Summer in the Cities

The American Enterprise Institute isn’t my first stop for reasoned argument, but every now and then their magazine puts out some interesting articles. Take this one, on how are cities are not only crappy places for the poor, but increasingly, for the middle class. This dovetails with my last post on Real Work – basically, hard working, middle-class folks are getting shat on:

The real issue for the urban middle class is not having babies but being able to sustain their families as the children age and as families expand. One reason: many middle class urbanites spend tens of thousands of dollars a year in additional expenses that those in other cities as well as surrounding suburbs often avoid. For instance, since most middle-class families in big cities today need to have two working parents just to get by, child care becomes a necessity for those without grandparents or other relatives to look after young children. In places like Chicago, Washington, Boston, San Francisco, New York, or Los Angeles these costs typically run from $13,000 to $25,000 per child annually.

Later many of these same families, if they choose to stay, must then contemplate shelling out considerable sums to send their children to private schools, particularly after the elementary level.

Today’s most noted city-ologist, Richard Florida, doesn’t seem to think this is a problem. He believes that it cities should cater more to the Creative Class, that well-educated, well-to-do young person who will move from apartment to apartment in ever more temporary boosts – right until they pack up the kids and head to the ‘burbs. This is supposedly the city’s future.
Not a terribly bright one. One thing that’s clear is that many of our cities are struggling. Take, say, Detroit. Time magazine has some bright ideas to fix up the cities large swaths of dilapidated buildings and land. The story is full of parks, gardens, and art installations. I’m not sure what that’s all going to do for the city’s most troubled assets: its giagantic unemployed, middle-class labor force.

And last, the Times Magazine gets into the rebuilding swing with its Infrastructure issue (which comes highly recommended, particularly on data centers). Rob Walker writes on repurposing those vacant big box Circuit City’s and Lowe’s around the country – churches, museums, etc – to give some life to the suburbs. Here’s an idea: rather than keep repurposing a bad idea (giant boxes with empty parking lots), just tear the damn things down.

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