Tyler Cowen explains why rich white Democrats freely express love for immigrants and people of color
The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream by Tyler Cowen presents some interesting data. Contrary to what you might have thought, the trend in the U.S. has been toward more segregation.
Circa 2016, you can see a black president on your television or internet screen, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to see more neighbors of a different race than you would have seen a few decades ago. Or if you do, you’re much less likely to see such individuals outside of your income class, even if they are not of your race.
Segregation by income grew dramatically over the period of 1970 to 2000, with some respite in the 1990s, but then faster yet during the period of 2000 to 2007. For instance, in 1970, only about 15 percent of families lived in neighborhoods that were unambiguously “affluent” or “poor.” By 2007, 31 percent of American families were living in such neighborhoods. At the level of school districts, segregation increased as well between students eligible for free lunch and those who were not. In other words, those students who were eligible for free lunch were more likely to be grouped together than in times past.
In the South, if we consider the variable “percentage of black students in majority-white schools,” that figure peaked in 1988 at 43.5 percent; as of 2011, it had fallen dramatically, to 23.2 percent. That is slightly lower than the integration level in 1968, a time when civil rights battles were close to their peak activity
In 1980, in Maryland, 30 percent of black students were in intensely segregated schools. That same figure is now about 53 percent. If we look at the percentage of black students in what are called intensely segregated minority schools, since 1980, in Mississippi, that number has gone up 9 percentage points; in Tennessee, it has gone up 15 percentage points; in Texas, 9 percentage points; in Georgia, 16 percentage points; in Alabama, 10 percentage points; in Florida, 17 percentage points; and in Arkansas, it is up 21 percentage points. By the phrase intensely segregated schools, the literature usually is referring to white enrollment below 10 percent.21 Unfortunately, many parts of the North are failing as well, as the northern states and also California rank among the worst for many measures of educational segregation. For instance, let’s consider the variable “% black in 90–100% Minority Schools.”22 That is a measure of levels rather than changes, and by that standard, the five most segregated states are: 1. New York 2. Illinois 3. Maryland 4. Michigan 5. New Jersey.
The future of the country looks troublingly similar on both coasts, as both New York and California perform poorly on segregation measures. In two of the three main measures of educational segregation by race, they are the worst and third-worst states in this regard, alternating those two positions. Again, the claim is not that New York and California are somehow especially racist or objectionable states but rather that segregation is being enforced by incomes, rents, home prices, building codes, how school districts are drawn, and a culture of sorting and matching.
Latinos are experiencing more significant integration problems than are African Americans. For instance, in California, only 7.8 percent of Latino students are in majority-white schools. In part that is because California has large clusters of Latinos and in part because the fanciest white neighborhoods are difficult to afford, the latter again indicating a lot of economically enforced segregation rather than racist animus. The broader data on trends in Latino segregation also are not entirely encouraging, as, for instance, in 1990 Latinos had more residential proximity with whites than they did in the period 2005 through 2009.
What if you’re a rich Silicon Valleyite paying 0 percent income tax thanks to the Qualified Small Business Stock exclusion and featuring yourself on Facebook at a Hillary Clinton fundraiser? Or maybe you’ve got tenure at a major university and therefore could keep watching those direct deposit checks flow into your checking account while you knitted a pussy hat? It turns out that you can advocate for unlimited low-skill dark-skinned immigration to the U.S. without running any risk of having one of the newcomers as a neighbor:
One implication of these measures is that the affluent and well educated in America may be especially out of touch, no matter how ostensibly progressive their politics. A high-income family, for instance, is less likely to live in a mixed-income neighborhood than is a poor family.
Florida and Mellander also find that racial segregation is positively correlated with areas that have a lot of high-tech industry, with those that have a preponderance of people in the so-called creative class, who hold jobs requiring creative skills, and with those heavily populated by college graduates. Segregation also tends to be found in places with relatively high percentages of gay and foreign-born populations—think of San Francisco as having a fair share of both, but also a lot of neighborhoods with mostly white people. Median rent in San Francisco just passed $5,000 per month for a two-bedroom apartment, and so most people, even in the upper-middle classes, feel that residence in the city involves too much financial hardship.
If we look at all metropolitan areas, rather than just the large ones, Durham–Chapel Hill, Bloomington, and Ann Arbor—all college towns—climb into the top five for segregation of the working class away from the non–working class.
many of America’s trendiest cities, including cities with quality universities, are among the most extreme for segregation by socioeconomic class.
For the folks who put up a “no matter where you’re from we’re glad you’re our neighbor” sign in Arabic and Spanish, their most likely readers are Saudi diplomats and Cemex executives.