Neighborhoods Matter

Against a backdrop of increasing spatial segregation of incomes, Robert J. Sampson looks at how neighborhood inequality influences multiple aspects of everyday life. How we address such inequality indicates what kind of society we want to be.

"Fifty years after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. pointed to African-Americans on a 'lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity,' racial and economic disparities by place not only remain but are closely connected," writes Sampson, professor of the social sciences at Harvard University, in a commentary for The New York Times. "The great neighborhood divide extends to many of the fundamentals of well-being. Violence, poor physical health, teenage pregnancy, obesity, fear and dropping out of school are all unequally distributed."

"The persistent geography of inequality is reinforced by exclusionary zoning, persistent red lining, selective withdrawal of public services, the segregation of low-income public housing, 'stop and frisk' policing concentrated in minority areas, school funding tied to property values and the political fragmentation of metropolitan areas," he explains. 

"The good news is that we are experimenting with a number of policies, some place-based and others person-based. Both are needed, but in either case the durability of poverty calls for profound long-term investments."

Full Story: Division Street, U.S.A.

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