David Rusk, former Mayor of Albuquerque, New Mexico, has observed that “bad neighborhoods
defeat good programs.” This paper identifies the
underlying causes of bad neighborhoods along with
their costs to local residents and residents throughout the region. It is a critical essay that
traces recent patterns of uneven metropolitan development, the social forces generating these patterns, their many costs, and potential remedies. It demonstrates how the interrelated processes of sprawl, concentration of poverty, and racial segregation shape the opportunity structure facing diverse segments of the nation’s urban and metropolitan population. In so doing, it draws on recent scholarly literature from various disciplines, government data and documents, research institute reports, and the mass media. Topics addressed include income and wealth disparities, employment opportunities, housing patterns, access to health
care, and exposure to crime. While recognizing the role of individual choice and human capital, the paper
focuses on public policy decisions and related private sector activities in determining how place and race shape the opportunity structure of metropolitan areas. Finally, the paper explores various policy options to sever the linkages among place, race, and privilege in the nation’s urban communities.