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The problems of economic segregation and US cities.
March 24, 2014 12:19 PM   Subscribe

In the first two parts of a five-part series, The Atlantic looks at US cities with the highest levels of income segregation and US cities where the poor are segregated from everyone else. (dlTheAtlantic)
posted by Kitteh (44 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Cleveland, once again on all the wrong top ten lists.
posted by Sequence at 12:21 PM on March 24


Interesting that Baltimore (given the recent discussion here about "Smalltimore") doesn't show up at all on the first set of lists and ranks pretty low on the second.
posted by yoink at 12:29 PM on March 24


And here's a recent-ish (2011) ranking of the metro areas with the greatest inequality, regardless of size:

1. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT
2. Naples-Marco Island, FL
3. Brownsville-Harlingen, TX
4. NYC-Northern NJ-Long Island, NY-NJ
5. (tie) McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX
5. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL
7. Trenton-Ewing, NJ
8. (tie) Shreveport-Bossier City, LA
8. Tallahassee, FL
10. (tie) Charleston, WV
10. Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord, NC-SC
10. Lexington-Fayette, KY
10. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA


And the most equal metros, again regardless of size:

1. Ogden-Clearfield, UT
2. York-Hanover, PA
3. Lancaster, PA
4. Anchorage, AK
5. Reading, PA
6. Vallejo-Fairfield, CA
7. Provo-Orem, UT
8. Salem, OR
9. (tie) Colorado Springs, CO
9. Honolulu, HI


Utah and Pennsylvania, man. What's the secret?
posted by Iridic at 12:35 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]


Interestingly, on both lists of less-segregated places, I have lived in and/or visited most and found them to be really nice places. I've never picked a place to live on that basis, but it clearly is playing into my choices and preferences.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:35 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]


It's telling that all four of the major metro areas of Texas made the income segregation top 10 list.
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:41 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]


Utah and Pennsylvania, man. What's the secret?

Racial homegeneity is positively correlated with low levels of income segregation.

Basically, a lot of what income segregation is telling us is that in aggregate we're racist.
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:42 PM on March 24 [22 favorites]


It's telling that all four of the major metro areas of Texas made the income segregation top 10 list.

And also really interesting that the converse is true of major metro areas in Florida. I wonder what that's all about.
posted by saladin at 12:43 PM on March 24


Pennsylvania is red state Philadelphia (deep blue on the map) and the rest of the state - red politically - is not. No secret there.
posted by three blind mice at 12:43 PM on March 24


Well, excepting Miami, which is sort of a mixed bag.
posted by saladin at 12:44 PM on March 24


Living in D.C. - where the income chasm is on display almost everywhere, and where income segregation is accelerating at an incredible pace - it's stomach-churning that we didn't even make the list.
posted by ryanshepard at 12:46 PM on March 24


Devil's Rancher, the articles mention higher density leading to more and more income-based sorting, and those four Texas areas are all growing very rapidly. So the poor in those cities are perhaps victims of others' (and the state's overall) success.
posted by resurrexit at 12:49 PM on March 24


Utah and Pennsylvania, man.

Excepting Philadelphia (+Camden & Wilmington) is #7 on the Atlantic's list of America's "Most Income-Segregated Large Metros," and the "New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island," which includes a slice of PA and ranks #3.

In conclusion, Pennsylvania is a land of contrasts.
posted by cjelli at 12:49 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]


it's stomach-churning that we didn't even make the list.

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV is number 5.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 12:55 PM on March 24 [2 favorites]


And here I thought Snyder's of Hanover was a beacon of egalitarianism.
posted by Iridic at 12:57 PM on March 24 [2 favorites]


And also really interesting that the converse is true of major metro areas in Florida. I wonder what that's all about.

When I was living in Northeastern FL - Daytona Beach, but Orlando and Gainesville were similar - it was down to developers who were never told "no" by anyone, and excellent, well maintained public roads. You'd have little housing developments of tiny cinder-block houses, and they'd be a two blocks down the boulevard from a gated McMansion community, separated by thick, Florida forrest. It's defined by building booms dating back to Henry Flagler's time, and seemingly limitless area to build and expand. So, you'd have all of these residential areas all jumbled up into each other.

Condo complexes can explain some of it, too - cheap and nice. Cheaper to own than to rent, as the saying goes, and a lot of them were bought to rent out. You generally neither knew nor cared that your neighbors were poor, as the condo association took care of all of the exterior maintenance and it's Florida, even the crappy old cars aren't rusted out eyesores, just a little outdated. And these little condo complexes were everywhere.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:59 PM on March 24 [3 favorites]


Utah and Pennsylvania, man. What's the secret?

Anyone who can afford to get out of there already has?

I keed, of course. Clearly it's their forward-thinking liquor laws.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:04 PM on March 24 [3 favorites]


Living in D.C. - where the income chasm is on display almost everywhere, and where income segregation is accelerating at an incredible pace - it's stomach-churning that we didn't even make the list.

We made #5. We would have been higher if we weren't moving rich people into poor neighborhoods as quickly as we can move the poor into PG county.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:04 PM on March 24


When I was living in Northeastern FL

That totally jibes with my experience living in St. Augustine. I hadn't thought about it in terms of land use, and that's a really interesting explanation. But I wonder how that fits in a town like Houston, which is famous for its "anything goes" approach to zoning, and which still has significant economic segregation.
posted by saladin at 1:05 PM on March 24


So the poor in those cities are perhaps victims of others' (and the state's overall) success.

I could certainly see that. Houston & Austin certainly have seen a lot of "revitalization" in the last 20 years, with the attendant movement of the working class & poor out into the 70's suburban donut.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:08 PM on March 24


Madison, WI, despite all the rhetoric and liberal feelgoodness is pretty dang bad when it comes to integration and such. We have a few progressive council members who have been trying to work on integrated housing (low-income + regular rental units) and I think that has helped some what compared to how it used to be, though I could be wrong. Regardless, it really is a blight on this otherwise progressive city. Well, that and, frankly, the overwhelming gentrification.
posted by symbioid at 1:11 PM on March 24


I was very surprised to see Portland at #2 for least income-segregated, until I saw that they defined Portland metro as "Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro," and thus left out Gresham/Clackamas, which is sort of like just circling the more affluent half of the city and saying, yep, not segregated. So, eh.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:22 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]


Lutoslawski, the OMB metro area names aren't comprehensive. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro includes all of Clackamas and Multnomah counties (along with five others).
posted by theodolite at 1:27 PM on March 24


Interesting. Thanks for pointing that out. I guess I'm still surprised, though maybe I just don't realize how much worse it is in many other places.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:31 PM on March 24


One interesting aspect of cross-reading both articles published so far is that metros with significantly higher proportions of students are more segregated economically. My experience growing up and attending college back east (both is smaller towns and medium sized cities) is the schools themselves were in economically depressed parts of town. Student poverty and white flight decimated in-city college neighborhoods.
What's interesting about where I live now is that's not true; most of Seattle's tertiary schools are in wealthier-than-middle-class neighborhoods. Perhaps that's cyclic; fancy dorms and houses decay, when lucky are renewed (as is happening around Seattle Central Community College and Seattle University).
posted by Dreidl at 1:36 PM on March 24


I wonder if lumping North Jersey into NYC made it more or less equal. I also wonder what they define as North Jersey.
posted by lownote at 1:56 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]


Note that Boston is listed as more segregated than Orlando.

Then note the reason:

Lots of wealthy people living in Boston, while nobody with money wants to live in Orlando.

Then ask yourself, if you were shit broke, where would you rather live?

In Boston, where a couple of dollars brings you to these wealthy neighborhoods where you can find work or at least make a point of making yourself visible to these aforementioned wealthy people?

Or in Orlando, where to do anything about your poverty, you have to start by gettign ownership of a car?

In Boston, where poor people walking through wealthy areas is normal?

Or in Orlando, where it draws police and vigilante attention?

Someone's doing a little too much playing with his new GIS software, and needs a walk outside so he can write something more useful.
posted by ocschwar at 2:14 PM on March 24 [6 favorites]


I love how "we have absolutely no data on thousands upon thousands of people and have no idea how they actually survive" is never in boldface at the beginning of any of these discussions. Kind of like how people love to throw around "unemployment rate" numbers that are so caveat-laced as to lose almost all meaning.

It would be fascinating to see someone do some hard evidence-based research into how Americans live, what they earn, how they spend it, etc. from the presumption that all existing knowledge is based in total horseshit and wishful thinking. If more people had any solid idea just how hopeless the "start off in any given public school, just try hard, follow your dreams, and you'll be fine" mentality is then we might start to see some actual substantial progressive change.
posted by trackofalljades at 2:14 PM on March 24


Living in the bay area, I know there are poorer people who commute three plus hours to work in SF, and rich people who commute over the golden gate bridge. I wonder if either are captured by this methodology?
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:15 PM on March 24


BrotherCaine I was wondering the same thing about Honolulu, much like Manhattan the vast majority of the people who make that city actually function can't possibly live there...only since unlike Manhattan there's little to no mass transit infrastructure the average commute from "affordable" (ROFL) housing on the far leeward/ewa side of Oahu is 4,5, 6 or more hours daily in stop-and-go traffic (in direct tropical sunlight both ways). If one imagines how that destroys a car, yeah, it's not great on humans either.
posted by trackofalljades at 2:20 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]


I guess Chicago's insane levels of racial segregation inhibit efficient income segregation. (Hello Bronzeville!)
posted by PMdixon at 2:32 PM on March 24


BrotherCaine and trackofalljades, the entire purpose of the MSA designation is to include neighboring counties where a significant proportion of residents commute to the city center. So the Honolulu MSA includes all of Oahu, and the SF one includes Marin, Alameda, Contra Costa, and San Mateo counties.
posted by theodolite at 2:44 PM on March 24


This is an interesting report but the analysis leaves me unsatisfied. I would say that it makes perfect sense that Texas would have large amounts of income inequality in neighborhoods - we have both the population and the room to spread out. But it seems to me like Florida should be facing the same factors, so where does that difference come from?
posted by muddgirl at 3:02 PM on March 24


What income do retirees have?
posted by Huffy Puffy at 3:46 PM on March 24


US cities where the poor are segregated from everyone else.

Milwaukee bringin' home the trophy once again.
posted by MikeMc at 3:50 PM on March 24 [2 favorites]


Brownsville and McAllen have colonias, which probably brings the poverty average really low. If you've never heard about conditions in colonias, think developing country, handbuilt homes without sewers, fresh water, or paved roads.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 4:25 PM on March 24 [3 favorites]


Memphis, once again on all the wrong top lists.
posted by grimjeer at 4:27 PM on March 24


Once again, Arizona is two different states. Poor Tucson, it's like a little blue-state trapped inside a red-state.
posted by _paegan_ at 4:49 PM on March 24


Bridgeport, Conn always astonished me with its poverty-adjacent-to-wealth. I haven't been there in decades, but back when New York's Times Square was seedy, Bridgeport had a rep for so much worse. Like, you might get mugged by a stranger in New York, or killed by a stranger in Bridgeport. I don't know if that reputation was deserved, or just because New York had more than poverty and crime, while Bridgeport seemed to have only poverty and crime.

The one beacon of positivity was the University of Bridgeport, which had a decent engineering program. It's now owned by the Unification Church.
posted by zippy at 4:58 PM on March 24


This is an interesting analysis, but it ignores the effects of how census tracts are drawn and how that may have changed over time. Since tracts aren't necessarily natural collections, they may not be representative of how income segregated a given metro area is.

That said, their results generally jibe with my experiences of the metros I've spent enough time in to gain my own perception of their income segregation, so the biases may be more important when comparing to historical data than when looking at the results for any given point in time.
posted by wierdo at 5:18 PM on March 24


Minneapolis does well, which is more or less my experience. There are some really really nice streets, but off on either side there are totally normal affordable houses and apartments. I'm not sure if this is the result of any real policy so much as just having a very non-frothy and predictable real estate market.
posted by miyabo at 5:32 PM on March 24


Minneapolis does well, which is more or less my experience.

While the data appears to reinforce your argument, this is baffling to me. I love Minneapolis but the biggest problem it has by far is the income segregation. South Minneapolis is where all of the income is, while the North is quite poor. It is fairly racially segregated along the exact lines you'd predict with that division. The neighborhood I live in has real problems with not having houses at certain levels, particularly because of an infill boom. So basically, you might be able to find an old home on the semi-cheap, or buy a very expensive house, but nothing in between.

For me it's very strange that Minneapolis ranks in the good part of this list, because the disparity here is enough of a problem that our current mayor ran on a platform of trying to address that as the biggest problem the city faces.

I guess that means the rest of the country is worse off. Great.
posted by mcstayinskool at 6:25 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]


US cities where the poor are segregated from everyone else.

MikeMc : Milwaukee bringin' home the trophy once again.

Not to mention that for, I don't know how many years running, we are also still the most segregated city by race.

Hell yeah; our racism and culture warring are both systemic and fully entrenched! So much so that I can't even get my minority friends to consider moving out of the inner city to the suburbs; because that's something that just isn't done.

Parts of the South may think they've got the monopoly on old school racism, but here in the mostly blue state of Wisconsin, we still can play hardball with the worst of them.

:(
posted by quin at 8:21 PM on March 24 [2 favorites]


So much so that I can't even get my minority friends to consider moving out of the inner city to the suburbs; because that's something that just isn't done.

I sure wouldn't want to be the only black person in some lily-white Brookfield cul-de-sac. I haven't heard any recent reports of cross-burnings, but I'm sure it takes a will of steel to survive the social ostracism. People aren't too subtle around here.
posted by desjardins at 12:36 PM on March 25



I sure wouldn't want to be the only black person in some lily-white Brookfield cul-de-sac. I haven't heard any recent reports of cross-burnings, but I'm sure it takes a will of steel to survive the social ostracism. People aren't too subtle around here.


If you lived in a Brookfield cul-de-sac and got ostracized, how would you notice?
posted by ocschwar at 2:49 PM on March 25 [1 favorite]


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