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Cities divided by economic segregation, isolation

Published: Wednesday, March 26 2014 8:48 p.m. MDT

In this April 4, 2013 picture, downtown Baltimore stands behind two young men as they walk past vacant lots and boarded up houses. According to a 2012 report by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, “U.S. income distribution appears to be among the most unequal of all major industrialized countries and the United States appears to be among the nations experiencing the greatest increases in measures of income.”

Patrick Semansky, Associated Press

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The poor are increasingly isolated, and no more so than in America's big cities.

Between 1970 and 2009, the number of poor families living in poor neighborhoods has doubled from 8 to 18 percent, according to research from Cornell and Stanford.

Which cities are most segregated? A map from the Atlantic City blog shows that metros along the Eastern Seaboard and the Midwest have the most isolated poor populations, including Milwaukee, Hartford, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Detroit. New York and Baltimore also make the top 10, with Denver being the only western city to top the list. Many of these are "Rustbelt metros with large minority populations that have been hit hard by deindustrialization," according to the Atlantic.

The divide between haves and have-nots is especially striking in college towns, including State College, home to Penn State, which has the highest level of poverty segregation in the country. Others include Ann Arbor, Mich., home to Michigan State, New Haven, Conn., home to Yale University; and Ames, Iowa, home to University of Iowa.

Smaller metros in the Sunbelt and West have the least poverty segregation, according to the map. Cities that fare best are those that have service economies and are centers of high-tech and "knowledge work," including San Jose, Portland, Seattle and Salt Lake City.

Metros with high segregation perform worse economically, according to research in the journal Urban Studies, which shows that regions segregated by race and skills have slower rates of income growth and property value appreciation.

"Most work that's been done in this area looks at the impact of things like segregation on those who are segregated, it looks at their employment probabilities, their wage rates," Harrison Campbell, associate professor of geography at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte and co-author of the paper, told the Atlantic. "The argument that we're trying to make here is that there is reason for everybody in metropolitan areas to be concerned about skills, about education, about housing, about segregation, about integration."

Email: laneanderson@deseretnews.com

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