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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Did you know that Howard County is a "Superzip?"

       I have been reading Charles Murray's book called "Coming Apart."  Briefly the book lays out the case that the United States is becoming two very distinct groups with radically different lifestyles.  Of course we see this in our political discourse today with the polarized red and blue states that has led to our political stalemate.
       The two areas that Dr. Murray highlights as the cause of the growing disparity are education and wealth.  He shows this growing disparity from the period of the early 1960's to the year 2000 (he plans to update his data with the new 2010 census info soon). Where once (1960's) a college education was not a requirement for many good paying jobs today it has become almost mandatory.  This has caused the growing wealth disparity between those with higher education and those without. As we become more of an information economy and less of a manufacturing economy this disparity will only grow.
       He shows by zip code that where the distance between neighborhoods of well educated white collar residents and residents from the less educated blue collar has been increasing in the past 40 years.  The difference in price of home of the professional in the 1960 and the blue collar worker was not as great as today.  Often the residences of each group were in close proximity to each other in the same neighborhoods.  I saw this in the neighborhood in which I grew up with the president of our local bank living next door to someone who worked in a local factory.  Of course the president's house was bigger and had a larger corner location but his children played in the same playground as all the other children in the neighborhood.
      Dr. Murray as developed a formula to show where the new elites in the Country live by zip code.  His formula uses the factors of education level and median income to identify what he calls the "super zip codes."  These zip codes score in the 99th percentile when compared with the rest of the United States.  Most zip codes in Howard County are super zip codes.  In fact we are part of a "super zip code bubble" that extends from Ellicott City through Montgomery County, Northwestern DC and into Northern Virginia.  Additionally our "bubble" is surrounded by zip codes that range from the 90th to 98th percentile.
     So what is the significance of this reality of separation?  Dr. Murry postulates that children growing up in these superzips will most likely be the leaders of businesses and government institutions in the future and their narrow cultural exposure to the other 99% of the country will make them ill equipped to lead these institutions or understand the interests of those they they led.  One thinks of the criticisms of Mitt Romney in his statement at a NASCAR race that some of his friend own racing teams or Barak Obama talking about voters in conservative states clinging to their guns and religion.
   As I blogged about yesterday I do think about how my perspective on life growing up in small town in the 1950's and 60's is different from that of my children who grew up in Columbia.  Even though we chose to live in a community that had diversity, both ethnic and economic, as a central feature of the community it couldn't compare to the diversity of a small town in the 1950's.  If for no other reason maybe having a mandatory 2 year service requirement (either military or civic) for all 18 year old youth would be a positive thing.
     If you would like to take Dr. Murray's quiz to see if you have lived in a "bubble" click here.

P.S.
   I have only touched on a small part of the findings of the book.  It explores many more aspects of how we are growing apart as a Country. Most of the discussion of this book has centered around the disparity of higher income persons being married when they have children than lower income persons who are more likely to raise children as single parents.

P.S.1
Great volunteer opportunity for which I will be volunteering:
Volunteers are needed for Columbia Association’s (CA) annual Columbia BikeAbout, a free event being held this year on Saturday, September 15, organized by the Columbia Archives.
The volunteers will assist with traffic control, directions and registration, and they will act as guides along the 13-mile route. Flexible shifts are available between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Training — and a free T-shirt — will be provided for those volunteering to help.
BikeAbout is a popular event that attracts several hundred bicyclists each year. The route takes advantage of Columbia’s extensive path system and highlights Columbia’s historic and natural beauty. This year’s route, which will start and end at the Downtown Columbia Lakefront, takes riders on a winding route through sections of Oakland Mills, Long Reach and Town Center.  
Features on the BikeAbout will include:
  1. Blandair Park: Phase 1 is open — what’s next?
  2. Woodlawn Slave Quarters: CA’s sensitive restoration helps interpret Howard County history
  3. Oakland Ridge Industrial Park: Columbia’s first industrial area has become a hidden marketplace
  4. Thunder Hill: From Sleeping Dog Lane to Soaring Hill, the story behind the street names
  5. Jackson Pond: From farm pond, to experimental storm water retention, to neighborhood amenity
  6. Symphony Woods and downtown redevelopment: Past, present and future
For more information on volunteering, please email Columbia.Archives@ColumbiaAssociation.org  or call Jeannette Lichtenwalner at 410-715-6781.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

I loved that quiz, and I am who I thought I was, but it gave me insight into why I am who I am. The idea that our experiences shape our vision of and often blind us to the experiences of others has been on my mind lately. Thanks for sharing this!