Inequality and the Future Metropolis

Over at The Atlantic Cities, Richard Florida examines the notion of inequality through the lens of American cities. Florida discovered that wage inequality in American cities was worse in areas clustered around highly-skilled, knowledge-based metros — think of Silicon Valley, Hunstville, Ala., Boulder, Colo., Austin, Texas, to name a few. That’s not entirely surprising. However, he discovered that income inequality tended to cluster around cities with major universities. And still further interesting was what he discovered when he plotted various cities on an X/Y axis between wage and income inequality.

So, what does inequality have to do with the conclusion of the Future Metropolis Index, a study conducted by Zipcar to discover what major U.S. metropolises have the best urban policies as it relates to  innovation, sustainability, vibrancy, efficiency, and high livability? Not much actually. Except that the cities represented on the list all strike me as affluent. That suggests, in part, that affluent metropolitan areas are better suited for urban planning and development.

San Francisco, Seattle, Washington D.C., Portland, and Boston all crack the top five. The study’s criteria is fairly bunk and seems to suffer from cherry picking certain criteria over others, but I wouldn’t argue with any of the cities on the list or even the order in which they appear.

What it does suggest, however, is that even if an America city can be future-proof to some degree or progressive in its urban planning, it goes to show that cities in America still have a long road ahead to be truly livable. The difference between San Francisco, Seattle and Portland compared to Boston and DC is like night and day. The first three are wonderful, the latter are two are kind of nightmares, in my experience.

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