2. Sao Paulo on the Schuylkill
In 1960, 30 percent of working Philadelphians had jobs in manufacturing. By 2010, that number had dwindled to five percent. Today, more than three times as many Philadelphians work in education and medicine as in manufacturing. But Philadelphia still likes to think of itself as the quintessential lunch-pail metropolis, a haven for the working class in a way that New York and Washington, D.C., never were.
That’s a fantasy.
Of the 25 most populous counties in the nation, Philadelphia—a supposed union stronghold and the rowhome capital of America—remarkably now ranks fourth in income inequality, behind only Manhattan, Miami and Brooklyn. Joe Sixpack might come to the city to catch a Phillies game, but he doesn’t live here anymore.
In January, in his inaugural address, Mayor Nutter warned of the risk of a Philadelphia “divided into the rich and the poor, the affluent and the oppressed, the educated and the enslaved. We are not two cities. We must not become two cities.”
Too late, Mr. Mayor. Philadelphia is already largely split in two, and the halves are moving in dramatically different directions. There is the increasingly prosperous and predominantly white Center City (and its satellites, like University City), where the population is growing and the economy is relatively robust. And then there are miles upon miles of badly struggling minority neighborhoods—battered by the exodus of about 15,000 middle-class African-American households in the past decade or so—where jobs are increasingly scarce, educational achievement is low, and dependence on government services is intense.
This is a combustible combination, as we saw with last year’s flash mobs—and all the more so now that Center City’s relentless expansion is reaching long-established minority neighborhoods, stoking gentrification battles in Point Breeze, North Philadelphia, even Mantua. Buckle up.