Bowles J, Kotkin J, Giles D. Reviving the City of Aspiration: A Study of the Challenges Facing New York City’s Middle Class. New York: City Futures, Inc., 2009. [Full text available for download.]
The Center for an Urban Future has published a timely and thorough report on the tenuous state of New York City’s endangered middle class. In just fifty pages, this creatively researched, thoughtfully written, and well-edited monograph surveys a shrinking base of opportunity from its origins in 17th century Holland to our present economic crisis.
Jonathan Bowles and his co-authors cannily describe a grim landscape, in which New York is ranked "the worst urban area in the nation for the average citizen to build wealth," while finding real glimmers of hope, not least in the attitudes of the hardy souls who continue to strive for a better life in the megacity. Perhaps most important, their report makes the case for why a middle class matters:
"The middle class are the backbone of the city’s workforce—the book editors, web designers, lab technicians, architects, nurses, paralegals, actors, university professors, carpenters and bus drivers that provide the foundation for so many key industries…." "The middle class contributes significantly to the city’s vitality and vibrancy. They are far more diverse than the wealthy, not only ethnically but also in terms of their backgrounds, shopping habits and entertainment choices. While they may not regularly frequent boutiques on Madison Avenue or the city’s four-star restaurants, the middle class provides the customer base for a wide mix of businesses across the city, including many of the independent stores, cafés, shops and cultural venues that help give New York its unique identity. They also add to New York’s street life simply by being in the city; while many wealthy residents leave the city on the weekends for second and third homes in Aspen, the Hamptons and other hot spots, the middle class are more likely to stay put and spend their weekends in the city."
Reviving the City of Aspiration is essential reading for people who care about the future of cities and the people who live in them.
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