A recent paper from the Russell Sage Foundation reports that income-based residential segregation in America has risen sharply over the past 40 years; in 1970 about 65 percent of families lived in middle-income neighborhoods but only 44 percent do so today. The rest now live in neighborhoods that are distinctly either rich or poor, with affluent Americans being especially likely to be surrounded by their income peers. These findings parallel estimates we have been making, from different data, since 2005. In a generation, the spatial polarization of incomes has become an American fact of life.
Does this fact have political implications? We believe it may. Indeed, there seems to be a party that’s benefiting from increasing residential segregation by income – and, oddly enough, it’s the Democrats.
The Columbia political scientist Andrew Gelman has noted an apparent paradox: in presidential elections rich people tend to vote Republican, but rich states tend to vote Democratic. This can happen because the income-voting relationship differs from state to state. Thus in wealthy but arch-blue Connecticut the relationship is much weaker than in non-wealthy and arch-red Mississippi – a fact that prompted Gelman to ask, in the title to one article, “What’s the Matter with Connecticut?”
But why should the wealthy in (say) Connecticut (or California) tend to be Democrats while those in Mississippi (or Texas) so rarely are? We suggest a possible explanation: It’s not where the wealth is that matters — it’s how insulated it is from where it isn’t.Reuters Opinion | The Great Debate
The rich, the poor, and the presidency
James K. Galbraith and J. Travis Hale
(h/t Kevin Fathi via email)