The middle class in Charlotte is supposedly shrinking, the paper claims, because of a growing income gap between the rich and the poor.
“Charlotte’s poor and affluent neighborhoods have grown dramatically in recent decades, evidence of a widening income gap, while middle-class communities are shrinking,” the paper read.
Uh, no. As in hell no. They can’t be serious.
To arrive at this conclusion, the Observer and Stanford University twisted Charlotte’s demographic reality into an unrecognizable mangle in an article over the weekend. The propaganda here is the same stuff the media and the Obama campaign (sorry, that was redundant) have been spinning for months. The evil rich are destroying the middle class and only the rich and poor are left. Ergo we need class warfare and to punish the rich by redistributing the wealth. It’s Obama’s main — heck only — line for this election, and now universities, the Observer and other Democrat Party subsidiaries are cranking out cooked studies like this one to support it. The reality, at least in Charlotte, is another story entirely.
The middle class isn’t shrinking here, as the Observer and Stanford claim, because of some insidious, growing income gap between poor and rich created by rich greed, but because Charlotte elites, particularly those on the school board, declared war on the middle class aboout 15 years ago and launched a massive wave of middle class white flight no one will acknowledge.
Charlotte’s “missing” middle class can be found in York County, SC, and Union County, where they moved to avoid Mecklenburg’s taxes, schools and legendary crime problems. Many of them didn’t actually flee, but instead skipped over the county entirely when they moved here, locating outside and then driving back in. You can see the evidence of this on our clogged freeways as everyone commutes.
The biggest secret of the last decade is that the explosive growth Charlotte leaders were so proud of — and that they liked to pretend was an influx of white, affluent bankers attracted by Charlotte’s fabulous social amenities – was actually the opposite, white flight accompanied by an even larger surge of low income people moving here. I began tracking the overwhelming evidence of this screamingly obvious phenomenon about a decade ago, mainly because no one else would do it. Here’s how bad white and middle class flight from the county had become by 2006, from a piece I wrote that year:
Since 2001, CMS had added about 20,000 additional kids to its rolls. But while the numbers of students of every other race have exploded, the big secret that no one dares speak of is that the total number of white kids in the system has stayed almost exactly the same. In 2001, there were 46,749. This year, there are 46,741.
Of the roughly 5,000 kids CMS added this year, just 189 were white. Compare that to Union County next door, which added 1,800 white kids this year while the counties around us added a total of nearly 4,000 and you begin to get a picture of what’s happening here. White middle and upper-middle class parents are bypassing our school system by the thousands.
For much of the last decade until the recession, the surrounding counties were adding a total of 4,000 to 5,000 additional middle class kids a year (about 10 percent were African-American or Hispanic).
Meanwhile, 26,000 middle class individuals fled middle ring neighborhoods for outside the county — a trend completely ignored by the Observer – not because the rich oppressed them, but because crime was so bad.
By 2005, with the economy still booming, this was obvious. Consider this from a piece I did on it:
When 26,000 people disappear, you’d think someone would notice. In the space of just a decade, that’s exactly what happened. Nearly 10,000 white people packed up the moving boxes and abandoned what until recently were solid, diverse middle-class neighborhoods along a four-mile wide stretch of land between Albemarle and Monroe Road. Like clockwork, they were replaced nearly one for one by Hispanic and African-American newcomers. Across the county, in another census tract between Little Rock Road and I-85, another startling transformation took place. In the space of less than a decade, 2,000 white residents fled the solid, diverse middle-class neighborhoods in that area, too.
It’s a phenomenon that’s occurring in neighborhood after neighborhood in the county’s middle ring, the once strongly middle-class suburban space between uptown and the far-flung suburbs. Between 1990 and 2000, a net 26,000 white, middle-class residents moved out ofthese middle-ring neighborhoods, a staggering trend that continues today.
It’s the classic lead-in to white flight. Just ask the folks in Chicago. First whites fled middle-ring suburbs for far flung suburbs, leaving behind depressed property values and rising crime in the neighborhoods they abandoned. As the blight spread, they abandoned those far-flung suburbs and pressed even further out. Then came bright flight, where middle class African-Americans and Hispanics begin to abandon middle-ring suburbs as well.
Stanford and the Observer claim that poor neighborhoods are growing in Charlotte, implying that the evil rich are somehow creating more poor, or that the middle class has now become poor.
The Stanford study hints at an underlying complaint by Occupy Wall Street protesters – that there are two Americas, and people are upset about the division.
The 140 percent increase in families in poor neighborhoods was larger than the national average of about 100 percent, said Sean Reardon, an associate professor of education at Stanford who led the research.
The number of poor here HAS exploded, but it has nothing to do with income distribution among the classes changing or the middle class becoming poor. It is because Charlotte has become a national mecca for the poor, importing more of them over the last decade than almost anywhere else in the country, in part because our social services were so generous.
Between 2000 and 2008, or right up until the beginning of the Great Recession, the Charlotte region had the second highest growth in poverty in the nation according to the Brookings Institute. We jumped from 123,000 impoverished people to 233,000 in less than a decade, a study of census data by the Brookings Institute showed. That same study ranked Charlotte first in the nation in the increase in the number of poor children living here, from 40,000 at the beginning of the decade to 87,000. This wasn’t because they suddenly became poor. It was because they moved here.
As the left-leaning but demographically accurate Brookings Institute pointed out repeatedly during the last decade, Charlotte became a destination city for (mostly) poor minorities in particular over the last decade, as I documented in this piece in 2010:
The city has become so diverse that non-Hispanic whites have now officially obtained minority status in Charlotte, making up just 49.1 percent of the population, a trend that was unthinkable as late as 2000.
What is going on here? Brookings described Charlotte as one of the top Hispanic destination cities in the nation with the second fastest growing Hispanic and Asian population in the country, according to the report. (Brookings combined the two groups in its stats. Given that the Asian population is still tiny here, it’s almost entirely the Hispanic population that is driving this trend.)
In that time period, the Charlotte area’s Hispanic population more than doubled, jumping by more than 40,000 to 80,200. The new Brookings report also lists Charlotte as a destination city for African-Americans, a trend Brookings first noted earlier in the decade as part of what it called the “New Great Migration” of black Americans back to the South. A staggering 94,171 African-Americans moved here in just eight years, making the Charlotte area the sixth hottest relocation spot in the nation for them, after Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Miami and the Washington, D.C., area.
Now do you understand why they are holding the Democratic National Convention here?
So essentially what the Observerand Stanford have actually proved here is not that some insidious income gap is growing, but that Charlotte’s affluent, shiny-shoed liberals won’t live next to the only other group of people left in Charlotte — poor minorities.
That sounds like a personal problem to me. Whatever the case, it’s not one that requires income redistribution to fix.
In an interview with Reuters, Reardon said the Stanford study hints at an underlying complaint by Occupy Wall Street protesters – that there are two Americas, and people are upset about the division.