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Blue Meltdown
NYC's Disappearing Middle Class

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.

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  • Pete

    End rent control and more apts will be buiult

  • johngbarker

    Forget the false glitter of the city, come to the great West young people and have decent lives.

    • Corlyss

      Not if they are going to vote like they usually do. I had to laugh at recent reports of the millennials turning bright red. The sample size was a tad over 2000 and the likely voters were c. 580. Only the 580 said they preferred a Republican congress enough to turn out to vote. So the young do one of two things reliably: they don’t vote, but when they do, they vote Democratic. Immature brains would explain it sufficiently for me, but they are unreliable unless they are reliably looking for someone to take care of them.

      • johngbarker

        That is a shame. Life is good among the fly-over folk.

      • FriendlyGoat

        Young people are increasingly focused on their glaring lack of job opportunities—-in both blue and red places. If they buy the lies told to them by older adults that more high-end tax cuts will help them, they might vote red. That could assure that they both start their lives as “Generation Screwed” AND end their lives as “Generation Screwed”.

  • S.C. Schwarz

    Liberalism is all about intentions; results are secondary. De Blasio talks a good game so who cares if his policies actually make the problem worse.

    • Corlyss

      Amen. They’re never made to pay for their atrocious, destructive, and criminal results.

  • Corlyss

    The Gov is doing a pretty decent job of destroying the upstate communities too. What’s one difference between Penna and NY? Marcellus shale, which Penna is actively exploiting and realizing $$ from, while NY contents itself with its devotion to environmentalism. You can’t grow industries with environmentalism; all you can do is become a ward of either Wall St. or Washington.

  • FriendlyGoat

    As long as financial trading is under-taxed on a world wide basis, the wealth gap will be both eye-popping and ever-growing. NYC is not only one of the premier centers for this activity on the globe, but also one of the destinations of concentrated money earned elsewhere. OF COURSE Manhattan has a high Gini coefficient, and, OF COURSE the new mayor cannot possibly have caused it in a year. You’re describing a problem rooted in policies from Washington, not the mayor’s office.

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