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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Why I'm Bitter: Miami (Part 1)

I'm not from some small town in rural Pennsylvania. In fact, I currently reside in Miami, FL, home of the richest zip code in the country - Fisher Island. While the glitz and glam of South Beach may be the face of Miami to the rest of the country, residents know a different story.

Miami is often ranked the poorest city in America, or at least in the running.

From the Brookings Institution:

  • Compared to other cities, Miami's adults possess low education levels, are often absent from the labor force, and must provide for relatively large households. City residents further confront a rapidly decentralizing regional economy, in which the gap between inner-city workers and jobs is widening. As the economic strength of the urban core dissipates, too many Miami families make do with low incomes, and struggle to pay for housing and the necessities of life.
  • Miami's black residents, in particular, may be especially disconnected from the growing suburban job market, as more than 40 percent do not have access to an automobile.
  • Only half of working-age adults in Miami were employed or looking for work in 2000—the lowest percentage among the 100 largest cities in the U.S. As a result, more than one in four Miami children lives in a family with no workers. These low levels of work may reflect not only a growing distance between inner-city Miami residents and suburban job opportunities, but also the low education levels of Miami's population. Though this improved in the 1990s, the share of Miami's adults with at least a four-year college degree remains just 16 percent. Only about half of Miamians hold a high-school degree or more—the lowest such share among the 23 Living Cities.
  • Low- and high-income households increased in number in Miami during the 1990s, but the number of middle-income households declined slightly in the 1990s. As a result, the city's median household income rose only slightly over the decade, and ranked last among the 100 largest cities in the U.S. in 2000. In several neighborhoods, more than 40 percent of all residents live in poverty. Half of Miami's families with children have incomes below or near the poverty line.
  • Nearly 50 percent of renter households pay more than 30 percent of their incomes for housing—the highest share among the 23 Living Cities

From the Federal Census:

  • Median household income: $23,483 (US median income: $46,326)
  • Per capita money income: $15,128
  • Persons below poverty: 28.5% (defined as less than $9,570 per individual)
  • Very low-income owner households: 20.1%
  • Very low-income renter households: 49.9%

According to The Miami New Times (part 2):

"The city's entire middle class -- Anglo, Hispanic, African American -- began to cut and run. With them went hundreds of businesses and thousands of jobs. By official city estimates, during the Eighties alone a staggering 40,000 jobs were lost, more than eleven percent of Miami's entire employment base."

"Poverty spread at an alarming rate through Model City, Overtown, Allapattah, East Little Havana, and west Coconut Grove...extreme poverty threatens to destabilize the city. The mayor must rally the public for intense and prolonged engagement with the city's most disadvantaged. But given the isolation of Miami's impoverished neighborhoods, that'll be difficult."

"Miami's affluent bayfront communities are self-contained bubbles whose residents have no cause to visit areas west of I-95. Compounding that problem, a history of fractionalized relations has left the city's poor knowing little about themselves. By and large, African Americans don't mix with Cubans, who don't mix with Haitians, who don't mix with either. Everyone is the poorer for it, as isolation breeds ignorance, and ignorance fosters indifference."

Much more to come...

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