge-based metropolitan areas. It is positively correlated with high-tech industry, the “creative class” share of the workforce, and the share of college graduates. In other words, the so-called new economy is less a cure and more a cause of the new levels of class segregation in urban America.

And the implication of their analysis?

Where cities and neighborhoods once mixed different kinds of people together, they are now becoming more homogenous and segregated by income, education, and occupation. Separating across these three key dimensions of socio-economic class, this bigger sort threatens to undermine the essential role that cities have played as incubators of innovation, creativity, and economic progress.

Chart of the day

Posted: 10 December 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,


Friends of mine were outraged by a recent article about Brooklyn [ht:ja], in which the author (and the newspaper that published the article) erased all parts of the borough that are not “DUMBO or Park Slope or Carroll Gardens or Williamsburg, or ANY gentrified, overwhelmingly white, hipsterish neighborhood.” In other words, the “Brooklyn brand” bears no relationship to the reality most people who live and work in the area know and experience every day.

As it turns out, the same disappearing act is taking place across the country, as every attempt to highlight the renaissance of the urban “creative class” hides the real poverty that is growing in American cities.

According to a new report by Joe Cortright and Dillon Mahmoudi,

  • From 1970 to 2010, the number of poor people living in high-poverty urban neighborhoods has more than doubled from two million to four million, and the number of high-poverty neighborhoods has nearly tripled from 1,100 to 3,100.
  • The poor in the nation’s metropolitan areas are increasingly segregated into neighborhoods of concentrated poverty. In 1970, 28 percent of the urban poor lived in a neighborhood with a poverty rate of 30 percent or more; by 2010, 39 percent of the urban poor lived in such high-poverty neighborhoods.


In other words, while a few neighborhoods have gentrified, experienced a reduction in poverty, and generated net population growth, many more neighborhoods—those that haven’t rebounded—have deteriorated, lost population, and remain high-poverty neighborhoods. Meanwhile, the U.S. economy is continually creating new levels of inequality and, with them, new high-poverty neighborhoods.

Just like much of Brooklyn.