Inequality Finds a Home in the Suburbs

Through the lens of the Los Angeles region, Becky M. Nicolaides and Andrew Wiese examine how America's suburbs sustain and reinforce inequality.

Nicolaides, a research scholar at the U.C.L.A. Center for the Study of Women, and Wiese, a professor of history at San Diego State University, use wealthy Bradbury and working class Azusa, and other communities, to explain the "power of places to fix inequity over time," which they call "a defining pattern of contemporary suburban life."

"Nationwide, rich and poor neighborhoods like these house a growing proportion of Americans, up to 31 percent compared with 15 percent in 1970, according to a recent study by Sean F. Reardon and Kendra Bischoff. Meanwhile, iconic middle-income suburbs are shrinking in numbers and prospects. Today’s suburbs provide a map not just to the different worlds of the rich and the poor, which have always been with us, but to the increase in inequality between economic and social classes."

"From the historian’s perspective, these patterns also reveal another truth about suburban places: their tendency to sustain and reinforce inequality. Bradbury and Azusa have maintained their spots in the top and bottom tiers of the Los Angeles suburbs for decades."

As the authors note, the "suburbs aren’t going anywhere." So what can be done to reverse this dynamic?

"Policies to redress suburban inequality must focus not only on factors like income but also on tax equity across metro areas and regional planning that fairly distributes resources and responsibilities (like affordable housing)," they suggest.

Full Story: Suburban Disequilibrium

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