The Geography of Opportunity: Race and Housing Choice in Metropolitan America

Brookings Institution Press
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A popular version of history trumpets the United States as a diverse "nation of immigrants," welcome to all. The truth, however, is that local communities have a long history of ambivalence toward new arrivals and minorities. Persistent patterns of segregation by race and income still exist in housing and schools, along with a growing emphasis on rapid metropolitan development (sprawl) that encourages upwardly mobile families to abandon older communities and their problems. This dual pattern is becoming increasingly important as America grows more diverse than ever and economic inequality increases. Two recent trends compel new attention to these issues. First, the geography of race and class represents a crucial litmus test for the new "regionalism"—the political movement to address the linked fortunes of cities and suburbs. Second, housing has all but disappeared as a major social policy issue over the past two decades. This timely book shows how unequal housing choices and sprawling development create an unequal geography of opportunity. It emerges from a project sponsored by the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University in collaboration with the Joint Center for Housing Studies and the Brookings Institution. The contributors—policy analysts, political observers, social scientists, and urban planners—document key patterns, their consequences, and how we can respond, taking a hard look at both successes and failures of the past. Place still matters, perhaps more than ever. High levels of segregation shape education and job opportunity, crime and insecurity, and long-term economic prospects. These problems cannot be addressed effectively if society assumes that segregation will take care of itself. Contributors include William Apgar (Harvard University), Judith Bell (PolicyLink), Angela Glover Blackwell (PolicyLink), Allegra Calder (Harvard), Karen Chapple (Cal-Berkeley), Camille Charles (Penn), Mary Cunningham (Urban Institute), Casey Dawkins (Virginia Tech), Stephanie DeLuca (Johns Hopkins), John Goering (CUNY), Edward Goetz (U. of Minnesota), Bruce Katz (Brookings), Barbara Lukermann (U. of Minnesota), Gerrit Knaap (U. of Maryland), Arthur Nelson (Virginia Tech), Rolf Pendall (Cornell), Susan J. Popkin (Urban Institute), James Rosenbaum (Northwestern), Stephen L. Ross (U. of Connecticut), Mara Sidney (Rutgers), Phillip Tegeler (Poverty and Race Research Action Council), Tammy Tuck (Northwestern), Margery Austin Turner (Urban Institute), William Julius Wilson (Harvard).
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About the author

Xavier de Souza Briggs is associate professor of sociology and urban planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a former faculty member at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and a former senior policy official at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. William Julius Wilson is the Lewis F. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard University.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Brookings Institution Press
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Published on
Mar 30, 2006
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Pages
353
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ISBN
9780815797784
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Urban & Regional
Political Science / Public Policy / City Planning & Urban Development
Political Science / Public Policy / Regional Planning
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Case studies from around the world and theoretical discussion show how the capacity to act collectively on local problems can be developed, strengthening democracy while changing social and economic outcomes.

Complexity, division, mistrust, and “process paralysis” can thwart leaders and others when they tackle local challenges. In Democracy as Problem Solving, Xavier de Souza Briggs shows how civic capacity—the capacity to create and sustain smart collective action—can be developed and used. In an era of sharp debate over the conditions under which democracy can develop while broadening participation and building community, Briggs argues that understanding and building civic capacity is crucial for strengthening governance and changing the state of the world in the process. More than managing a contest among interest groups or spurring deliberation to reframe issues, democracy can be what the public most desires: a recipe for significant progress on important problems. Briggs examines efforts in six cities, in the United States, Brazil, India, and South Africa, that face the millennial challenges of rapid urban growth, economic restructuring, and investing in the next generation. These challenges demand the engagement of government, business, and nongovernmental sectors. And the keys to progress include the ability to combine learning and bargaining continuously, forge multiple forms of accountability, and find ways to leverage the capacity of the grassroots and what Briggs terms the “grasstops,” regardless of who initiates change or who participates over time. Civic capacity, Briggs shows, can—and must—be developed even in places that lack traditions of cooperative civic action.

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