“The Rise of Economic Segregation
Emily Badger. Aug 2, 2012
Income inequality has been on the rise in America for several decades now (for complicated reasons that we’ll let Richard Florida explain), and the trend has been starker in some regions of the country, and in some cities, relative to others. Now, however, we are also beginning to see – all the way down to the neighborhood level – that America’s growing gap between the rich and poor is also affecting where (and with whom) we live.
A new report from the Pew Research Center documents that it’s not just income inequality that’s increasing. Residential segregation by income is, too.
“Growing income inequality does not automatically lead to growing residential segregation by income. Conceivably, we could still have a middle class hollowing out but people still living in mixed neighborhoods,” says Paul Taylor, one of the report’s authors. Turns out this is not, however, what is happening. As Americans are growing farther apart on the income scale, we are also effectively moving apart from each other within cities, into our own economic enclaves. So why is that? The answer, Taylor says, may lie more in human behavior than economic data.
“We know over the whole entirety of human history that people have a tremendous tendency to cluster among themselves, whether in tribes, whether in nations,” Taylor says. “Like attracts like. That’s not always the case for some people who value diversity. But it’s sort of hardwired into human nature.”
In 1980, the report found, 85 percent of census tracts in America were either predominantly middle-class or mixed-income (this is a pretty impressive number). As of 2010, that figure had fallen to 76 percent. Today, considerably more upper-income Americans live in neighborhoods where the majority of their neighbors are upper-income, too (18 percent, up from 8 percent in 1980). And lower-income households are increasingly clustered in the same neighborhoods, as well (28 percent, up from 23 percent in 1980).
Combine these two effects, and residential income segregation has been increasing in 27 of the 30 largest cities in the U.S. over the last three decades. Looking at census tracts from 2010, 41 percent of lower-income households in the New York metropolitan area were economically “segregated” in low-income communities. At the other end of the spectrum, Houston has the highest share of upper-income households – at 24 percent – living mostly among their own kind, too.”
Via: The Atlantic Cities
Map: Pew Research Center