Study Shows Middle Class Communities Becoming Segregated Societies

October 20, 2013  |  


The divide between rich and poor is splitting apart neighborhoods, cutting the nation in two, according to a new study. The result is that middle-class communities are dying and are being replaced by a segregated society.

The study was conducted by Kendra Bischoff of Cornell University and Sean F. Reardon of Stanford University. What it found was that the “segregation of families by socioeconomic status” — i.e., the rich living among the rich and the poor living among the poor — has increased at a rapid clip in recent decades, reports The Huffington Post.

Politicians have long campaigned on the disappearing middle class, but this study has the hard proof. The percentage of American families living in middle-income neighborhoods decreased to 42 percent in 2009 from 65 percent in 1970, according to the study, which analyzes U.S. Census data.

So where did these families go? They migrated to each side of the spectrum. The percentage of families living in wealthy neighborhoods increased from 7 percent to 15 percent over that period. Meanwhile, the percentage living in poor neighborhoods jumped to18 percent from 8 percent.

“Thus, in 1970 only 15 percent of families lived in the one of the two extreme types of neighborhoods; by 2009 that number had more than doubled to 33 percent of families,” wrote the researchers.

The growing divide has strongly impacted the black and Hispanic communities, where the rich and poor of each racial group are dividing from one another at a pace far quicker than in the white community, reports the HuffPo.

For example, blacks of differing income levels were better integrated than whites in 1970, but far more segregated than whites of differing income levels by 2009 — or 65 percent more so than in the white community.

But this neighborhood divide reflects the country’s wider divide between rich and poor. “Between 1979 and 2007, the top fifth of earners experienced enjoyed income gains of 65 percent, compared with less than 40 percent for middle-income earners and less than 20 percent for the bottom fifth, according to the Congressional Budget Office,” reports the HuffPo.

And the researchers say the neighborhood divide between rich and poor may have long-lasting effects:

“Suppose that poor neighbors hinder children’s educational success because children observe fewer adults in their neighborhood with high educational attainment, and, by extension, fewer adults who have succeeded in school. Children in high-income neighborhoods observe just the opposite. In this case, income segregation would lead to educational inequality between high- and low-income children because it would produce large differences in children’s access to adult role models.”

The divide between rich and poor is something else that politicians have talked about, particularly on the left. This, too, is becoming an issue that will have to be addressed it seems in the not-so-distant future.

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