Monday, March 29, 2004

Downwardly Mobile

From an article on the housing market in NYC in the Times:

Sociologists and economists say soaring real estate prices mean it simply costs more for a middle-class family to stay in the middle. Some experts see a widening gulf in the middle of the middle class, separating those who have and those who have more.

On Long Island there are great extremes of wealth and poverty, and then, somewhere in the middle, is a middle class whose definition is at best slippery.

Nationally, if a family's annual income is $75,000, by most definitions the family belongs to the middle class

By that standard a low six-figure income would put a Long Island family in the upper middle class nationally - yet that family may well not be a position to buy a house in most of the Island's communities.

"More and more it's a case of winners and losers in the middle class," said Susan S. Fainstein, a professor of urban planning at Columbia University. "There are two groups. If you have a secure and steady job, own a home, you can be doing quite well. Then there are all those people who are on a slippery slope who are afraid that they're going to lose their job or that it will go off to India.

"They're the ones who are the forgotten middle class," she said..
All of which serves to price large segments of the middle class out of some real estate markets.

"I don't know how people are doing it," said Rachel Ranis, a sociology professor at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn. "It's very hard for any family to buy in this market unless both parties are working."

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