The world’s ultra rich, filmmaker Jacques Peretti observed last month, now inhabit “their own Elysium-style biosphere.” They live in “a floating bubble high above Earth,” a “chrome Business Class tube in the sky.”
Peretti was, of course, speaking metaphorically. The rich don’t really live in their own biosphere. They live on terra firma, just like the rest of us. But they don’t live with the rest of us. In our increasingly unequal world, those of high income live more and more apart.
Just how apart? And what does this apartness mean for the rest of us? Researchers like Stanford sociologist Sean Reardon and his collaborator Kendra Bischoff of Cornell have been exploring questions like these. Too Much editor Sam Pizzigati recently spoke with Reardon about our economic segregation — and why it so matters.
Too Much: Most people today hear the word segregation and think racial segregation. You’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about economic segregation. Why?
Sean Reardon: We’re concerned about racial segregation, in part, because of the economic segregation that goes along with it. Racial segregation often means that blacks or Latinos are unequally concentrated in poor, disadvantaged neighborhoods, with poor quality schools and institutions.
I’ve been worried that in an era of rising income inequality we may also be seeing rising spatial inequality economically. I worry about the consequences that this might have, particularly for children growing up in increasingly unequal neighborhoods.
Too Much: We can see racial segregation. Economic segregation we can’t see in the same way. How do you go about measuring economic segregation?