Race, Poverty, and American Cities

By John Charles Boger; Judith Welch Wegner | Go to book overview

public goods and services to all within the region, already have achieved most of what the act aims to accomplish. 144

Yet it is possible to imagine metro-governments, unitary in formal terms, that remain subdivided into segregated units for the provision of educational, health care, and other services so effectively as to deny low- income and minority citizens equal access to public goods. If so, formal citizenship in the overall metro-government would not suffice to meet the integrative goals of this act. 145

Moreover, both the proposed low-income goals and racial integration goals implicitly promise new or rehabilitated low-income housing resources, an outcome that would not necessarily follow from the metro- government option. In a nation still deeply in need of additional low- income housing resources, 146 this might prove a decisive factor in assessing whether to include a metro-government option in National Fair Share legislation. 147


Conclusion

This essay's National Fair Share proposal would not directly provide jobs, health care, preschool education, increased welfare benefits, or other needed social services to those who need them most. Nor would it directly address the desperate need of our beleaguered cities and their residents for aid with their immediate problems. Yet pilot programs such as the Gautreaux experiment demonstrate that a successful fair share program would afford multiple, substantial benefits to most fair share participants. Moreover, by creating housing options for low-income and minority citizens in suburban areas, the act would diminish the demand for, and thereby lower the market price of, urban housing units. It should also widen the employment choices of urban residents, reduce pressures on overcrowded urban school systems, and spread the local costs of social services among municipalities throughout each metropolitan region.

Apart from these more concrete gains, a fair share program would gradually, over the course of a decade, begin to redirect America's current drift toward economically homogeneous, racially segregated, mutually antagonistic geographical areas. One of the most important achievements of American society has been its ability to provide meaningful social mobility for millions of lower-income citizens. This social fluidity, though failing millions who find themselves locked into almost insurmountable poverty, nonetheless has lifted millions more into middle-class status, forestalling the crystallization of deep, destabilizing interclass antagonisms like those that plague less mobile societies. The National Fair Share legislation should serve these basic American social goals.

-407-

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