Itâ€™s Hard to Live in the City
Tuesday, June 23, 2009 at 04:11 PM EDT
The American ran a really great article last week on some recent demographic shifts in Americaâ€™s biggest cities (esp. New York). Joel Kotkin documents how urban areas have increasingly transformed into playgrounds where an elite class entertains themselves, where the middle-class (and almost anyone with kids) can barely afford to hang around.
â€œâ€¦ in Manhattan, where the rich are concentrated, the disparities between the classes have been rising steadily. In 1980 it ranked 17th among the nationâ€™s counties for social inequality; today it ranks first, with the top fifth of wage earners earning 52 times that of the lowest fifth, a disparity roughly comparable to that of Namibia.â€
Itâ€™s ironic that cities can maintain the appearance of being diverse by having low-pay service employees commute in from the periphery, when in reality what is emerging is a super-dense version of suburban-style uniformity. As Joel points out, â€œSince the 1990s virtually all the gains made in the New York economy have accrued to the highest income earners.â€ Some NYC demographics here.
This is part of some bigger patterns in the country (middle-class getting squeezed, rising income inequality). And it resonates with the remark you hear around New York, that the city is capitalism on speed, an amplification of the market-mindset and all its problems.
Regardless, Iâ€™m really excited Iâ€™m going to be back there this summer.
This article originally appeared on Anthony Kammer's blog.