Where Did They Go? The Decline of Middle-Income Neighborhoods in Metropolitan America

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    Analysis of 1970 to 2000 decennial census data for families and neighborhoods in the 100 largest metropolitan areas, and in the cities and suburbs of 12 selected metropolitan areas, finds that:

    Although middle-income families have declined considerably as a share of the overall family income distribution, it is noteworthy that middle-class neighborhoods have disappeared even faster in metropolitan areas, especially in cities. This trend suggests increased sorting of high- and low-income families into neighborhoods that reflect their own economic profiles, and increased vulnerability of middle-class neighborhoods “tipping” towards higher- or lower-income status. The resulting disparities among neighborhoods create new challenges for policies to enhance household mobility, improve the delivery of key public services, and promote private-sector investment in struggling locales.