Middle Class

The Mobility Paradox: Investing in Human Capital Fuels Migration

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China has an interesting urban development strategy. The government bypasses those areas that it considers backward and plagued by poverty and entrenched political corruption. Instead, the investment goes into those areas it presumes to be new boomtowns.

Now imagine if that Darwinian approach was used here in the United States. A report (“City Beautiful”) authored by two economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia advocates pushing federal infrastructure dollars – which could soon be flowing in the hundreds of billions – not towards our tired, hard-pressed urban areas but those that have experienced the greatest extent of gentrification.  read more »

Current Policy Overlooks the New Homeless

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San Francisco: A Chevron employee is forced to move his family of four into their Mitsubishi Gallant after being laid off…

Atlanta: Jeniece Richards moved from Michigan to Atlanta a year ago, but despite her best efforts, and two college degrees, remains homeless. She is living in temporary housing with her two children and younger brother…

Denver: As Carrie Hinkle’s hours dwindled, she was forced to choose between paying rent or buying food for her daughter. The two are now working with local agencies towards permanent housing, again…

These stories, plucked from the headlines of the past months are more than the typical holiday coverage. They show faces of the newly homeless, growing as the economy crumbles and opportunities fade.  read more »

Class and the Future of Planning

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Economic segregation may be a foregone conclusion, as studies have long suggested. For one thing, our first tendency is to buy the best place we can afford, intentionally locating to those parts of a region that appeal to others with similar buying power. Secondly, we tend to buy something most suitable to our tastes, which steers us into areas populated by those with similar viewpoints.

The implications for contemporary planning processes are profound, especially since current best practices revolve so much around form and style and take so little measure of economics, choice, and consequence.  read more »

A Housing Boom, but for Whom?

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By Susanne Trimbath and Juan Montoya

We just passed an era when the “American Dream” of home ownership was diminished as the growth of home prices outpaced income. From 2001 through 2006, home prices grew at an annual average of 6.85%, more than three times the growth rate for income.

This divergence between income and housing costs has turned out to be a disaster, particularly for buyers at the lower end of the spectrum. In contrast, affluent buyers – those making over $120,000 – the bubble may still have been a boom, even if not quite as large as many had hoped for.  read more »

Oregon’s Fringes: A New Rural Alternative

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Once the bastion of a thriving rural middle class, Oregon’s rural communities are now barely scraping by. The state’s timber industry employed 81,400 residents at its peak in 1978. At the time, the industry made up 49% of all manufacturing jobs in the state according to the Oregon Employment Department.

Since then, the recessions of the early eighties and nineties, increased land-use restriction, decreased timber supply, global competition and automation of the timber industry have devastated rural communities that relied on once-plentiful timber jobs.  read more »

Auto Bailout: Help Mississippi, Not Michigan

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We should be getting used to the depressing spectacle of once-great corporations begging for assistance from Washington. Yet perhaps nothing is more painful than to see General Motors and other big U.S.-based car companies – once exemplars of both American economic supremacy and middle-class aspirations – fall to such an appalling state.

Yet if GM represents all that is bad about the American economy, particularly manufacturing, it does not represent the breadth of our industrial landscape. Indeed, even as the dull-witted leviathan sinks, many nimble companies have shown remarkable resiliency.  read more »

Michigration: It's Not About Out-migration in Michigan

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Pertaining to brain drain hype, Michigan has no equal. So profound is the out-migration that a local broadcasting network coined a term: Michigration. This was in January of 2008. I did a little digging and discovered the fuel for the story was a United Van Lines study about Michigan’s net loss of residents.

Net population loss is often confused with emigration. Upstate New York, another brain drain case for a future article, is no exception. The Federal Reserve Bank branch in Buffalo issued a report that tried to clear up the confusion, explicitly stating the challenge is attracting more people instead of the assumed issue of retention.  read more »

Understanding the Geography of the 2008 Election

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Scholars as well as pundits and politicians will study this remarkable election exhaustively. Many, including me, will use county data, because they are convenient and available. From a statistical point of view, counties are lousy units, because of huge variation in size and excess internal variability. But we can’t resist, so here are some at least suggestive findings.  read more »

Urban Infill With Less Hype and More Serendipity

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By Richard Reep

Urban infill in cities of the Southeast follows typical patterns: assemblage of several blocks of older building stock at a low price; careful navigation through the zoning and public process to mix uses and increase density; and finally design and construction of parking, office, residential, and retail uses. The next phase is often marked by alienation and departure of the existing surrounding residents, concerns of safety and security within the development, and a socioeconomic wall between new and old.  read more »

Island of Broken Dreams

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A The New York Times editorial wonders why foreclosure rates are so high in the two Long Island counties it rightly calls the “birthplace of the suburban American Dream.” After all, the area has “a relative lack of room to sprawl.” which in Times-speak should be a good thing, since “sprawl” is by definition both bad and doomed.

Yet it is precisely the constraints on new housing that has served as a principal cause for Long Island problems.  read more »