Monday, July 29, 2013

stranded by sprawl...,

NYTimes | Detroit is a symbol of the old economy’s decline. It’s not just the derelict center; the metropolitan area as a whole lost population between 2000 and 2010, the worst performance among major cities

Atlanta, by contrast, epitomizes the rise of the Sun Belt; it gained more than a million people over the same period, roughly matching the performance of Dallas and Houston without the extra boost from oil.
Yet in one important respect booming Atlanta looks just like Detroit gone bust: both are places where the American dream seems to be dying, where the children of the poor have great difficulty climbing the economic ladder. In fact, upward social mobility — the extent to which children manage to achieve a higher socioeconomic status than their parents — is even lower in Atlanta than it is in Detroit. And it’s far lower in both cities than it is in, say, Boston or San Francisco, even though these cities have much slower growth than Atlanta. 

So what’s the matter with Atlanta? A new study suggests that the city may just be too spread out, so that job opportunities are literally out of reach for people stranded in the wrong neighborhoods. Sprawl may be killing Horatio Alger. 

The new study comes from the Equality of Opportunity Project, which is led by economists at Harvard and Berkeley. There have been many comparisons of social mobility across countries; all such studies find that these days America, which still thinks of itself as the land of opportunity, actually has more of an inherited class system than other advanced nations. The new project asks how social mobility varies across U.S. cities, and finds that it varies a lot. In San Francisco a child born into the bottom fifth of the income distribution has an 11 percent chance of making it into the top fifth, but in Atlanta the corresponding number is only 4 percent. 

When the researchers looked for factors that correlate with low or high social mobility, they found, perhaps surprisingly, little direct role for race, one obvious candidate. They did find a significant correlation with the existing level of inequality: “areas with a smaller middle class had lower rates of upward mobility.” This matches what we find in international comparisons, where relatively equal societies like Sweden have much higher mobility than highly unequal America. But they also found a significant negative correlation between residential segregation — different social classes living far apart — and the ability of the poor to rise. 

And in Atlanta poor and rich neighborhoods are far apart because, basically, everything is far apart; Atlanta is the Sultan of Sprawl, even more spread out than other major Sun Belt cities. This would make an effective public transportation system nearly impossible to operate even if politicians were willing to pay for it, which they aren’t. As a result, disadvantaged workers often find themselves stranded; there may be jobs available somewhere, but they literally can’t get there. 

The apparent inverse relationship between sprawl and social mobility obviously reinforces the case for “smart growth” urban strategies, which try to promote compact centers with access to public transit. But it also bears on a larger debate about what is happening to American society. I know I’m not the only person who read the Times article on the new study and immediately thought, “William Julius Wilson.” 

A quarter-century ago Mr. Wilson, a distinguished sociologist, famously argued that the postwar movement of employment out of city centers to the suburbs dealt African-American families, concentrated in those city centers, a heavy blow, removing economic opportunity just as the civil rights movement was finally ending explicit discrimination. And he further argued that social phenomena such as the prevalence of single mothers, often cited as causes of lagging black performance, were actually effects — that is, the family was being undermined by the absence of good jobs.


umbrarchist said...

Everybody is brainwashed to concentrate on JOBS and CASH FLOW. The government taxes the cash flow. How many high school graduates even know what NET WORTH is? What would have happened if Malcolm X and Martin Luther King had been demanding mandatory accounting for Black kids in the 60s? To hell with eating at the lunch counters with the White folks.


Economists can talk about Detroit now but they don't say anything about what Americans lost on the depreciation of all of the cars from there since the 50s when Detroit was at its peak.

Oh! What is Planned Obsolescence? Find it in an economics textbook.

CNu said...

What would have happened if Malcolm X and Martin Luther King had been demanding mandatory accounting for Black kids in the 60s?

lol, we'd be sitting much prettier if they'd just demanded our long overdue 40 acres and a mule...,

Ed Dunn said...

There was an attempt to make the center of Atlanta high density but then there was a road bump - Atlanta has a poor water supply and cannot sustain a high-density population. In addition, the pipes and sewer system in Atlanta are old and antiquated and need to be replaced so a bond was going to raise the funds - until the economy took a nosedive and the bond rating drop on a majority of cities going through a housing crisis and lost their tax base.

However, I do agree with the premise of this article, it is dangerous and career risky to live in the sprawl area which I done in the past. My commute was 35 miles each way to 70 miles a day to a tune of 2 hours in traffic, losing valuable personal time. After moving into the city, I started living more urban with bike trails, commuting on mass transit and it turned out cheaper and have a best use of resource of my time.

Count Weevil said...

I live on a tropical island that is both center and edge of American power. Here, we are doubling down on the suburban model while a tropical depression plunges the more depressed rural districts of our largest island into darkness. Short sightedness. But there is no better seat on the Titanic than where I stay.

CNu said...

I remember a little something about Atlanta being thirsty

CNu said...

I was out in your old stomping grounds several weeks ago at a technology conference hosted right around the corner from the MOAD. Interesting characterization of Elysium as the center and the edge. Your ambit includes the elite civic community, how do you account for their failure of vision and influence? Indifference, disengagement, no means of politically shaping outcomes?

umbrarchist said...

Only if we had gotten it. If I could turn blue I would hold my breath but I'm too dark.

Count Weevil said...

Elysium? Not quite -- people go to Elysium to *stay*, whereas a huge bulk of our population is *transitory*. There are patches of Paradise in "paradise," ruled of course by elite entertainers... and huge swaths of semi-developed rural areas that are soon to be geo-thermally raped (basically, fracked)... plus various lightweight urban "hoods," and high-rise clusters... not to mention the best beaches belonging to the US military.

The volcanic hotspot I currently call home is living out a long legacy of state and corporate colonialism that started with the illegal overthrow of the original (far from perfect, and arguably corrupted-by-Missionaries) Hawaiian monarchy by the likes of Dole. Sugar and pineapple turned to hotels and resorts, farms turned to suburbs without intermediate development stages, and the state has never looked back -- despite high probabilities that if the boats stop coming, it's about 3-7 days before martial law goes into effect. Not Mogadishu, but certainly APCs on the beach while you still have Wifi and have to carry ID to pass thru checkpoints.

The state has long been dominated by a democratic legislature (Detroit?) that essentially re-inscribes the plantation day hierarchies and underlying economic priorities set by 1) the military, and 2) tourism. The governor pays some lip service to "sustainability" and he is definitely a relief from Linda Lingle (who in an earlier era would have been a "moderate" Republican.)

But the realities of climate change, sea level rise, military downsizing, etc. seem to be straight up ignored by the legislature. Possibly because when they leave their offices at the end of the day it's a perfect 85 degrees and the beach is waiting for them... /seemingly every day forever./

Never have I lived in a place where the overwhelming generosity of Nature has made people so short-sighted and one might argue, unmotivated.

The presence of Target, Walmart, Home Depot etc. produces the mass hallucination that one can indeed exist in the middle of the Pacific Ocean as if there were giant magical bridges connecting these islands to the mainland.

I have taught high school (we rank in the bottom 10/50) students simple facts about where their trash goes (or *doesn't* go, depending on the garbage mafia) and it is always met with gasps and sullen silence.

CNu said...

C'mon magne.., 25% of your net electric generation is geothermal and your biggest commercial generator is run on locally grown biofuels, and you have continuous sunshine, so photovoltaic is humming right along - all-in-all - not an atrocious sustainability profile.

Y'all look a bit like Brazil with volcanoes on tap for all the geothermal you can eat, as much wind and sunlight as you can use, and compact nuclear reactors sitting out there in the big metal boats to provide emergency generation and desalination in the event of an "emergency".

Where does the trash go by the way?

DD said...

Interesting about mobility. I move to Mill Valley, CA in 6 days. My oldest is starting Kindergarten and we want to ensure she is swept along by her peer group to success. I'm going from top of the economic ladder for my current area to low-middle; hopefully a good choice.


CNu said...

Interesting, this would've tucked into the First Class post as easily as this one...,

Count Weevil said...

Eh... no inter-island powa infrastructure brah!

So Hawaii island might have 25% geothermal, but none of it is going to the main appetite: Oahu. This, of course, is a highly contentious issue; Molokai narrowly avoided becoming nothing more than a wind-based battery for the Capital Isle -- but indigenous Hawaiians weren't feeling the idea of giant windmills in their back yards... or the out-of-state corporations that are running most of the alternative power show (which includes highly opaque management of geothermal on the Big Island).

Solar is on the rise on houses that can now afford it... but given the fact that many working class homes have heated their water this way since the 70's it is truly bizarre that the bulk of residential housing isn't off the grid 30+ years later...

Wind is always tempered by the NIMBY factor cuz nobody but indigenous Hawaiians get the turbines on their properties.

The biofuel generator isn't running right now because they fucked up the land deal that would actually grow the grass that would be used! So for a while we were literally *importing* biomass to burn in it.

Bulk of our trash is *allegedly* incinerated by H-Power, that's what the PR rep told me... Some goes into a dangerously full landfill (once again in an area that has been "given" to indigenous Hawaiians) and a big chunk of it sat on the docks for a loooooong time after a corruption scandal. It was destined for landfill at the back of a Washington State Indian reservation... I was hacking sites for a cat who was trying to bring these digesters in for the big condos and restaurants: bacteria that turns food waste into treatment-ready grey water... but the local trash mafias weren't having it, tied as they are to state and city contracts for hauling. he also tried to get solar powered compactors into the heavily trafficked tourist districts... no go. conservatism runs deep in these islands.

As for the Navy being our leading proponent for not only compact nuke power but hydrogen cell research, u right... but that's why we'll have lattes and passbooks with our martial law.

When the shit goes down, the depopulation of these islands will be a helluva thing to witness.

And we won't even get into the blind luck that kept Fukushima from straight up ruining the beaches. Folks here were *sweating* when all that biz was going down... some lightly-radiated tsunami debris is arriving on our shores these days.

90% of our food is imported and Oahu just signed over a big chunk of prime farmland for suburban real estate development. Privatization threatens water resources on Maui, where old cane land is also being eyed for housing instead of food. Just closed Oahu's on-island oil refinery, which will cause domino price spikes throughout the neighbor islands. 30+ new high-rise condos going up in the next few years in HNL, *none* of which are being built to particularly green standards...

those of us in the know, KNOW that we *could be* an Elysium... one of Naomi Klein's "Green Zones" at worst... but short sightedness and instant gratification rules, mayne.

Not like this hasn't been thought thru and critiqued before, for years. Some excellent contemporary work done here by a young mentee of mine:

# # #

I turned discussion and construction of discourse around these issues into an open source collectible card game (complete with card-generating tool) a few years ago:

Count Weevil said...

sorry... that should be

Count Weevil said...

and dammit fingers: (the book is good, too)

CNu said...

conservatism=incumbent economic interests? I was hacking sites for a cat who was trying to bring these digesters in
for the big condos and restaurants: bacteria that turns food waste into
treatment-ready grey water... but the local trash mafias weren't having
it, tied as they are to state and city contracts for hauling. he also
tried to get solar powered compactors into the heavily trafficked
tourist districts... no go. conservatism runs deep in these islands.I think that folks who mean well and make efforts to assist groups and institutions move toward more progressive means and ends - seldom reckon with the phenomenal inertia of the status quo ante.

It's why after a decade of struggling to move some institutions, meeting with significant internal resistance, I finally contented myself with simply watching the idiots fail. The cries of "wait, wait, I didn't mean it, I didn't mean it" at the 11th hour fell on coldly deaf ears.

I've come around to the perspective that if you want to make institutions move toward more progressive means and ends, the only available means at your practical disposal is to construct your own competing institution and simply drive the inert incumbents into extinction. The game IS depressingly zero-sum.

CNu said...

Nice...., I see a wash, rinse, repeat opportunity that needs to be plugged into a distribution stream. Have you spent any time checking out what my man Ed Dunn and his 30 Rotten Dissidents are about at Dream and Hustle?

Do What I Do - ENJOY THE CHASE - And Stay Amused....,

  "Many years ago I was convinced the Heisenberg uncertainty principle was incomplete, and people shouldn't just believe it becaus...