The U. S. A. has been undergoing decades of urbanization. First the migration was into densely populated urban areas. Then folks begin migrating out the suburbs, some by “white flight” as white upper and middle class families left ahead of the in-migration of ethnic minorities. In The Big Sort, Bill Bishop sees a new type of migration in recent years. People are sorting according to types of cities. Here are some of the sorting features.
The number of people earning a college degree has been steadily increasing. While cities have always had disproportionately higher numbers of college educated folks compared to rural areas, the percentage of folks who were college educated from one city to the next was not radically different. In 1970, 11.2% of the population had a college degree. For Austin, TX, it was 17% and for Cleveland it was 4%. Certainly a disparity but nothing like 2004 when the percentages were 45% for Austin and 14% for Cleveland. There are 62 metro areas where less than 17% have a college education and 32 where 34% have a college education. When you look at the concentration of young adults with college degrees, the sorting effect is even more striking from one city to the next. Not surprisingly, those cities with high-tech industries have been the magnates for the college educated.
Whites have left the older factory cities of the North and Midwest, as well as the largest metro areas like L. A., Chicago, and Philly, and headed for high-tech cities like Atlanta, Phoenix, Austin, Seattle, and Minneapolis, or retirement/recreational cities like Las Vegas, West Palm Beach, Orlando, and Tampa. Blacks have moved to cities with strong black communities like Atlanta, Washington, New York, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Fort Lauderdale, Baltimore and Philadelphia. “Only 9 out of 320 cities lost black residents.”
“In 1990, young people were evenly distributed among the nation’s 320 cities. By 2000, twenty- to thirty-four-year-olds were concentrated in just a score of cities. … Eighty percent of the non-Hispanic whites ages twenty to thirty-four who moved during the 1990s relocated to the twenty-one highest in technology and patent production. “ (133)
Bishop examines patents filed per capita for metropolitan areas. High-tech cities have seen 100-200% increases in patents filed from the 1970s to the 1990s. Meanwhile, Cleveland saw a decrease of 14% and Pittsburgh 27%.
As you might guess, the high-tech cities have seen greater increases in wages than low-tech cities.
“Instead of people moving to corporations, corporations had begun moving to where pools of talent were deepening.” (135) The iterative effect of high-tech corporations concentrating in one area leads creative-class workers to locate in the area, which draws more high-tech corporations.
The result is that people are sorting into two general categories of cities:
High-Tech Cities (Compared to Low-Tech Cities)
More likely to “try anything once”
More likely to engage in individualistic activities
More interested in politics
Volunteering increasing, but less than in low-tech cities
Church attendance decreasing
Community projects decreasing
Club membership decreasing
Low-Tech Cities (Compared to High-Tech Cities)
Club membership decreasing, but less than in high-tech cities
Community projects increasing
More active participation in clubs, churches, volunteer services, and civic projects
More supportive of traditional authority
More family oriented
More feelings of isolation
More feelings of economic vulnerability
Higher levels of stress
Political interest decreasing
More social activities with other people (143)
What does all this mean in terms of worldviews and politics?
As time passed, voting patterns in the city groups diverged. The high-tech group tilted increasingly Democratic, so that by 2000, these twenty-one cities were voting Democratic, at a rate 17 percent about the national average. (Take out the Texas tech cities – Austin, Houston, and Dallas – and the remaining eighteen metro areas were voting Democratic at a rate 21 percent about the national average.) The cities adjacent to the high-tech hubs flipped altogether, turning strongly Democratic as group. (This was true even with the inclusion of still-Republican Orange County.) The low-tech cities and rural America grew increasingly Republican. … (154)