Suburban Sprawl Causes Segregation and Isolates the Poor

Suburban sprawl has long been characterized as a kind of white flight, with middle and upper class white people leaving the socio-ecnomically and racially mixed city core for the whiter, more uniformly wealthy suburbs. But there’s a notion that this is something from the past that doesn’t happen any more, which turns out not to be the case. While the results covered by Grist are from a USAmerican study, I’m confident that similar patterns would extend north of the border:

The number of people living in high-poverty ghettos, barrios, and slums has nearly doubled since 2000, rising from 7.2 million to 13.8 million. Poverty became more concentrated [since 2000] — more than one in four of the black poor and nearly one in six of the Hispanic poor lives in a neighborhood of extreme poverty, compared to one in thirteen of the white poor.

It’s also not news that the suburbs are much less efficient in every aspect of their infrastructure, relying on the actually (or formerly) sustainable city cores that they displaced to fund their infrastructural deficits. But this was a new thought:

Suburbs have grown so fast that their growth was cannibalistic: it came at the expense of the central city and older suburbs. In virtually all metropolitan areas, suburban rings grew much faster than was needed to accommodate metropolitan population growth, so that the central cities and inner-ring suburbs saw massive population declines. The recent trend toward gentrification is barely a ripple compared to the massive surge to the suburbs since about 1970. Moreover, taxpayers funded all the new infrastructure needed to facilitate suburban expansion—roads, schools, water and sewer, and so on—even as existing infrastructure was abandoned and underutilized in the urban core (emphasis mine).

So, the poorer folks are taxed to create infrastructure that isn’t even needed, even as their own infrastructure deteriorates and their local tax base is depleted through decreased density and lowered median income. This is why I hate the suburbs so much: not just because they’re ugly, nor just because they’re such an environmental disaster, but because their very existence and perpetuation are institutional racism.

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