25.1.16

WHY LIFE MANAGEMENT SKILLS MATTER.

It's in a Planetizen inquiry about the kinds of suburbs that have promising futures.
To answer this question, let's look at the advantages of suburbs over cities. One set of advantages relates to social homogeneity—that is, a wealthy, well-educated citizenry, which usually leads to low crime and schools with good reputations (because children from privileged backgrounds tend to have high test scores and to avoid violent behavior towards neighbors). Like it or not, well-off people tend to prefer places full of similarly affluent people.
How many times do I have to explain that institutions are emergent, and academic achievement and mannerly behavior produce prosperity?  Like it or not, self-segregation by well-off people is evolutionarily stable, and a virtuous cycle of responsible behavior and increasing prosperity follows.

But in lamenting the dynamic of suburban decline, the post misses a normative point.
[High-end suburbs] may be very expensive, but their very expensiveness keeps out the social diversity that might put their advantages at risk. The only possible threat to these suburbs' popularity is a collapse of suburban real estate values so massive that their mansions become affordable to the poor, or perhaps statewide policies that wipe out the economic differences between one suburb and another.

Many middle- and upper-middle-class suburbs and exurbs, such as Atlanta's Alpharetta and Cleveland's Solon, have the same advantages but are significantly cheaper. In the short run, these suburbs are in a strong position: they are cheaper than good city neighborhoods and safer than the not-so-good ones. However, they are at some risk in the long term. If they ever become so affordable that they gain some critical mass of disadvantaged residents, eventually their test scores will start to plummet, and they will lose their appeal to middle- and upper-class families.
Catch the conjunction of "disadvantaged residents" with "falling test scores?"

Time to end the pernicious cult of authenticity and stress those middle-class habits in all schools.

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