Thursday, July 25, 2013

Corner Side Yard: More Chicago Crime, Isolation and the Rust Belt Formula, and Black Middle Class Flight

I had been reading the blog The Corner Side Yard looking for more analysis of what's going on in Detroit with their bankruptcy and I found this posting that discusses black middle class flight. It connects the incidents of crime occurring this summer with the flight of the middle-class. This is what's said about Chicago:
I believe Chicago’s current experience to be rather unique and particularly perplexing. To understand this one has to take a historical viewpoint. Like many other major cities in the U.S., Chicago did improve its economy during the 1990s, and had a resulting population increase and crime rate decrease. However, the economic gains of the decade did little to change the physical and social structure of the city. Areas that had already been doing well, like the North Side, were doing better. Other areas that had been on the cusp of change but needed that last little bit of catalyst, like the West Loop or South Loop, started to improve. But for the most part, Chicago’s legacy as one of the most segregated cities in America remained intact.

But starting in the last decade, shifts began to occur in Chicago’s socioeconomic dynamic. The Chicago Housing Authority’s Plan for Transformation, an ambitious plan to dismantle the public housing high-rises and create new public housing and mixed income communities, began in earnest in 1999. The high-rise projects that many were familiar with – Robert Taylor Homes, Stateway Gardens, Cabrini-Green – all came down. Thousands of public housing families were given a choice: they could receive new homes in new developments, or they could receive vouchers and select housing where they liked. Unfortunately for the CHA, the pace of new development construction did not meet the pace of dismantling, so most tenants opted for the vouchers and selected the voucher option.

This changed the dynamics in many Chicago neighborhoods. Former public housing residents generally moved to areas closest to where they came from, on the South and West sides of the city. They moved into working-class neighborhoods like Austin, Auburn-Gresham and Roseland. This caused neighborhood allegiances to shift, and caused strife in communities dealing with the influx. This in turn led to more black middle class flight from those working-class neighborhoods. And then the economic collapse of the late 2000s. And that’s how we get to the spike in murders and shootings in Chicago today.

The formula seems pretty clear to me. In Chicago’s case, public housing resident dispersion (in a notoriously segregated city), plus middle class black flight, plus economic distress, equals a higher murder rate. In other cities with rising murder rates, you could take out the public housing variable but the rest is constant.

To me this is fundamentally a problem of isolation. The inner-city inhabitants of our Rust Belt cities have become the “left behind”, and have been so for at least three generations. Just yesterday I saw an article on Atlantic Cities about a study that suggests that poor, inner-city residents may care more deeply about urban neighborhoods because they have fewer relocation options available to them. Is it any coincidence that so many of the Rust Belt’s major cities – Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee, St. Louis, among others – lead the way on segregation indices?
As we want to bring the communities of "The Sixth Ward" back into prominence here's something to consider:
A last point about middle class black flight.  Thousands of blacks are doing now what millions of other Americans did before them – move to the suburbs when they had the means.  Unfortunately, they may be moving to live out yesterday’s dreams.  Recent studies have shown that there is an emerging and possibly enduring  trend of city populations growing at rates faster than that of suburban areas, in contrast to the typical city-decline, suburban-growth meme of the last 60 years.  If this truly is the case, I fear that the black middle class that is currently moving to the edge of metro areas will find themselves stuck in declining areas, just as cities complete their turnaround.  If this continues, blacks will find themselves perpetuating the cycle of isolation that has limited their economic fortunes since the 1960s.
The whole article is worth a thorough read.

1 comment:

  1. No one wants to live in an environment of misery & murder. It is not the responsibility of middle-class Blacks to stick around in these changing communities. We have to be careful when over-analyzing the obvious.

    Closing down the housing projects and placing these residents into stable middle-class environments was a disaster. Like always with White Liberal thinking and Black Community Activist thinking, these low class people (and I mean it in the social mindset sense) were supposed to learn the ways of being middle-class through magical "osmosis". It didn't happen. Instead, they brought their wretched, evil dysfunction throughout middle-class Black communities. And being spread out across entire regions of the city, there is neither enough law enforcement nor even a desire to stop the mayhem.

    The article might be correct in its assessment of cities re-emerging. However, this assessment may not relate to Chicago. The rampant corruption, unfriendly business environment for those not politically connected, high taxes / reduced services, and proud stupidity of Chicago politicians may eventually make Chicago a virtual "ghost town". Combining this with the unfortunate reality of middle-class Blacks being isolated wherever they go, it just adds to the downfall of almost all Black communities.


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