Daniel Kishi, associate editor of The American Conservative, tells readers that “The 2016 presidential election thrust America’s urban-rural divide into the forefront of our national consciousness.”
I have spent decades travelling up and down America’s East Coast, both through its urban canyons and further inland on many Harley trips with Debbie through the small towns of the Appalachian range. I’ve seen a steady decline in the health of America’s rural towns.
The “two-tiered society of affluence on the one hand and stagnation and decline on the other” is easily recognizable outside of the areas Kishi calls “ritzy pockets of commerce and entertainment,” servicing the “eds and meds” sector’s young affluent workers. I offer that Boston (the old/across the expressway and the Cambridge side of the Charles) is perhaps America’s outstanding example of what Mr. Kishi so astutely lays out for us all. He writes (abridged):
The 2016 presidential election thrust America’s urban-rural divide into the forefront of our national consciousness. In the months before and after the election, mostly coastal reporters traveled to the heartland in an effort to understand why so many voters were casting their ballots for the Republican nominee. They returned with dire portraits—communities suffering from political and social disaffection and a multifaceted drug crisis.
The Two-Tiered American City
The urban-rural divide will feature prominently in our public discourse for the foreseeable future. And yet, as a testament to our age of inequality, rural America is not the only setting in which economic polarization rears its head. Indeed, the American city—once a haven for the middle class—has transformed into a two-tiered society of affluence on the one hand and stagnation and decline on the other.
The hollowing out of the middle class and economic self-sorting reflect broader trends that are present throughout American society but are most visible in densely populated cities where neighborhoods of haves and neighborhoods of have-nots are but a short drive apart.
Much like the educated elite in David Brooks’s Bobos in Paradise (2000) and Richard Florida’s The Rise of the Creative Class (2002), Mallach’s Young Grads are members of a professional class that includes doctors, lawyers, engineers, political scientists, writers, computer programmers, and financiers. For a country that has evolved from an industrial economy to a post-industrial “knowledge” economy, the Young Grads have emerged as the indisputable winners.
With lucrative salaries but few financial obligations, the consumer preferences of Young Grads have transmogrified the city into what some have called “adult playgrounds”—dense pockets of energy and entertainment for those with considerable levels of disposable income.
Gentrification of Dive Bars and Hole-in-the Wall Eateries
The manufacturing bases of the once gritty centers of industry have been replaced by a symbiotic network of healthcare providers and institutions of higher education.
The proliferation of what Mallach calls the “eds and meds” sector has, in turn, created ritzy pockets of commerce and entertainment to service their Young Grads workforce, a transformation that has commonly been called “gentrification.” Out are the dive bars and hole- in-the-wall restaurants; in are the microbreweries, coffee shops, and fast casual eateries.
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