The New Urban Crisis
April 11, 2017
How Our Cities Are Increasing Inequality, Deepening Segregation, and Failing the Middle Class—and What We Can Do About It
Toronto, ON – The numbers don’t lie. In 2013 the Pew Research Center conducted a study that found that 61 percent of Americans felt that the current economic state favored the rich over the poor. That’s no wonder considering the stark gap that has grown between the different groups in the United States. The U.S. middle-to-upper class is made up of approximately 40 million people, accounts for a third of the U.S. work force, and is responsible for considerably shaping our culture, workplace practices, and society at large. On the other end of the spectrum, there is the service and working classes—which make up the other two-thirds of the workplace, have 65 and 30 million people respectively, and are consistently paid lower salaries for doing all the jobs that we need to keep our cities and our lives running smoothly. How did this happen in a country that has historically touted itself as the land of opportunity for all? How do we fix it before it’s too late?
Prof. Richard Florida of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management answers those questions in his new book THE NEW URBAN CRISIS: How Our Cities Are Increasing Inequality, Deepening Segregation, and Failing the Middle-Class—And What We Can Do About It (Basic Books; April 11, 2017). A leading urbanist and intellectual, Prof. Florida was one of the first scholars to anticipate the back-to-the-city movement in his groundbreaking The Rise of the Creative Class. This movement saw the young, educated, and affluent surging back into cities, reversing decades of suburban flight and urban decline. Yet, it soon became clear that all was not well in our cities; instead there was a dark side to the creative class economy which Florida had previously celebrated. The same forces that have powered urban growth also have generated cities’ vexing challenges, such as gentrification, segregation, inequality, and unaffordable housing.
“I began to see the back-to-the-city movement as something that conferred a disproportionate share of its benefits on a small group of places and people,” Prof. Florida states. “Virtually all our cities suffer from growing economic divides. Tens of millions of Americans remain locked in persistent poverty. Across the great majority of cities and suburbs alike, the middle class is declining. Our economic landscape is splintering into small areas of affluence and concentrated advantage, and much larger areas of poverty and concentrated disadvantage.”
As THE NEW URBAN CRISIS reveals, there is a winner-take-all urbanism in our country. This means that the prodigious growth of our largest cities and the intense competition for their most desirable neighborhoods has created vast disparities within their boundaries. These disparities have not only led to the decline of middle-class neighborhoods, but also have resulted in a growing gulf between a few “superstar” cities and the rest. “The greatest driver of innovation, economic growth, and urban prosperity—the clustering of talent and other economic assets in cities conferred the lion’s share of its benefits on the already privileged, leaving 66 percent of the population behind,” Florida explains.
But if this crisis is urban, so is its solution. With THE NEW URBAN CRISIS, Florida offers a compelling diagnosis of our economic ills and a bold prescription for more inclusive cities capable of ensuring growth and prosperity for all. Cities remain the most powerful economic engines the world has ever seen. The only way forward is to devise a new model of urbanism-for-all that encourages innovation and wealth creation while generating good jobs, rising living standards, and a better way of life for everyone. We must rebuild cities and suburbs for the middle class by investing in infrastructure, reforming zoning and tax laws, building more affordable housing, and further empowering cities to address their own particular challenges. “The stakes could not be higher,” Prof. Florida warns us. “More than a crisis of cities, [this is] a crisis of our economy, society, and entire way of life.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Richard Florida is a University Professor and the Director of Cities at the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. He is a senior editor at the Atlantic, cofounder and editor-at-large for the Atlantic’s CityLab, and founder of the Creative Class Group. He tweets at @Richard_Florida
ABOUT THE BOOK:
THE NEW URBAN CRISIS: How Our Cities Are Increasing Inequality, Deepening Segregation, and Failing the Middle Class—and What We Can Do About It
By Richard Florida
Published by Basic Books • Publication date: April 11 2017
ISBN: 978-0-465-07974-2 • E-book ISBN: 978-0-465-09778-4 • $28.00 / $36.50 CAN • Hardcover
The Rotman School of Management is located in the heart of Canada’s commercial and cultural capital and is part of the University of Toronto, one of the world’s top 20 research universities. The Rotman School fosters a new way to think that enables our graduates to tackle today’s global business and societal challenges. For more information, visit www.rotman.utoronto.ca.
For more information:
Manager, Media Relations
Rotman School of Management
University of Toronto