Whether or not you’ve taken up the percentile chant or occupied your local Wall Street, you’ve probably joined in a handful of conversations on the subject.  Although this movement merits some amount of attention, a new study released today sheds light on another sort of encampment you should consider–simply dwelling in a home, in a neighborhood.

As part of US2010, a research project financed by the Russell Sage Foundation and Brown University, this study has used census data from neighborhoods to track income levels in 117 metropolitan areas from 1970 to 2009.  The findings, highlighted in a recent New York Times article, show middle-class areas in large cities shrinking while affluent and impoverished areas grow ever larger.

This study, conducted by Stanford University, describes the increasing economic disparity between neighborhoods and the subsequent income segregation.  As I flipped through the statistics, I began to see an even greater need for individuals to live the neighborly way in a place that needs good neighbors.  More specifically, low-income neighborhoods in urban areas are in need of a broader range of inhabitants from varying economic and social backgrounds.

What will happen in a nation where income inequality begins to lead to income segregation?  As argued by Sean F. Reardon, an author of the study, “Children in mostly poor neighborhoods tend to have less access to high-quality schools, child care and preschool, as well as to support networks or educated and economically stable neighbors who might serve as role models.”  Essentially, without adequate access to interaction with people from other income groups, communities struggle to maintain the capability to support future generations.  “The isolation of the prosperous, he said, means less interaction with people from other income groups and a greater risk to their support for policies and investments that benefit the broader public — like schools, parks and public transportation systems.”

Neighborhoods reflect the characteristics of their inhabitants.  If the people in the place change, the place changes.  So join the movement–let your neighborly ways speak!

Want to learn more?  Read Growth in the Residential Segregation of Families by Income 1970-2009.

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