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Quite the World, Isn't It?

Joseph Stiglitz on Detroit: He gets it

One of the most misunderstood cities in the country right now is Detroit. Yes, the city government filed for bankruptcy, but as regular readers know, I argue that is just a symptom of the broader problems facing the city. Many people discussing Detroit seem to be caught up in a vein-pulsing fury against unions, corruption, black political leadership, Democrats, and political liberalism. None of which has much to do with what's happened to Detroit.

Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, is among the few who understand the great stresses and policies that have left Detroit mired in devastation, which he spelled out the other day in the New York Times. Among his many key observations:
Detroit’s travails arise in part from a distinctive aspect of America’s divided economy and society. As the sociologists Sean F. Reardon and Kendra Bischoff have pointed out, our country is becoming vastly more economically segregated, which can be even more pernicious than being racially segregated. Detroit is the example par excellence of the seclusion of affluent (and mostly white) elites in suburban enclaves. There is a rationale for battening down the hatches: the rich thus ensure that they don’t have to pay any share of the local public goods and services of their less well-off neighbors, and that their children don’t have to mix with those of lower socioeconomic status.

The trend toward self-reinforcing inequality is especially apparent in education, an ever shrinking ladder for upward mobility. Schools in poorer districts get worse, parents with means move out to richer districts, and the divisions between the haves and the have-nots — not only in this generation, but also in the next — grow ever larger.

Residential segregation along economic lines amplifies inequality for adults, too. The poor have to somehow manage to get from their neighborhoods to part-time, low-paying and increasingly scarce jobs at distant work sites. Combine this urban sprawl with inadequate public transportation systems and you have a blueprint for transforming working-class communities into depopulated ghettos.
I highly encourage you all to go read the whole piece. And think about it. The demise of Detroit is a national problem, not a local one.
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