Middle Class

Urban Inequality Could Get Worse

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President Obama's stated objective to reduce inequality, as laid out in public addresses and budget plans, is a noble one. The growing income gap – not only between rich and poor, but also between the ultra-affluent and the middle class – poses a threat both to the economy and the long-term viability of our republic.

But ironically, what seems to be the administration's core proposal, ratcheting up the burden on "rich" taxpayers earning over $250,000, could have unintended consequences. For one thing, it would place undue stress on the very places that have been Obama's strongest supports, while providing an unintended boost to those regions that most oppose him.  read more »

The Aging of Paradise in Ventura County California

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You could say that Ventura County, just north of Los Angeles, represents what is best about California. Some people believe that its amenities – beaches, gorgeous interior valleys and parks – assure perpetual economic growth for Ventura County and California. They are wrong. There is trouble in paradise.

Ventura County has changed, and not for the better. It is aging, losing its demographic as well as economic vitality. This represents a relatively new phenomenon, the slow decline of even formerly healthy suburban areas.  read more »

Democrats Could Face an Internal Civil War as Gentry and Populist Factions Square Off

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This is the Democratic Party's moment, its power now greater than any time since the mid-1960s. But do not expect smooth sailing. The party is a fractious group divided by competing interests, factions and constituencies that could explode into a civil war, especially when it comes to energy and the environment.

Broadly speaking, there is a long-standing conflict inside the Democratic Party between gentry liberals and populists. This division is not the same as in the 1960s, when the major conflicts revolved around culture and race as well as on foreign policy. Today the emerging fault-lines follow mostly regional, geographical and, most importantly, class differences.  read more »

The Decline of Los Angeles

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Next week, Antonio Villaraigosa will be overwhelmingly re-elected mayor of Los Angeles. Do not, however, take the size of his margin – he faces no significant opposition – as evidence that all is well in the city of angels.

Whatever His Honor says to the media, the sad reality remains that Los Angeles has fallen into a serious secular decline. This constitutes one of the most rapid – and largely unnecessary – municipal reversals in fortune in American urban history.  read more »

What Does “Age of Hope” Mean in the Mississippi Delta?

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It was during the inaugural days that an article appeared in The Washington Post about the predominantly black Mississippi Delta going for Obama – no surprise! But juxtaposed in the same time period there appeared in a Kentucky newspaper the story of predominantly white Menifee County, my birthplace – deep in the heart of Appalachia – defying the red sea of Kentucky all around it and also going for Obama.  read more »

Death of the California Dream

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For decades, California has epitomized America's economic strengths: technological excellence, artistic creativity, agricultural fecundity and an intrepid entrepreneurial spirit. Yet lately California has projected a grimmer vision of a politically divided, economically stagnant state. Last week its legislature cut a deal to close its $42 billion budget deficit, but its larger problems remain.  read more »

The “To Do” List for Middle-Class New Yorkers

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This month, a new report from The Center For An Urban Future, Reviving The City of Aspiration, examines the squeeze on middle class New Yorkers.

The struggle to afford life’s basics—and a few indulgences, too—is nothing new to urbanites of modest means. A 1907 New York Times piece headlined 'Very Soon New York Will Be A City Without Resident Citizens' reported, “Life in the big city is becoming impossible to the average householder, living on an average income.” ‘Average’ necessities were identified as rent, home-cooked meals, servants wages, ice, and coal. Occasional luxuries included theater and restaurant visits.  read more »

Reviving the City of Aspiration: A Study of the Challenges Facing New York City's Middle Class

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For much of its history, New York City has thrived as a place that both sustained a large middle class and elevated countless people from poorer backgrounds into the ranks of the middle class. The city was never cheap and parts of Manhattan always remained out of reach, but working people of modest means—from forklift operators and bus drivers to paralegals and museum guides—could enjoy realistic hopes of home ownership and a measure of economic security as they raised their families across the other four boroughs.  read more »

New York Should End Its Obsession With Manhattan

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Over the past two years, I have had many opportunities to visit my ancestral home, New York, as part of a study out later this week by the Center for an Urban Future about the city's middle class. Often enough, when my co-author, Jonathan Bowles, and I asked about this dwindling species, the first response was "What middle class?"

Well, here is the good news. Despite Mayor Bloomberg's celebration of "the luxury city," there's still a middle class in New York, although not in the zip codes close to hizzoner's townhouse. These middle-class enclaves are as diverse as the city. Some are heavily ethnic, others packed with arty types, many of them more like suburbia than traditionally urban.  read more »

Report: Ontario, CA – A Geography for Unsettling Times

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These are unsettling times for almost all geographies. As the global recession deepens, there are signs of economic contraction that extend from the great financial centers of New York and London to the emerging market capitals of China, India and the Middle East. Within the United States as well, pain has been spreading from exurbs and suburbs to the heart of major cities, some of which just months ago saw themselves as immune to the economic contagion.

Without question, the damage to the economies of suburban regions such as the Inland Empire has been severe.  read more »