Truth be told, it’s not as if this news is…well, news. It only takes a moment to rattle off the names of a slew of isolated neighborhoods in New York City like Brownsville, East New York, Canarsie and the Rockaways and anyone can come to the conclusion that New York’s poor are unofficially segregated, but that doesn’t make this study from The Atlantic Cities any less disturbing.
Journalist Richard Florida compared the distribution of impoverished people throughout major US cities with at least 1 million residents and ranked them according to the distribution of each city’s poor. Unsurprisingly, the great majority of heavily segregated populations (i.e. areas where the impoverished were less evenly distributed) were on the East Coast, though the United State’s most segregated metropolis was Milwaukee. Our very own New York City came in sixth place, only outranked by Hartford, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Detroit.
For various reasons, smaller metropolises tended to have more even distribution of their poor and the study found that the least segregated cities were Orlando, Portland, OR, and San José.
Obviously, there are multiple factors at play here: Large metropolises tend to have more people living in extreme conditions, whether they be extremely rich or extremely poor and the greater the population, the greater the competition for housing. The poor live where they can afford to and the places they can afford to live are few and far between. Still, it’s no excuse. Segregating the poor creates neighborhoods that become microcosms of crime, poverty and “moral cynicism” and residents often become locked into a multigenerational “cycle of decline.”
While the city is working to repair this by requiring more developers to build affordable housing alongside luxury condos, it will be a long time, if ever, before the supply of affordable housing catches up with the demand.
For more information, head to The Atlantic Cities for a more in-depth look at the study’s results.
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