18 December 2004

Bad schools and urban life

Big Media Matt makes a dark little observation with troubling consequences.
Bad urban public school performance and the attendant absence of middle class families seems integral to the rennaissance in city living for the childless that we've seen in recent years. Urban life pretty much fell apart in the 70s and 80s in the face of a vicious circle of middle class departures (the misleadingly named "white flight" though middle class African-Americans families have left, too, as you'll see in certain suburbs of Washington and Baltimore), rising crime, and failing schools. In the 1990s, the crime situation abated significantly, which made cities a desirable place for middle class single people to live again. But if the school problem were solved, we wouldn't be able to afford it.
I'm troubled by his argument, but I don't know if I buy it. I think that the advantages of urban living for middle class singles are such that we will actually endure higher costs than in the 'burbs to live in the city, as demonstrated by places like my hometown. This is the kind of question that public policy research is supposed to answer systematically.

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