Focusing Past a Catchy Title

There are two not-entirely-related reasons why a recent Yahoo article by Quentin Fottrell, on homeowners being less than keen on neighboring renters, caught my attention. Before we start, though: I’m a renter. My best friends own their home. We get along just fine, so I have no interest in starting some kind of owner/renter turf war. Unless there is some Jerome Robbins choreography for me to poorly execute. That might be worth a scuffle.

But honestly, the first thing that has me flummoxed about this article is that I don’t even think it really speaks to its initial premise. Instead, there’s a buried lead/angle:

There has been a marked increase in “residential segregation” by income over the past three decades, according to a 2102 [sic] survey released by Pew Research Center, which cross-referenced household income and “census tracts” by the U.S. Census Bureau. The share of middle class areas in the U.S. is down to 76% in 2010 from 80% in 1980, Pew found, with the share of lower-income neighborhoods rising to 28% from 23%, and upper-income areas doubling to 18% from 9%.

I don’t know. It’s snazzy to have a title about America hating renters; you even have that funny little graphic with one of those Lazy Renters in it. Tee-hee. But, come on, how is the economic disparity this points to, and the divide between economic brackets, not the real story here?

On one hand there’s explicit acknowledgement that there are wide swaths of people who can’t afford–or for whom it would probably be financially inadvisable–to own. Then quotes like “Homeowners are perceived to care more about their property, its appearance, safety of the community and property values” go completely unchallenged.

Seriously, all the pieces are there to put together, to point to the fact that “renter” in this context is clearly less about actually renting and more a shorthand for “poorer,” and the arguments against both smack fantastically of bootstrap theory: if these people really cared about the neighborhood, they’d buy into it like I did! is painfully close to if these people really wanted to support themselves, they’d go get jobs like I did! And it’s about as short-sighted.

Of course, when the article’s stated premise doesn’t even hold through to its own conclusion, I’m not sure how much more we can expect a real examination of the pieces which are strewn about its rambling path. That’s the second thing that hit me: Fottrell starts with “Most Americans know their neighbors by name, new research finds, and might even invite them over occasionally for tea.” Half a dozen paragraphs later, however, “[T]here’s evidence that plenty of people don’t know the first thing about their neighbors: Only 46% of urbanites know their neighbors by name….” So, most Americans know a lot about their neighbors. Except for their names.

I am super-interested for the followup article here which will, I have to assume, suggest that lots of Americans are stalking their neighbors, since that’s the only way I can pair “know a lot about a person” with “never learned the person’s name” in any real-world setting.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to find my jazz shoes before the rumble.

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2 thoughts on “Focusing Past a Catchy Title

  1. Also, We should take a picture of our yard after three weeks of not mowing, which is common for me. I’m sure Fottrell would love to see how well The Lovely Wife and I fit right in with his … statistics? Is that what you call it when you make up numbers?
    On the other hand we do fit in very well to one of his wonderful made up numbers… we have no clue what the names of any of our neighbors are. Especially the people that live across the street from us and like to argue in their front yard.

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