The gap between the educated and uneducated, segregated by place or geography, is not new to America. This new study by Diamond out of Stanford University however confirms that there is greater geographic segregation between those with and without education and access to resources over the past 20 years. (1) Per the report the current income gap between those with and without a college education is 75% and results in an affordability gap, in housing, education, and other amenities. This results in neighborhoods and cities becoming more segregated by education and income. “Rising college share then improves local amenities and productivity, leading to a more desirable city, which again benefits the college educated at the expense of lower skill workers forced to relocate elsewhere. These types of policies force the local policy maker to decide whether he or she wants to improve the city at the possible expense of less skilled inhabitants’ economic well-being.” The study confirms that the lack of sufficient resources in low-income neighborhoods and the resultant place-based inequities that predict health disparities. (2) What is lacking in the analysis is how racial dynamics affects this current and future segregation/gentrification of our neighborhoods and cities.
However, what we do know from the recent study by Alexander and colleagues out of Johns Hopkins University (The Long Shadow: Family Background, Disadvantaged Urban Youth, and the Transition to Adulthood) is that while those born into poverty are likely to remain in generational poverty in adulthood, African Americans born into poverty are much more likely to remain in poverty than their white counterparts born into poverty. (3) This data confirms anecdotal reports through almost 30 years of tracking of 800 children born in neighborhoods of low-income in Baltimore and represents a pattern across similar cities in America. Such patterns include a 30% employment gap between white and black men in the little remaining blue-collar jobs in Baltimore; 49% employment gap between whites and blacks who had dropped out of school; 100% income gap between low-income whites and blacks even while low-income white men had the lowest rate of college attendance or completion compared to low-income black men in the study. Findings from the study also confirm that low-income black neighborhoods were more likely than low-income white neighborhoods to be negatively impacted by urban renewal practices, resulting in displacement and severed social networks.
Many of us like the neighborhood feeling of Baltimore. But our neighborhoods are segregated and difficult to ignore, if we are a little awake. The Baltimore Neighborhood Indicator Alliance 2012 data confirms that our city is segregated:
Neighborhood Families living in poverty (%) Income (K)
Greenmount 38 21
Perkins/Middle East 27 19
Roland Park 0 90
Mt. Washington 0.8 72
Canton 2 77
Southeast 20 29
Yes, we have some historic and present day challenges. We know this from talking to folks who hold the history and we know this from research, in and outside of the city. How are we going to build a new Baltimore that is less segregated and not continuing a well-documented and current history?
The Mayor recently declared that its ‘institutional partners’ of universities will change Baltimore for the better through bringing new residents to Baltimore. We are wondering who it’s being changed for? (4) According to these studies, without clear intention to assure affordable housing, access to quality education and the resources to support a child ready to learn, and employment opportunities for low-skilled and non-college educated residents of all races, Baltimore will continue the current path of gentrification and racial inequity. One look around the gentrifying areas of Harbor East and Middle East Baltimore provides us a vision of the future of a rebuilt Baltimore: $10 latte in Harbor East and $200K luxury condominiums in Middle East tells us who we are marketing the city to.
The recent negotiations between low-wage workers at the Johns Hopkins Hospital which resulted in some workers still unable to afford health insurance and homes in neighborhoods supporting well-being, hints at a continued path of income and geographic inequity via a leading employer and institutional partner who refuses to set an example to all new businesses that Baltimore is a city that demands the right to a living wage.(5) (According to research out of MIT, a livable wage in Baltimore Maryland for one adult with one child is $22.88, with two adults and one child, $20.51; the hospital agreed to a top $15 for employees of 20 years (6)) The privatization of public housing in Baltimore with no assurance that they remain affordable in perpetuity and new development with limited time-periods for affordable housing prices places current low-wage earners at risk of future displacement. (7)
The plan to rebuild Baltimore by increasing the population- by attracting a different race and class which separates out based on education, income, and race- without a plan to prevent gentrification and further segregation commits the city toward a continued gap between the haves and have nots.
With no real government oversight to assure affordable housing and access to quality education is permanent, local hire and livable wages as mandatory rules of engagement with current and future development, it is hard to imagine how low-skilled and non-college educated residents will be able to afford the new Baltimore. We have not assessed the current rental needs of existing residents to assure that sufficient affordable housing is available. WIthout knowing the needs it is difficult to plan to assure that sufficient affordable housing is built. Targeted development dollars and tax subsidies which assure sufficient affordable housing, local business opportunity which matches the market needs of low-income residents, access to quality education and training to assure competition in the changing workforce, adequate social and health programs which prepares the workforce, and living-wage employment that assures self-sustainability must be part of a plan to rebuild a different Baltimore. Until town hall meetings, city legislation, the media outlets, neighborhood groups, education and health groups, private and government policy and funding address these vital anchors of equitable community rebuilding to assure all its residents can stay and participate in a changing Baltimore, we are simply orchestrating the disposal of the most vulnerable to attract the more powerful. Basically, we are not doing anything different.
There is wisdom in learning from history and yet our elected leaders and resourced elites, blinded by the camouflage of bright lights, new buildings, and greed, seem to have missed this opportunity for change. Is it too early to predict that another generation is being ushered into poverty even while the intellectuals continue to churn out data, theorizing the exact percentages that may escape, and why? We have the data, we have people telling their stories; we simply need the political will and the compassionate understanding that until we all have an opportunity to participate for change, nothing fundamentally changes for those absent from the negotiations. And yes, we have the resources!
1. Educational and geographic segregation
2. Segregated neighborhoods and health inequities
3.The Long Shadow
3b. The Root: White privilege extends to the poor
4. Institutional partnership to rebuild Baltimore
4b. Institutional partner rebuilds for the privileged
5. The Real News Network: Unfinished negotiations between Hospital workers and Hopkins Hospital
5b. In These Times: Hospital union claims victory in Johns Hopkins Contract Fight
6. Living Wage in Baltimore, Maryland; MIT
7. Privatizing public housing in Baltimore: RAD speak-out