NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Good Jobs and The Prospect of a Better Future is More Important than Good Intentions

May 6, 2015

The in rioting Baltimore over the past week was part of a bigger trend in some of our core cities towards social and economic collapse. The geography of fear remains very much what it was a half century ago. The most dangerous places in the United States in terms of violent crime tend to be heavily black cities, led by Detroit, Oakland, Memphis, St. Louis and Cleveland. Baltimore ranks sixth.

Perhaps the biggest sign of how limited the urban renaissance has been is to look at the growth of precisely the kind of highly concentrated poor areas like those that blew up in Baltimore. Besides the gap between blacks and whites, there is also a growing one among African-Americans themselves. The black suburbanites in Baltimore not only make more money than their urban counterparts but their life expectancy is at least eight years longer.

African-Americans came to Baltimore and other northern cities in large part to work in industrial businesses that flourished in mid-century America. Yet most of those jobs are now gone, leaving behind those who must scramble to find work in the growth industries of today — education, technology and medical services. The places where these industries have grown often produce not more opportunities for poor people or minorities but rather a subtle form of "ethnic cleansing."

Baltimore proves that the "great inversion," positively affects a relatively small part of the urban population, particularly in historically black cities. Clearly, what is occurring then is not an urban kumbaya seen in TV ads for fast food and web services, but a hardening of class and racial divisions.

It would be far better if some CEOs or investors came to the old Chesapeake city bearing plans for expanding jobs and opportunities. That, at least, would begin to address the economic and social isolation that finds its expression in fires on the street. Good jobs and the prospect of a better future is what ultimately matters.

Source: Joel Kotkin, "America's Cities Mirror Baltimore's Woes," New Geography, May 3, 2015.


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