Cause and Effect; The Fall of Neighborhoods
For many generations, the American Dream didn’t need to include any education higher than a high-school diploma. In what was the backbone to our economy, blue-collar jobs had almost always been there, providing a comfortable living for a single-income family. Neighborhoods thrived thanks to social involvement, and pride of the town over individualism. Deregulation of corporations, advancement in technology and profit-driven mentality is driving jobs away, and keeping wages low. The killers of the “American Dream” are corporations that automate and outsource blue collar jobs, which widens income inequality, removes our commitment to society and erodes our once-safe neighborhoods.
For the past generations since the Great Depression, a person who did not want higher education, could find a well-paying skilled job. What that single-income household provided, was the opportunity for their children to go to college had they wanted to, for the mother to stay home with the kids, and a picket fence home in a friendly neighborhood. The men all worked at the same plant and enjoyed healthcare and pensions, stay-at-home moms in need of social interaction, would get to know the rest of their neighbors. This rapport made neighborhoods safe enough for their children to go out and play.
Corporations have become too big to fail, and their focus is solely on their profit margins. Technology has made it easy to outsource and automate jobs, and free trade allows these companies to get cheaper labor from people living in countries with lower standards of living, and “[y]ou cannot compete with poverty unless you are poor” (LeDuff and Frazier). Many factories have moved or closed, leaving towns thirsting for jobs. People from these town must decide between moving to metropolitan cities, where the jobs are- but cost of living is higher- or take on much lower paying positions. Some may stay in their neighborhood, but will downgrade their living arrangements to match their income.
The middle class has been most affected by this, “Middle-income neighborhoods as a proportion of all metropolitan neighborhoods declined from 58 percent in 1970 to 41 percent in 2000” (Booza, Cutsinger, and Galster). Those who are college-educated and in a higher income bracket, have not had their lives change as drastically – at least not yet. Those who are the top once percent have only increased their wealth, as they tend to own shares in the corporations shipping out what were once, exclusively American jobs. Americans now live in social echo chambers and similar financial status communities, where college educated individuals will pair off, with the weight of student debt keeping them in the city, waiting longer to start a family. In contrast, low-income individuals will pair off and even with their two low-income jobs, cannot afford to gain higher income status.
“As individualism, selfishness, and greed in the United States have grown, civic commitment and a sense of responsibility to society have declined” (“Neighborhood – Loss of The Neighborhood”). People will spend time on social sites while choosing to ignore their responsibility to their immediate environment. We no longer take the time to know the person living next door to us, people no longer have the interest, or time to go to community gatherings, voice their opinions, or even make up their opinion on the direction of their town, city, or state.
In a capitalist society, only those who have the most capital win, because if you don’t have it, you will work yourself to the grave making those above you richer. This is exhausting when you fall into the low-income bracket, and those who once held middle-income jobs are quickly falling into it. With workers working hard not to fall into poverty, or are already in it, it’s easy to see how this can negatively affect them as individuals, and then indirectly, the neighborhoods they live in. There is no longer trust, confidence, or a sense of security in their lives and neighborhoods. Streets once were alive with children playing together, but “Children, like an endangered species, now find refuge behind screens in the safety of their homes and through participation in organized sports and activities” (Playworld).