The Growing Separation In Neighborhoods

May 5, 2016

by David Levine, President & CEO

In this New York Times article, Tom Edsall highlights the growing separation of upper income Americans (the proverbial “one percent”) from other income strata. This separation has been widening over the last forty years.  Edsall reports that from 1970 to 2012 the percentage of children living in affluent neighborhoods more than doubled to 16 percent; while the percentage of children living in middle income neighborhoods fell from 68 to 45 percent.

Edsall calls it the “insulated world at the top” that is separating itself “by geography and by education and as well by income.”  Edsall notes that this separation becomes self-perpetuating, as other income classes do not benefit from the spillover and positive impact of living in more prosperous neighborhoods.

That is, mixed-income neighborhoods lift the life outcomes for all residents in a more profound way than concentrated rich or poor neighborhoods.  The more affluent neighborhoods have better-resourced schools, municipal services, employment opportunities, and greater income mobility and security.  The less affluent households who reside in these neighborhoods benefit from a better environment for these public goods and opportunities.

In the recent North Hill community meeting, it was emphasized that the community would be one of mixed-income households.  The multi-family rental apartment building will house households with incomes from 30 to 60 percent of the area median income; while the separate but contiguous townhome development will have more affluent households, those above-80 percent of the area median income.

That appears to be a good model — and one that is going in the face of social trends over the last few decades.