Thursday, June 22, 2006

A troublesome trend?

A new Brookings study documents a substantial decline in middle class neighborhoods over the past 30 year:
Middle-class neighborhoods ... are losing ground in cities across the country, shrinking at more than twice the rate of the middle class itself.

In their place, poor and rich neighborhoods are both on the rise, as cities and suburbs have become increasingly segregated by income, according to a Brookings Institution study released today. It found that as a share of all urban and suburban neighborhoods, middle-income neighborhoods in the nation's 100 largest metro areas have declined from 58 percent in 1970 to 41 percent in 2000.

It is hard for me to see how this trend could be seen as a good thing. While we still have a lot to learn about neighborhood effects, it is hard for me to imagine that income segregation does not further reduce the set of opportunities available to those living in "poor" neighborhoods making it even harder for people to move from poortown to richville.

Update: Tony V. comments on John Edwards plan for more housing vouchers. If we are concerned about growing income segregation, housing vouchers are a potentially effective way of offsetting the trend. But, as Tony V. notes, the gains would have to be clearly balanced against the costs.

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