I just read an article on tnr.com about the trend of American cities essentially doing an inversion where more affluent people are moving into city centers while poorer are moving out into the suburbs. It is quite an interesting read and myself find my reaction to the article a little conflicting.

Having grown up in suburban America, I can admit being “sheltered” from the abrasiveness of city center crime and pollution. Columbia is a great place to live and is a very hard city to move into because it is a fairly wealthy city (Howard County is ranked 29th in the top 100 wealthiest counties). However as I have grown older I have noticed a generation gap in Columbia and have sought to move into D.C where there are more people my age instead of soccer moms and their high school and under kids.

And here is my conflict. I want to move into the city but as a young adult with not that much money, the prospect of the city center inversion makes for a big obstacle if the price of living in the center goes up as speculated in the article. Currently it is already pretty hard to move to the city center because it is already so gentrified. A one bedroom apartment in the city is well over $1200 in a nice neighborhood. If this trend continues and more affluent people move inwards, what will it be then?

Secondly, I have grown accustomed and value the peace and cleanliness of the suburban lifestyle and given the prospect of the influx of poorer people into the suburban landscape, and have to admit that I feel a little hesitant to accept the fact that I and many suburbanites will have to learn to live peacefully with the newcomers. We will have to get used to the cultural clash between the affluent and the lower-class when we bump into each other in our clean shopping malls and possibly witness the decline as more and more affluent people seek harbor and escape to the city center. (Actually, dramatizing this makes it seem pretty un-likely that this will happen.) But, I have seen what happened to the Laurel Mall. Chris Rock hit the nail on the head when he said:

And every town’s got two malls: they got the white mall, and the mall white people used to go to. Cause there ain’t nothing in the black mall. Nothing in the black mall but sneakers and baby clothes.

Either way, this article did a great job of revealing the cultural heterogeneity of our society and as far as I know, this is nothing new. Social stratification has been happening for thousands of years and it is just interesting and perhaps a bit disheartening to observe that I am a member of a so called “civilized” society that accepts only those inside our caste while turning a blind eye to those “lower” castes.

Read the article here.