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Separate Societies

Poverty and Inequality in U.S. Cities

Authored by William W. Goldsmith and Edward J. Blakely with a foreword by President Bill Clinton

Publication Year: 2010

“Economic and political forces no longer combat poverty—they generate poverty!" exclaim William Goldsmith and Edward Blakely in their report on the plight of American's urban poor. In this revised and updated edition of their 1992 book Separate Societies, the authors present a compelling examination of the damaging divisions that isolate poor city minority residents from the middle-class suburban majority. They pay special attention to how the needs of the permanently poor have been unmet through the alternating years of promises and neglect, and propose a progressive turn away from 30 years of conservative policies.


Separate Societies vividly documents how the urban working class has been pushed out of industrial jobs through global economic restructuring, and how the Wall Street meltdown has aggravated underemployment, depleted public services, and sharpened racial and class inequalities.


The authors insist that the current U.S. approach puts Americans out of work and lowers the standard of living for all. As such, Goldsmith and Blakely urge the Obama administration to create better urban policy and foster better metropolitan management to effectively and efficiently promote equality.

Published by: Temple University Press


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pp. i-ii

List of Illustrations and Tables

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pp. vii-viii

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Foreword to the Second Edition

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pp. ix-x

Our founders championed equal opportunity for all, knowing it was not a reality, but understanding that as a driving aspiration, this American Dream could keep us moving forward no matter what the future held. While there will always be a gap between where we are and where we want to be, every generation of Americans must always work to Today the gap is too large and the American Dream is out of reach for too many. Bill Goldsmith and coauthor Ed Blakely have long held that the most ...

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pp. xi-xii

Many people contributed to this book. First, we owe a debt of gratitude to all the administrators and activists in city halls and neighborhoods who have fought against poverty and inequality, and told the tales. We are also grateful for ideas and comments from our colleagues on the city planning and urban studies faculties at UC Berkeley, Cornell University, The New School, and the University of Southern California. We are deeply indebted as well to numerous Cornell graduate students: Kevin Waskelis found and organized reams of data; Anna Read and Vishwesh Viswanathan labored tirelessly on the final tables and figures.

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1. The End of an Era: Divided We Fall

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pp. 1-34

When we published Separate Societies in 1992, American cities were troubled by failing economies, severe racial segregation, and desperate neighborhood conditions. These problems had preoccupied politicians, social activists, and scholars since the 1960s. We contended that if left unattended, city problems would impair national social and economic life. We looked to the federal government to enable solutions ranging from inner-city revitalization to dramatic changes...

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2. Separate Assets: Race, Gender, and Other Dimensions of Poverty

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pp. 35-74

The brief “American Century” of diminishing inequality, the post– World War II decades, finished long ago. Ever since the mid-1970s, global competitors have transformed the nation’s economy and politics, and since the severe downturn of 2008, the nation has faced disintegrating traditions of social solidarity. In the mid-twentieth century there was a common belief that all Americans shared an economic destiny. The wealth of the nation would fl ow to all citizens who displayed diligence and thrift. This belief lasted perhaps forty years, and then...

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3. Separate Opportunities: Competition versus Inclusion—The International Dimensions of American Urban Poverty

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pp. 75-107

In the twenty-first century some U.S. metropolitan areas operate from high in the global economic order and others function near the bottom, but they all find themselves zooming up, down, and around, as if they are riding an international roller coaster, constantly ducking obstacles thrown in the way by new contenders from overseas. The Chicago mayor and his economic development director travel to Japan...

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4. Separate Places: The Changing Shape of the American Metropolis

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pp. 108-148

Poverty is not confined to the lowest-income areas of cities. It has spread across metropolitan regions. In the mid-1990s a representative from Minneapolis to the Minnesota legislature used the word metropolitics to propose expanded regional cooperation. The idea was to form an alliance of the Twin Cities with their inner suburbs—to share the burdens of housing for the poor, coordinate sewer construction, pool tax revenues, even to protect farmers against subdivision pressure. By cooperating...

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5. Rebuilding the American City

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pp. 149-194

In the first edition of this book we advocated changes in national policy to deal with the ills of poverty and neglect in urban areas. We wrote in 1992 that there is a potential cycle for change. It begins with the local problem of urban poverty and central-city decay and then moves to local public recognition, which generates a local response. That response is severely constrained and confounded by the exclusionary obstruction of the privileged suburbs surrounding the cities and by a lack of resources and power. ...


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pp. 195-220


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pp. 221-244


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pp. 245-266

E-ISBN-13: 9781439902936
Print-ISBN-13: 9781439902929

Page Count: 255
Publication Year: 2010