Media Releases

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.”

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

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


For more infor­ma­tion:

Ken McGuf­fin
Man­ag­er, Media Rela­tions
Rot­man School of Man­age­ment
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to
Tel: 416–946-3818