‘Snob Zones’ And A Divided America

Snob zones.  How two-tiered America is playing out in real estate and zoning.

Watch Hill, Rhode Island (Flickr/Latham Jenkins)

Watch Hill, Rhode Island (Flickr/Latham Jenkins)

Suburban poverty on the rise, was the big headline recently.  But not all suburbs, by any means.  Not in all those leafy towns.

In “income inequality” America, there’s a lot in motion.  A drift toward segregation not by race but by class.  It’s so pervasive that we hardly think about it.  About the privileges that accrue to wealth.  The obstacles that gather round the poor.  The barriers that can quietly climb between the two.  It’s hardly new, but it’s in a new generation now.

This hour, On Point:  Snob zones, money lines, real estate and how we live now.

— Tom Ashbrook


Lisa Prevost, real estate and journalist and author of the new book, “Snob Zones: Fear, Prejudice, and Real Estate.”

Douglas Massey, professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University. Co-author of the report: “Density Zoning and Class Segregation in U.S. Metropolitan Areas.” Author of “Categorically Unequal: The American Stratification System.”

Bill Bishop, contributing editor at the Daily Yonder, a web publication about rural America. Co-author of “The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart.”

From Tom’s Reading List

Connecticut Post: How zoning protects the rich and harms a community — “In her introduction, the author said she was inspired to do the book by a stormy zoning meeting in Darien Town Hall in 2005 over a proposal to build affordable housing for senior citizens in a very expensive, single-family neighborhood. On her way into the meeting, Prevost was shocked to hear someone who lives in ‘one of the most highly educated, exceedingly affluent communities in the country’ use the foulest language possible in questioning why a TV reporter was attending the session.”

The New York Times: Middle-Class Areas Shrink as Income Gap Grows, New Report Finds — “In 2007, the last year captured by the data, 44 percent of families lived in neighborhoods the study defined as middle-income, down from 65 percent of families in 1970. At the same time, a third of American families lived in areas of either affluence or poverty, up from just 15 percent of families in 1970.”

Boston Globe: Poverty finds the suburbs — “Moving to the suburbs used to mean having made it—having earned the house, the car, the lawn—and being set for the long haul. But over the past decades, the suburbs have changed. Dream houses have fallen into disrepair; dream jobs have disappeared. As urban housing costs soared, immigrants with few resources bypassed cities to be closer to suburban jobs, and low-income families moved further out in search of opportunity. Meanwhile, as the economy shuddered, established middle-class suburbanites saw their incomes shrink.”

Excerpt: ‘Snob Zones” by Lisa Prevost

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