May 18, 2007

slightly revelatory

1. The Mathemagician and I have been recommending American Apartheid1 to anyone who will listen. Today I mentioned it to my dad and a friend from college. This book is what quantitative analysis is for. It argues, using quantitative data explained in incredibly clear terms, that African-American residential segregation in the US was created and is enforced by the actions of white homeowners and credit institutions, and that segregation necessarily acts to concentrate the effects of poverty so that the segregated community passes through various tipping points with respect to housing abandonment, property disinvestment, crime, educational attainment, and neighborhood solidarity. Past those tipping points, a spiral of decline creates and perpetuates an underclass, which eventually perpetuates itself. The book builds its argument so solidly that every time you wonder about something, something is addressed two pages later. It came out in 1995, though, and it doesn't talk about gentrification at all. I have a post on gentrification in mind in light of American Apartheid, but that will have to wait.

2. The Political Schmientist helped me realize what I want to do with my life.
I think I take things too literally sometimes. I've been walking around since I saw that picture saying, "A lighthouse operator! How do I become a lighthouse operator?" Even though I know that's not what I want: I want an interesting place to walk and swim, and a job where I feel good about myself and my work every day, and to fulfill some of my childhood fantasies about being important.

Do they even have lighthouse operators anymore?

1. Massey, Douglas and Nancy Denton. American Apartheid. Harvard University Press, 1998 (reprint of 1995, I think).
2. "xkcd - A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language." I haven't looked at the rest of it, but, um, YES.


amelia said...

there's plenty of debate about massey & friends' model -- can't remember it off the top of my head, but basically the idea is that they suffer from an endogeneity problem because they don't identify the answer to the chicken-and-egg problem around preferences, redlining, migration, etc., well enough. will look it up.

also, mmmmm....lighthouse.

North said...

Do you mean that they have a problem in identifying solutions (which I agree) or in identifying causation?

amelia said...

causation. :-)