Since the suburban boom of the post-World War II era, parents of means have moved from cities to affluent areas with better schools. Despite what facile style section pieces tell you, this has long been a trend. But a new analysis of census data featured in the Wall Street Journal shows that wealthy people with kids are now twice as likely to segregate themselves from the poor than they were in the 1970s. Conversely, poor families now cluster together as well.
According to an analysis of census data by Kendra Bischoff of Cornell University and Sean Reardon at Stanford University, the proportion of families living in affluent areas doubled from 1970 to 2009–it went from 7 to 15 percent. At the same time, the percentage of families living in poor areas also more than doubled–it went from 8-18 percent.
So what’s going on here? Why are more affluent Americans with children clustering together now than they did in the ’70s? Presumably wealthy people have always wanted their kids to live in areas that had good public schools and low crime rates–what’s changed?
I asked my former colleague Tim Noah, contributing writer for MSNBC and the author of The Great Divergence: America’s Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do About It, why he thinks more wealthy families are now living in affluent communities than they did 40 years ago. He wrote in an email: