Is Generational Turnover Necessary for the Return of Cities?

How many times have you heard this line: Young people prefer urban living.

Of course, everyone acknowledges, this isn’t a universal preference. But a clear generational shift away from suburban lifestyles is the phenomena on which many of our discussions about urbanism are premised.

However, while young people may be a driving force in demanding vibrant urban environments, they aren’t necessarily in the driver’s seat when it comes to the important policy decisions that continue to shape metro areas, often at the expense of cities.

Mayor Cory Booker's success in redeveloping Newark, New Jersey, typifies of the brand of post-Boomer urban leadership that may be necessary to truly rebuild cities, Aaron Renn argues.

Alex Ihnen at NextSTL articulated this generational tension last month in a blog post after Census figures showed the St. Louis had experienced yet another precipitous population decline: “When will the ‘old guard’ who have overseen this exodus stop cutting ribbons and turning dirt with a smile and silver shovel and simply get out of the way?”

Aaron Renn at the Urbanophile has given this dynamic some thought. In his latest post, Renn wonders whether a turnover in generational power will be necessary before urban areas can regain their primacy in American life:

Gen-X and the Millennials have a much more optimistic and positive views of urban areas than baby boomers and previous generations. I think this results from the rupture that those earlier generations experienced when our urban cores declined. If you read a newspaper interview of someone in that age bracket, you always hear the stories about the wonderful things they did in the city when they were younger. It was the land of good factory jobs, the downtown department store where their mothers took them in white gloves for tea, of the tidy neighborhoods, the long standing institutions and rituals – now all lost, virtually all of it. Unsurprisingly, this has turned a lot of people bitter. Many people saw everything they held dear in their communities destroyed, and they were powerless to stop it.

For people about my age or younger, it’s a very different story. None of us knew any of those things. Our experience is totally different. We’ve basically never known a city that wasn’t lost. Gen-X, which Jim Russell views as the heartland of Rust Belt Chic, is a generation defined by alienation, so the alienated urban core suits our temperament perfectly. The Millennials of course have a very different attitude towards cities.

I don’t see any signs of the older generations getting through the grieving process and moving on. This makes me think that for us to fully embrace a true urban policy, even in city government itself, it is going to take generational turnover. The baby boomers are already starting to age, but they’ll be with us a lot longer. Alas, they have historically been the most suburban generation, and not shy about imposing their values, so I suspect we’ll be dealing with that legacy for a while. Still, as time goes on, we’ll have more and more people seeing the city with fresh eyes, and only knowing it when there’s reason for hope and optimism. That by itself will be a building force for change and new directions over time, until the true changing of the guard arrives.


The post was originally published on Streetsblog, an excellent source on urbanism, particularly with respect to transportation, that more people from the “Rust Belt” should read. (And I’m not just saying that because I work there.)


Filed under Headline, Politics

46 responses to “Is Generational Turnover Necessary for the Return of Cities?

  1. schmange

    Mmmmk. I have, have to say in the case of Cleveland, YES!!!

    Even urban leadership is clueless. How else do you explain them turning down Complete Streets legislation. The city is trying its hardest to be a suburb.

  2. Special K

    Good post.

    And love that Corey Booker pic!

  3. So here’s a question – which young people would we rather have here in the Rust Belt, people who grew up here, or “fresh” young people? What would work better?

  4. John E.


    Why do we have to choose? I say embrace both. We should never turn away those who would willingly bring new ideas and fresh perspectives into the region, as this is a sure fire way to ensure that we never evolve and grow much beyond where we are now. At the same time, there is something to be said for those of us who, by choice or fate, never left the region and who are actively seeking to make the most of our experiences and the quality of life here. The successful blending of the two groups is what will set us apart as a region as we move through this century and beyond.

  5. Brian

    Young people wanting to change the world and the cities they live in is not exactly newsworthy. Neither is their hope that the previous generations would just move out, be quiet, and let them get on with re-inventing the future without interference.

  6. BE

    Interesting points. The silver bullet’s and/or silver shovel’s are the major distractions that younger generations have always had. When you are 20, 30 or 40 y/o and cutting your teeth in an urban area efforts that may at first seem to offer the most impact (bang for your buck or time as it is) are most usually later regretted. Young people are always eager to spend their efforts involved in grunt work, tooling away on building projects, running marathons for cancer. All great things but as they are busy doing those thing the true ground is being slowly pulled out from under them. The older generation will eventually give way to the new guys/gals but first there is a con that’s pulled.

    Look at St. Louis, very closely. When you are young it’s “Oh how cool the pubs are and look at all these new businesses (that will only last 5 years)”. Later you begin to notice the old businesses like Monsanto who has been here so long for a reason! Because they know how to change the guards all by themselves while keeping almost everyone thinking that they did it themselves. St. Louis is not just a city, it is an area. Most of it is either rural or semi-rural and it is from the outskirts where most young city dwellers come from. Outside of downtown are many communities that vote heavily Republican in large part solely to secure Federal monies for farm banks, test crops and other agricultural “entitlements” that Republicans have worked long and hard to establish. This has the effect of totally blindsiding most young St. Louisan’s when they, after working years and years striding toward gains in local community efforts, see state legislators striking down St. Louis legislation.

    It’s not as simple as many want it to be. It never was and probably never will be. Many have been discussing lately, most prominently Ihnen, vacant land around STL and what WILL be done with it. The greater question is not the future of existing vacantness but “How to keep the rest of St. Louis from being vacated”. IE: How are we going to stop the bleeding! Not, “Hey, let’s clean this blood off of the floor”. the way to stop the bleeding is simple: Educate the youth that is here now about how St. Louis and Missouri overall actually function, how it got to be like this, why, how to follow the money/incentive trail and QUIT tip-toeing around the Republicans that are supported by Corporations like Monsanto that have Jefferson City in their hip pocket because most of the state is an agro base. In short, quit ignoring the elephant in the room.

  7. schmange

    BE, exactly!!

    How are we going to stop the bleeding?

    That is the question I’d like to hear someone answer in Cleveland.

  8. Quote from BE: “Most of it is either rural or semi-rural and it is from the outskirts where most young city dwellers come from. Outside of downtown are many communities that vote heavily Republican in large part solely to secure Federal monies for farm banks, test crops and other agricultural “entitlements” that Republicans have worked long and hard to establish.”

    I take issue with this statement. Most of the St. Louis area is not “rural or semi-rural.” ??? The metro area has nearly 3 million people, and suburban St. Louis County is solidly Democratic on its own. Nevermind that 84% of St. Louis City voted for Obama in 2008, a higher percentage than both Brooklyn and Philadelphia. I agree that a lot of younger urbanites who are moving to the city are from the suburbs, but most of the St. Louis suburbs (at least those inside the 270 loop) are not rural or semi-rural in the slightest. I understand your point, but the description of greater St. Louis is simply inaccurate.

  9. BE

    @Jeff, Everything west of Maryland Heights is semi-rural. The same can be said of anything farther north than Alton IL (which happens to be just 16 miles due N of downtown). Similarly, would you call Arnold a booming metropolis? How about downtown Belleville IL? Univercity City is Urban, sure, but half of St. Charles /St. Peters looks more like Augusta than it does Creve Couer. How about Chesterfield? No one there has a yard larger than 1/4 acre? Ballwin? No private horse stables there? Kirkwood doesn’t have places where you can shoot a 150lb pull bow at a deer? Through the eyes of anyone who has actually experienced New York, Los Angeles or Chicago up close… I believe that I was being fairly liberal in the description of St. Louis as mostly “semi-rural”. For a proof, if you still don’t believe it, just speak with the regional director at the O’fallon Postal Training Center where they train “Rural Carriers” for a big chunk of the entire mid-west. Be sure to ask about “K” routes and how they pertain to the region’s overall count 😛

  10. John Morris

    “Why do we have to choose? I say embrace both. We should never turn away those who would willingly bring new ideas and fresh perspectives into the region, as this is a sure fire way to ensure that we never evolve and grow much beyond where we are now.”

    I agree with the general problem as stated by Aaron. There pretty clearly is a mental divide–although it’s different in the class A cities like NYC, where there’s so much obvious success.

    As Angie said it’s a huge problem since so much of the wealth and political power is in the hands of these older generations.

    I guess, the main thing is to recognise the large group of people who are enthusiastic and try to encourage the small scale experimentation and start up culture.

    A big problem is we have these stereotypes of what the city should be–and which people are considered valuable. Take for instance, the recent trend towards urban college campuses, like we see with Point Park in Pittsburgh, or what’s going on in Akron. A few years ago, college kids were just not seen as important. Pretty similar with artists–or just small businesses in general.

    We need to carefully embrace the people who are doing things and stop trying to make the city fit the mold of people who will likely never like cities.

  11. BE, I have lived in New York and half my family is from Chicago, so I am very familiar with those cities too, but I don’t understand what that has to do with anything. Every city has suburbs ranging in age and density, and beyond that they have semi-rural areas. Many of Chicago’s Lake County suburbs are separated by vast fields and open land, yet somehow Chicago escapes the broad brush you’re painting for St. Louis. So, what exactly is your point? Maryland Heights is no less urban than Palatine or Vernon Hills, IL. They’re SUBURBS by definition. I wholeheartedly disagree with your description of St. Louis as mostly semi-rural. Ever heard of Urbanized Area population? This measure of population is actually much more accurate in determining the true size and density of a city and its suburbs because excludes far-flung satellite cities and small towns on the periphery of the metro area, and only counts contiguously populated census tracts. Well, “mostly semi-rural” St. Louis is actually the 17th biggest urbanized area in the country with over 2 million people. That’s a bigger urbanized population than Baltimore, Denver, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Portland, etc. To conclude that “most” of St. Louis is semi-rural is blatantly ignoring the majority of the metro population that resides in mature inner, middle and even outer-ring suburbs comprise the majority of population. Florissant, Ferguson, Wellston, Webster Groves, Ladue, Crestwood, Sunset Hills, Creve Coeur, Olivette, and countless other established municipalities in St. Louis County, the most populous county the state, cannot be classified as rural or semi-rural– they are SUBURBAN.

  12. Christine said,

    “So here’s a question – which young people would we rather have here in the Rust Belt, people who grew up here, or “fresh” young people? What would work better?”

    Got sidetracked. Anybody and everybody short of meth dealers should be welcome.

    That, being said, folks from outside can bring important new perspectives. Someone from NYC, like me knows the city wasn’t always very healthy and remembers the often unappreciated young people, artists and immigrants who helped bring it back. I also remember, that a lot of what happened like DYI industrial loft rehabs or community gardens were not even legal, let alone supported.

    Cleveland seems to desperately need more outsiders.As I said, what needs to be accepted is that not all of these folks will fit the normal thing people consider “desirable groups”, bringing instant development or “the middle class”.We need to value gradual change and sweat equity.

  13. seamless

    BE, in order for your opinions to be credible, you have to at least demonstrate an accurate knowledge of the metropolitan area you’re talking about. I am a student at Washington University from the Washington, DC area and I see nothing that is rural or semirural in the immediate St. Louis area. St. Louis looks and feels a lot like the DC/Baltimore area to me, which means it feels like a major metropolitan area (which it is). I don’t know what you’re talking about and I’m not sure you do, either.

  14. schmange

    I don’t want to upset anyone but I get what BE is saying.

    Cleveland has areas that are quasi-rural now. That’s kind of a prerequisite for urban agriculture. I think a lot of these sites may be brownfields.

    Anyway, there is not enough emphasis on redeveloping these sites, in my opinion. Cleveland is sprawling, like St. Louis. That doesn’t mean it’s a terrible city, but it presents some pretty tremendous challenges because, unlike St. Louis, our regional population isn’t growing.

    I have been asking myself for a while what good vacant land strategies will do unless we honestly expect population to stabilize. But I don’t see any reason to believe it will.

  15. BE

    @Jeff, we might as well debate the color or sex of Gumby. The point is not about a text book definition of the word rural or urban. My point, personally / me / moi / ich, is that kids move into the downtown St. Louis area believing that it is some kind of Utopia and that it is out of reach from the grumpy old men in Jeff City. By time they start to go gray they realize that they had been delusional at which point they pack up, move out beyond the 270 belt and try for the rest of their lives to forget that it ever happened. What’s more is a large % of those then begin to vote Republican because they finally have something that they are afraid to loose and so they then become the one’s calling any “community funding projects” for inner city youth/housing/schools etc “Liberal!!!” and saying things like “They’re all a bunch of Pink-O Commies and Socialists! Out to get what I worked so hard to hoard for myself!”. There is a Pink Floyd song called Dogs which fits the bill perfectly. It talks about a cut throat old guy that goes off to an island to die of cancer, alone and miserable. It happens everywhere and it is what is happening to St. Louis at an accelerated rate as Corporate funded Republicans take advantage of the aging rural vote at the state level and cram it down St. Louis’ throat.

  16. BE- I definitely get your point. I think Bill McClellan’s article in today’s Post-Dispatch pretty much summed it up perfectly:

  17. John S.

    There are people who enjoy cities and urban living among all generations. I think it would be a mistake to paint Boomers with a broad stroke and to assume that as a group, they will collectively and fiercely resist any effort to stop suburban sprawl and rebuild our urban centers, the same way it would be a mistake to assume that all Gen-Xers and Millenials only dream of living out of a warehouse loft in Downtown Cleveland, Pittsburgh or Buffalo. When you try to group people together into neat and narrow demographic categories, you run the risk of losing some of the ones who really don’t fit anywhere and who might actually support your cause if you hadn’t first offended them.

    So rather than to ferment and wage a demoralizing and ultimately ineffectual long-term generational war between the Boomers and Gens X, Y and Z, what we must do is think in broad-scale, vertical and long-range political terms. We need to establish an ideal (but achievable) vision of urban living that crosses generations, genders, sexual orientations, and racial/ethnic groups in its appeal, show how it can be successfully achieved, and then sell it! Build a cross-generational coalition around this vision as an alternative. It’s no less than what presidents like FDR, Kennedy or Reagan did on a national level, what great movement leaders like Gandhi or Martin Luther King have done, or even what effective, visionary mayors and community leaders do on a local level.

  18. BE

    Jeff, I agree. Bill’s a neat guy. I wrote to him about 5 years ago concerning similarities between the MO/TX prisoner trade/abuse situation and what was going on at Abu Ghraib, things like MO/TX had Ashcroft/Bush during the prisoner thing and all the little similarities in details of just how the abuse was carried out, how the management played it off as “just a few bad apples” once it hit the press etc. All he replied was “Interesting. Thanks for pointing that out”. The next day he did a little article that was picked up two days later by the Washington Post. Within a week of that being printed by the WP Ashcroft refused to sign off on Patriot Act II and never… gave… a… reason.

    Yep, Bill’s on it.

  19. John S.

    John Morris: “A big problem is we have these stereotypes of what the city should be–and which people are considered valuable. Take for instance, the recent trend towards urban college campuses, like we see with Point Park in Pittsburgh, or what’s going on in Akron. A few years ago, college kids were just not seen as important. Pretty similar with artists–or just small businesses in general.”

    As an Akron native, I like that Downtown is enjoying an expansion of living options. I am disappointed, however, that these are almost exclusively for current UA undergrads or well-to-do corporate executives. So what happens when a student graduates, doesn’t make six figures, but still wants to live Downtown? What if they don’t want to live in an apartment complex out in a bland, nondescript, second-ring suburb like Stow or Green? Right now, they are out of luck. The same could be said for a middle class family or a retired couple living on a fixed income. Downtown Akron needs more living options, but also options that are accessible to a broader range of people.

    “Cleveland seems to desperately need more outsiders.”

    I wholeheartedly agree. Ideally, these would be people who accept Cleveland for what it is, but who also see and embrace the city’s potential to further evolve. Cleveland’s negative self-image continues to be its worst enemy.

  20. Special K

    While I mostly agree with this post, I also agree with John S’s point that we shouldn’t overly generalize/demonize the Boomers.

    I think it’s important to remember that some of them only moved to the ‘burbs in the first place because of schools for their kids. We still have a good shot at getting at least some of the empty nesters to return, I think.

  21. All I’m saying is it’s a start. Appreciating progress is important. The idea that one is going to get everyone “back” right away, particularly “middle class” families is part of the problem. In Pittsburgh, evidence is shaky there’s lots of current demand for high end condos-but there’s lot’s of evidence students and many lower income groups want to live downtown.

    Couldn’t resist putting the link to today’s NY Times review of the cult classic, The Warriors.

    It paints a pretty realistic picture of how NYC was viewed accross the country then.

  22. You need people with vision and resources to see the good in an area and then stick it out til the turnover is complete, they also need people who can see and share their vision fill in the spaces. Look at Tremont and Ohio City, they succeed because it is like minded people helping each other succeed. Then you can look at Stonebridge, a Build it and they will come affair, that’s where the new people people and the young people flock to. Cleveland neighborhoods were built on ethnic traditions. People moved there because there were other people “like them” there to help. People met & Talked, my dad knows everyone on his street even the hooligan college kids, my sister only knows the people next door. I think my dad has it right . People don’t engage one another like they used to, a neighborhood needs a catalyst like my dad, someone go out and put the pieces together.

  23. See, I asked my original question – do we want to bring people back or start over with fresh young people – because I don’t see Cleveland making an effort to bring back its expats. None of my high school friends are coming back – they’ve all made productive, successful, engaging careers elsewhere. I came back mainly out of a crushing sense of guilt and responsibility, and I’m not sure what I did was exactly wise, but I did it, and here I am. I think a few years ago I would’ve suggested that we try and get people to move back, but not anymore. The people who seem happiest here, IMHO, *are* the newcomers. People who came here from smaller cities, maybe an exurban wasteland or two, people who were genuinely tired of congestion, whose expenses are too high to deal with living in New York. I say let them come in droves, experiment, let it all hang out. The only thing I would ask in return is that they learn about and respect our history, that they take some time to understand why we are where we are today.

  24. I’d also say that I’d be sad if we wiped out Cleveland’s self-effacing tendency to pick at its own scabs. Like it or not, I think that’s part of our character, part of what would draw me here if I were an outsider. Kids move to New York thinking it’s going to be all exciting and gritty like Taxi Driver, but you get to New York these days and it’s all Baby Gap and Dunkin Donuts. Cleveland still has that shabby chic appeal, which can probably coexist with a can-do attitude. Plenty of my friends here who are doing stuff for the community are also real sourpusses.

  25. “The people who seem happiest here, IMHO, *are* the newcomers. People who came here from smaller cities, maybe an exurban wasteland or two, people who were genuinely tired of congestion, whose expenses are too high to deal with living in New York. I say let them come in droves, experiment, let it all hang out.”

    Well that’s the main issue as I see it–and it’s mostly about regulation and control. A place like Cleveland, or Pittsburgh, Youngstown, Detroit should have a clear cost advantage as place to “let it all hang out”. However, the main people and groups in power are not playing into that-and are often actively stopping the kind of free form experimentation.

    Serious progress has to be made in stopping eminent domain abuse to build mega projects. Also, at the same time a whole range of building code and land use regulations need to be looked at to encourage ground up, sweat equity type rehabs. Residents and gradual development should always be innocent until proven guilty/obviously dangerous. If I want to pull a cot in and sleep in my factory art studio-so what? If I want to not provide a mandated amount of parking because I think residents don’t want it-so what? If some residents want to farm on an abandoned lot-so what?

    FYI–A very large chunk of what we now see in NYC like the trendy loft neighborhoods started as under the radar, often illegally.

    IMHO, places like Cleveland shouldn’t be asking for much input financial or otherwise, from the suburban peanut gallery. It needs to do much more to value and respect the people in the city.

    If you ask for money or revenue sharing or whatever from the state, with it will come control from people with little understanding of or love for the city.

    Take the Consol Arena/Mellon Arena issue in Pittsburgh, where the input and control of non residents has totaly trumped the wishes of people who live in the Hill.

  26. Lewis

    People are not very different across generations and cultures. Cultural/generational explanations are lazy thinking without tons of data.

    Tastes don’t change much but products do. The product in this case is cities.

    Cities are now much safer than they were. My generation grew up at a time when crime rates in cities were declining.

    Birth rates are down for both white people and black people. Household size is much smaller. There will be less demand for suburban housing with yards.

    Suburban tracts close to cities are more developed than they were. Additional development has to take place farther and farther away from cities, making it less desirable, unless core suburbs relaxed density restrictions.

    Charter schools will be the last note in this shift. Once middle-class parents can choose where they send their kids within a city, urban living will be more attractive. Currently, many urban schools are dangerous relative to suburban schools and have limited extracurriculars.

  27. John S.


    Charter schools are already available to middle-class parents and their children throughout the Rust Belt states and cities. The mainstream public and news media up to this point have simply been slow to acknowledge the implications of this new paradigm. The fact is, people no longer have to live within a third or fourth ring suburb in order to ensure that their children receive a quality education. Therefore, the last critical advantage that the newer suburbs have wielded over the central city–the ability to offer a quality education–has effectively been nullified.

    I believe the task now falls to cities to promote successful charter schools as legitimate options for families who would otherwise embrace city living.

  28. John S.


    I commend you for returning to Cleveland and the Rust Belt in general. I’m sure you have made some significant personal and professional sacrifices in doing so, but you obviously felt that there was something of greater value here. Obviously, you are not alone.

    I actually think Cleveland (and Akron-Canton for that matter) should be actively campaigning to attract some of its expats back. Whether they commit to living here for life or leave again after they remember why they originally left is another matter, but perhaps this could play into some sort of “Cleveland Expatriate Network” very similar to what Jim Russell () has suggested is already underway in Pittsburgh. The mere circulation of ideas and talent between Cleveland and other major cities/countries could result in the infusion of new ideas and fresh perspectives into the city fabric. It would be a start, at least.

  29. John S.,

    Thanks very much for bringing up this taboo subject.School Choice/charter schools would likely be the biggest thing one could do for most cities.

    As I recall, the movement towards choice first started in dense areas like East Harlem. NYC’s magnet school ahve played a huge role for years. It’s a dirty little secret, but the really wealthy in NY rely a lot on fancy private schools.

    As with any other product or service, more density, means more opportunity for choice. Low density suburbs and exurbs can only provide one size fits all schools.

  30. Tom

    Cities are attracting 20-somethings but the also need to focus on making themselves more liveable for families, as many of those 20 somethings will eventually get married and have kids. The issues go beyond charter schools. Day-to-day life with, say, four kids is just much easier in a suburb than in a city. Family size is getting smaller, and it is much easier for a one-kid family to negotiate city life than a four-kid family. City planners need to spend their days moving about their cities with a two year old in a stroller, or better yet, a four year old who can walk but still doesn’t have complete sense, and a one year old in a stroller. There are lots of little things cities can do to make life with kids easier–more curb cuts, more playgrounds (and better designed ones), design public transit to be more stroller friendly, etc. I lived in London–one of the world’s most family-friendly cities–when my son was two years old. It opened my eyes to challenges to urban living with kids that never occurred to me. And I managed to destroy three high-end umbrella strollers pushing him around the city in the course of one year.

  31. Lewis

    John, agreed. Things just have to have been around for a while to be integrated into people’s defaults. It’ll take time, marketing, and even more charter schools than exist today.

  32. Don’t tout charter Schools.
    Charter Schools are a business and as a business have to make a profit.
    If they do not make money they do not exist.

  33. As I said, a taboo subject.

    Whatever you may think about it, choice among public schools, private schools, magnet schools and charter schools are a very big reason NYC managed to hold on to a large chunk of it’s wealthy and middle class.

    NYC’s very wealthy have always had the private school option–although many do send their kids to public schools. Magnet schools which originally were intended to help with segregation then took off because of the great quality of some of these schools like Bronx Science, High School of Performing Arts, Art & Design, Stuyvesant.Today it seems like almost all high schools have some magnet programs.

    Add to this some very wonderful Catholic schools like Christ The King, St Francis Prep, Archbishop Molloy, Regis. Good transit and decent density have always made choice possible.Sadly, in spite of good records and a much lower cost of operation, Catholic schools are closing because parents can’t afford them–and pay taxes for the public schools as well.

    About a third of NY public school teachers send their kids to private scoools. In Chicago, it’s about 40%

    My sister and her husband are both NYC public school teachers and they did use Catholic schools as an option for High School.

  34. As far as I know, the concept of school choice as a movement came out of experiments allowing choice among small mini schools in East Harlem in the 1980’s.

    Milton Friedman had endorsed the school voucher idea in the 1960’s.

    The fact it took off in a dense inner city area with walkable streets and good transit was not an accident. Real choice is not possible in the suburbs without major inconvenience.

  35. Thad

    A thing to remember about choice schools is that, there is a selection process, you can’t just show up and register your kids. I went to a magnet school in Miami and it was all based on lottery except for the visual and performing arts program (which I was in) that required an audition. The school also filtered out kids with discipline problems and who had below a 2.0 GPA. Many schools in Chicago have entrance exams too. So basically it’s really an option for kids who would succeed anyway. It’s also much more stressful for parents in that you have to play an intricate game of making sure your kid gets into this program at this school so they’ll be in a better position to get into this one for middle school, then on to this one for high school. That’s why despite the number of options, people who can, just find it easier to move to the suburbs where they can send their kid to the neighborhood school and not stress about it. I think a better solution in the long run is to make the default option the best it can be, because if the most disadvantaged can succeed, so can those with advantages as well. I’m not against choice schools, but I hate when people just make it a cop-out to improving the default option and ignore the difficulty of getting in to such schools.

  36. Thad,

    That is very true. Many of these schools do “cherry pick” for achievement, talent and behavior. Catholic schools in most places do not discriminate by income–at all if they can help it but, they are very tough on behavior issues.

    However, many including myself think that public schools have gone way too far in letting bad behavior slide. My sister and her husband who each have taught in NYC for over 25 years agree with that.

    One must also remember that, choice does exist today. Kids with advantages, have parents who move them to good districts. It’s the other kids who are left out. These kids then are not just lost as classmates but as friends and influences in the neighborhood.

    Also try to remember two other facts.

    School choice of any kind is still in it’s infancy and is being opposed bitterly. One really can’t expect that the wide potential range of good choices can develop yet. There is no really large scale school voucher system in America.

    Some level of housing density and a good transportation system is required for lot’s of choices to be reasonably available. The East Harlem type neighborhood where stuff like this took off is not normal in America.

  37. Thad,

    BTW, it wasn’t like that till a few years ago, but today in NYC, at least at the high scool level there are no zoned, assigned schools anymore. I think the kids apply to whatever ones they want and then go to the local one if they don’t get in.

    The number of magnet programs has exploded, although many are not that great.

    The reason for the change is partly because the racial integration purpose now seems uneeded in NYC, where 70% of the kids could be classified as some type of minority. NYC is a majority, minority city.

  38. Catholic Schools in Cleveland 10 grand a year. 75% of that population live outside of Cleveland proper.
    Magnate schools offer 2 things, segregate achieving students from the general population(not necessarily a bad thing) and save school systems money after they are up and running. They also attract better teachers because of the quality of student & better pay.

  39. I don’t know about Cleveland but in NYC and most cities, catholic school teacher salaries and benefits are a lot lower than those for public schools. Per pupil spending is also a lot lower–with a much better average outcome.

    I know recently, those salaries have gone up.

    Yes, Catholic schools cost too much for most people–even though they have tried very hard to offer as much help and scholarships as possible.

    It’s honestly a very unfair and disgusting situation. As a whole these are schools doing better and at much lower cost than public schools but they are closing. If people had to pay out of pocket directly for the real cost of 15,000 or more per pupil, being spent by public schools, 90% of the schools would be closed.

    Remember that you must pay for private school and pay taxes for the schools you don’t use.

  40. Sean Posey

    The NYC area might be majority-minority, but the schools are almost perfectly segregated. That’s an enormous problem. Why? Separate is inherently unequal.

  41. Your saying NYC schools are almost perfectly segregated? I don’t buy that at all.

    Not saying that lot’s of neighborhoods are not somewhat–or that many parents would like them to be but the huge influxes of immigration have made clear segregation pretty rare.

    I grew up in Woodside, Queens which was mostly Irish, then and now hugely complex mix-Korean, Mexican, Columbian, South Asian etc. My sister bought her house in Bellrose when it was “white ethnic”, now it has big South Asian and Egyptian population. My mom then moved to Forest Hills which was then middle class European/ Jewish and now is Russian, Bukharan, Chinese, Jewish.

    Even with some “white flight” to private schools, the system is very integrated.

    Do you live in NYC or have direct knowledge?

  42. BTW, NYC Catholic schools are majority, minority too and I think very much so. One cannot say in general that whites are taking their kids out of majority minority public schools for racial reasons, if they are putting them in often equally diverse Catholic schools.

    If one really has a racial attitude problem, at this point, one has likely left the city.

  43. OK, I’ve softened my position on this. NYC, of course still has a pretty huge level of neighborhood segregation.

    I would say, that when compared to the city’s past and the general trend in the country it’s much better than most places and getting better.

  44. Sean Posey

    Do you live in NYC or have direct knowledge?

    I’ve been following it

    Jonathan Kozol has been writing about the issue for a long time. He pays particularly close attention to schools in the NYC area.

  45. I would have to study and think about this much more. I do have some personal knowledge having attended NYC public schools through high school and being related to NYC public school teachers. When I went to high school–there was zoning meant to integrate high schools as well as the Magnet schools.I also lived in NY till six years ago.

    As the article states–New York in the 1950’s/60’s was highly segregated by neighborhood (although many areas were close together)
    This is very important to know. The question is it better or worse now.

    There is absolutely no doubt, that on a neighborhood level, most of NYC is much more integrated than I remember it. There may be a push and pull going on here which I’m not willing to call entirely negative. A greater level of choice, has gotten more people to stay in neighborhoods while using different schools.

    Where my sister lives, near the Nassau border, a lot of parents do send their kids to Catholic schools (The local High School is not good) At least they have not left the neighborhood and all the kids are friends after school.

    I also find the likelyhood of extreme segregation very unlikely since I think about 70% of school age kids in NYC would be classified as non white.

    When I went to high school, you saw lots of tracking and segmentation in the big schools.

  46. Several quotes from the article point out the flaws in the misleading spin.

    First, it’s clear that in the 1950’s and 60’s NY was in the midst of massive “white flight”. Although, they fali to mention that many of these whites did not choose to leave but were forced out of the neighborhoods they loved by Robert Moses and urban “renewal”.
    This perspective is important. Whites as whole left the city in vast numbers, a trend that has only recently shifted.

    “Indeed, the city’s schools were not much more integrated than Southern schools when the Brown decision was issued — even though Governor Theodore Roosevelt had directed the New York State Legislature to abolish the last two officially black schools in New York City way back in 1900. But as recounted by Diane Ravitch in her book The Great School Wars, Kenneth Clark, a psychologist whose research bolstered the NAACP arguments in the Brown case, issued another report in 1954 concluding that New York City had a segregated school system and that black children received an inferior education. The head of the New York City Board of Education then, Arthur Levitt, said the segregation had not “been deliberately imposed by legislation” but was nonetheless “not good educational policy.”

    At the same time, the population of the school system was undergoing a huge change, as many whites left the city for the suburbs, and more and more Hispanics moved to New York. There were many subsequent efforts to address the segregation in the city — some sincere, some cosmetic, few successful.”

    Then the article states the city is the third most segregated in the nation.

    “Another study, this one by the Lewis Mumford Center at the State University of New York at Albany, found that Asians and Hispanics are more segregated from whites in New York schools than in any other school system in the country. For black-white segregation, New York ranks third.”

    Well, think about this for a few moments. We do have school choice in America and it’s the right to move. The greatest issue is not failure to integrate within school systems as much as parents leaving the district entirely by leaving the city.

    I’m pretty sure that’s what has happened in Cleveland. In NY, a greater level of choice has helped stop the trend of people leaving to get their kids into better schools.

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