The tendency of humans to segregate by place has also persisted across long time spans and eras despite the transformation of specific boundaries, political regimes and the layout of cities. Research by archaeologists indicates that spatial divisions like ours were found in ancient cities, too.
The greatest divisions of place today are at the very top, creating what we might call the new 1 percent neighborhoods. In recent decades, cities have been pulling apart; income inequality by neighborhood has increased. As a consequence, the kinds of mixed-income neighborhoods many of us remember from growing up have grown rarer, while exclusively affluent and exclusively poor neighborhoods have grown much more common.
The Great Recession has exacerbated this divergence. Just as they have been among individuals, economic hardships have been unequally shared by neighborhoods: poverty, vacancy rates and particularly unemployment rates increased at a greater clip in disadvantaged and minority neighborhoods from 2005 to 2011 than elsewhere.
We live in a free society, of course, but the high-end spatial concentration of income and its associated resources, like well-endowed schools, security, abundant services and political connections, in effect pulls up the drawbridge from our neighbors. The hypersegregation of “the truly advantaged” speaks volumes about the continuing significance of place and raises important questions about what kind of society we want to be.”