Are megatropolises creating a geographical boundary of inequality?
In case you haven’t heard enough griping about California’s over-priced real estate market recently, here is a little more fuel for the fire. As cities become more popular and affluent, particularly with the attraction of high-paying jobs, the divide between the upper class and the middle and lower classes becomes more apparent and geographically based.
Cities are becoming high-income districts unto themselves, with the poor and less affluent moving into the suburbs or as far as affordable transport permits. As the price of living in America’s most expensive urban areas has soared – rents and home values rose about 12.5% between 2010 and 2014 – the solution for many poorer families has been to move out. Households that made $30,000 or less moved out at the highest rate, nearly 8x higher than their high-income earning neighbors.
Millennials, once synonymous with city living, are fleeing expensive rental markets far faster than any other age group, nearly double the average rate. Millennial’s relatively low incomes, high debt, and job-hopping are likely driving the exodus. Tech-hubs like San Jose and San Francisco have a much higher retention rate of young people, as most 20-somethings in the tech industry are extremely well paid (the median base salary for an engineering-focused summer intern at some of the big technology companies is $6,800 a month!).
Coupled with the disturbing trend of illegal evictions and rapid gentrification of many California communities, the state is in a crisis situation. Low income families are being displaced at a staggering rate, being pushed further into the suburbs, and many of these communities lack the infrastructure, safety-net supports, and resources to address the needs of a growing poor population. Suburbs typically have less transit than urban areas, making it difficult to travel for work and shopping. These kinds of obstacles make it much harder for poor residents to connect to the kids of opportunities that can help get them out of poverty in the long run.