Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Tale of "Two Americas" Revisited?

According to a report in the Washington Post, the U.S. is losing it's middle class neighborhoods. While at the same time the story reports that rich and poor neighborhoods are growing. The story relies on a Brookings Institution study that was released yesterday. 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.

This study seems to be consistent with a report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this week reporting the continuing decline in population in Milwaukee County (-2%). Specifically the Journal Sentinel report pointed out large decreases in 14 of Milwaukee's 18 suburbs. Many of those suburbs have been the bastion of Milwaukee County's middle class. The paper found that wealthier areas such as Waukesha(+5%), Ozaukee(+4.6%), and Washington (+7.4%) Counties saw large increases.

The Journal Sentinel story rhetorically asks why we should care about these population estimates. It quickly answers the question like this:
They show where homes, roads and shopping malls are being built, where jobs are created, how the overall quality of life is sustained.

During the 2004 Presidential Campaign John Edwards often spoke of the "Two Americas." It described an America where the wealthy added to their riches while the middle class struggled to stay out of the poor house. With few people in positions of power that are willing to do something about this problem, it seems that the trend will sadly continue in a downward spiral.

1 comment:

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