Middle Class

California’s New Feudalism Benefits a Few at the Expense of the Multitude

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California has been the source of much innovation, from agribusiness and oil to fashion and the digital world. Historically much richer than the rest of the country, it was also the birthplace, along with Levittown, of the mass-produced suburb, freeways, much of our modern entrepreneurial culture, and of course mass entertainment. For most of a century, for both better and worse, California has defined progress, not only for America but for the world.  read more »

The Unrise of the Creative Working Class

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Scarcity leads to creativity out of necessity. That’s the pop culture meme at least. Think “starving artist,” or the survivors in Survivor. The thinking has penetrated the business culture as well. For example, in the shadow of the 2008 recession, Google founder Sergey Brin, in a letter to his shareholders, writes: “I am optimistic about the future, because I believe scarcity breeds clarity: it focuses minds, forcing people to think creatively and rise to the challenge.”  read more »

Democratic "Upstairs-Downstairs" Coalition at Risk

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Michael Bloomberg's passing from New York City Hall, and his likely replacement as mayor by a fire-breathing populist Democrat, Bill de Blasio, marks a historic shift, not just in urban politics but, potentially, also national politics. For 20 years, under first Rudy Giuliani and then Bloomberg, New Yorkers accepted a form of “trickle down economics” where Wall Street riches flowed into city coffers and kept Gotham, at least on the surface, humming and solvent.  read more »

The Next Urban Crisis, And How We Might Be Able To Avoid It

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Urban boosters are rightly proud of the progress American cities have made since their nadir in the 1970s; Harvard economist Ed Glaeser has gone so far as to proclaim “the triumph of the city.” Yet recent events — notably Detroit’s bankruptcy and the victory of left-wing populist Bill de Blasio in the Democratic primary of the New York mayoral election — suggest that the urban future may prove far more problematic than commonly acknowledged.  read more »

Inequality of the Largest U.S. Metropolitan Areas

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We earlier mapped inequality of the US states. Now I show the geography of inequality for metropolitan areas over 1,000,000.  These measures of inequality are gini coefficients, calculated by the US Census Bureau for 2005-2009. These indicate how amazingly severe inequality, or the concentration of income and wealth at the top, has become.  The gini is a measure of the departure of a curve of accumulated income, ranking from the poorest to the richest.  read more »

Book Review: 'The End of the Suburbs,' by Leigh Gallagher

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Suburbia has been a favorite whipping boy of urbane intellectuals, who have foretold its decline for decades. Leigh Gallagher's "The End of the Suburbs" is the latest addition to this tired but tireless genre. The book lacks the sparkling prose and original insights one could find in the works of, say, Jane Jacobs or Lewis Mumford. Indeed, Ms. Gallagher's book is little more than a distillation of the conventional wisdom that prevails at Sunday brunch in Manhattan.

The author restages many of the old anti-suburban claims, and her introduction's section headings easily give away the gist of the argument: "Millennials hate the burbs"; "Our households are shrinking"; "We are eco-obsessed"; "The suburbs are poorly designed to begin with"; and so on.  read more »

The Emerging Geography of Inequality

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Since the 1970s there has been a well-documented and persistent increase in income inequality in the United States. As the country slowly emerges out of a deep recession, it is instructive to seek out the geographic variation by states in the degree of inequality and the variation in both median and mean incomes.  read more »

Southern California's Road Back

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If the prospects for the United States remain relatively bright – despite two failed administrations – how about Southern California? Once a region that epitomized our country's promise, the area still maintains enormous competitive advantages, if it ever gathers the wits to take advantage of them.  read more »

Rust Belt Chic And The Keys To Reviving The Great Lakes

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Over four decades, the Great Lakes states have been the sad sack of American geography. This perception has been reinforced by Detroit’s bankruptcy filing and the descent of Chicago, the region’s poster child for gentrification, toward insolvency.  read more »

Mobility for the Poor: Car-Sharing, Car Loans, and the Limits of Public Transit

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Public transit systems intend to enhance local economies by linking people to their occupations. This presents problems for many  low-income families  dependent on transit for commuting. With rising prices at the gas pump, much hope has been placed on an influx of investment into public transit to help low-income households. But does public transit really help the poor?  read more »