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Breaking Down Urban Inequality: 7 Stories From CityLab for the SOCAP Community

SOCAP September 10, 2018

A SOCAP Guest Post from CityLab
In the lead up to SOCAP18 we asked a few of our media partners who are covering stories that are of interest to the SOCAP community to curate and share articles that relate to our SOCAP18 conference themes. This week’s suggested reading comes from the team at CityLab.
“Economic inequality is one of the most significant issues facing cities and entire nations today,” CityLab co-founder Richard Florida wrote earlier this spring. But even for engaged citizens, it can be difficult to fully understand what inequality looks like, and how its greater impacts ripple through the world around us. At CityLab, we’re committed to telling the story of the world’s cities: how they work, the challenges they face, and the solutions they need. Our reporting, sampled below, shows that the effects of urban inequality are wide and varied, and those solutions must be carefully considered and examined.

1. Who Wins When a City Gets Smart?

In 2016, Columbus, Ohio won a $50 million grant for high-tech transportation innovation, with a promise to help its most vulnerable families. But by the time CityLab’s Laura Bliss visited the next year, some were worried their needs were fading into the background. Bliss spoke to mothers who weren’t getting the lift they needed—and her reporting seemed to convince officials to revise the project portfolio for its grant, promising to fund a program specifically aimed at the city infant mortality crisis.

2. How Your Social Class Affects Where You’ll Move

The conventional wisdom about the recent growth and decline of U.S. cities: The Sunbelt is growing, the Rust Belt is dying, and the only thing keeping expensive coastal cities afloat is international immigration, as American-born residents flee their escalating housing prices. But this masks a deeper trend, CityLab co-founder Richard Florida writes: America’s geography continues to be reshaped by a polarized pattern of socioeconomic sorting.

3. Inside the Massive U.S. ‘Border Zone’

Who lives in the American “border zone,” where different legal standards apply for the Border Patrol? Probably, you—the region is home to 65.3 percent of the entire U.S. population, and around 75 percent of the U.S. Hispanic population, CityLab’s Tanvi Misra writes. What does that mean for the people who live and travel there?

4. How Low Did He Go?

The story, straight out of Robert Caro’s seminal biography “The Power Broker”: Robert Moses ordered engineers to build the bridges on New York’s Southern State Parkway extra-low, to prevent poor, black people in buses from using the highway. Is evidence of the prejudice of the man who shaped NYC still visible on the Long Island highway today? Historian Thomas J. Campanella looked at the data.

5. The Side Pittsburgh Doesn’t Want You to See

Editorialists and city rankers who’ve been quick to call Pittsburgh’s East End neighborhoods all the rage perhaps haven’t lived or spent enough time there to understand what’s been bubbling beneath. But Pittsburgh-based filmmaker Chris Ivey has been exploring and documenting the area’s rage for well over ten years now. For Ivey, CityLab’s Brentin Mock writes, there is no way to tell the story of Pittsburgh’s new trendy real estate zones without shining light on the families sacrificed in the pursuit of gloss.

6. When White Parents Won’t Integrate Public Schools

“If you could just get white liberals to live their values, you could have a significant amount of integration,” journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones told The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg in an interview. That’s the argument that Courtney Everts Mykytyn of Los Angeles has been making for years. In 2014, she founded an organization that encourages white and/or privileged families like hers to send their children to local public schools, where their kids would be in a minority group. “The experience has been transformative for our family,” Mykytyn told writer Mimi Kirk. “It hasn’t been easy, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

7. Grenfell Was No Ordinary Accident

The Grenfell fire is more than a story of negligence—a tragic coalescence of a dozen discrete moments of hubris and greed, London-based Henry Wismayer writes. It is also an awful fable of our time, and has become a grisly metaphor for all that is squalid about the British capital, unfettered free-market capitalism, and society at large. Read his analysis of what Grenfell was, and how it came to be.
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