The “Deep North”

For a good part of my early life, to most of those people I knew, the “deep South” was essentially synonymous with the slave-holding states of the Confederacy and “Jim Crow” politics that enforced segregation and dual school systems for whites and blacks. Then in the mid-sixties came the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, which resulted in turmoil and change, but there’s still a lingering suspicion about the “deep South” on the part of northerners and westerners.

When I was in college there was a statement going around that, in the south, blacks could live where they wanted, but they’d better not try to get any higher [economically], while in the north the attitude was that blacks could go as high as they wanted economically, just so they didn’t live next door. Both representations were flawed, but many people accepted them anyway, especially, I suspect, northern liberals. At least, I thought they were flawed, but now…

Recently, a series of reports from the Urban Institute used census figures to show that the ten most segregated U.S. metropolitan areas, both racially and economically, were: Philadelphia, Bridgeport, New York, Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland, Newark, Los Angeles, Kansas City, and Detroit. Interestingly enough, all of them are in the north. Not only that, but the pace of economic segregation has increased since 2000, particularly in the north, but also in places in the Midwest and west. So just how did the north, all those states that fought the Civil War, at least in part to end slavery and racial discrimination, come to be the most notable practitioners of segregation [and the Urban Institute data shows that this trend is increasing faster in the north, as opposed to the south]?

The answer is breathtakingly simple – the use of economics. If you incorporate separate municipalities around cities, then build high-income housing, and zone out low-income housing, you don’t have to engage in overtly racist discrimination. There’s more to it than that, but it amounts to the use of economics and the legal system to break metropolitan areas into economically, and thus largely different ethnic/racial areas. Given that school systems are funded in most states by property taxes, that means that the high income areas can better fund education and all manner of public services.

The “segregation” of property tax revenues means that the economically poorer communities simply can’t provide the same level of public services as the wealthier communities, and with the popular revolt against increasing state and federal income taxes, neither states nor the federal government can make up the difference.

Welcome to the “deep North.”

2 thoughts on “The “Deep North””

  1. Tim says:

    I remember reading about a housing development in London. The planning regulations required the developer to include what is termed affordable housing alongside the prestigious flats they really wanted to build. So they did, but with separate entrances. That got some reaction.

    I worked in Namibia before independence in the mid 1980s and though there was no stated apartheid policy, each racial group had to fund services from its tax revenue. The black and coloured communities put their money into education, and so could not use the libraries which were funded solely by the white administration (as they had the money to do so). The library contained mostly German novels by the way as Namibia was a former colony and the farmers stayed after 1915. So even within the white community, there was a social segregation with German, Afrikaans and English each having their own schools.

  2. R. Hamilton says:

    What incentive would people have to desire funds be spread out over larger areas to reduce that effect? Surely most people will care first about their children, or at any rate the state of their community, and only secondarily about grand causes state, nation, or worldwide. Indeed, those interested in grand causes are most prominent as troublemakers or worse (although there may of course be some that indeed do worthy deeds…hopefully with their _own_ resources rather than those stolen on behalf of their cause by government).

    That discrimination is inevitable, IMO. I refuse to pretend that harm to any number of persons known neither to me nor to anyone I know would obligate me to be any action (although I might _choose_ to act), unless I thought I or those I know might be next; nor do I regard failure to redistribute as necessarily equivalent to harm. Except for the avoiding the courtesy of pretense, I rather doubt that I’m different from most people in that regard.

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