New York City has become a place where “the rich are indeed getting richer even as the rest of the city is barely holding on.” That’s the thesis of a new piece on the city’s disappearing middle class, penned by Joel Kotkin at his site New Geography. Mahattan, Kotkin argues, is the most economically unequal places in the country, with a higher Gini coefficient than South Africa had under Apartheid. Incomes are stagnant for most middle class workers, homelessness and poverty are higher than ever, and the top one percent of the city’s earners keep making more and more money.
Kotkin lists a few specific policies that the city’s current Major Bill de Blasio is pursuing that will, he believes, increase the pace at which these trends will impoverish New Yorkers: green-energy policies will destroy the last of the manufacturing industries in the city and his education policies, especially his hostility to charter schools, will hold down upward mobility. The end of existing pro-rich trends, exacerbated under de Blasio, could be the following nightmare scenario:
In fact, the effect of de Blasio’s policies may turn out to be more neo-Victorian than progressive. Rather than new homeowners, the city may see a greater concentration of people dependent on government largesse.The poor-door phenomena, with a few lucky members of the lower class winning subsidized units in buildings for the rich, but with separate entrances and no access to luxury amenities, recreates not social democracy but the Victorian upstairs-downstairs society.
One factor not explicitly mentioned by Kotkin is the unnecessary high cost of housing in the city, which smart urban development policy could alleviate. Read the whole thing for the big-picture take on the demise of NYC’s middle class, and some of the policy choices that could still prevent it.