Category Archives: link

(25) Commuting & divorce

Swedish researchers have linked marriage stress and failure with long commutes.  In sociological enquiry of any kind the underlying idea seems to be to constantly generate new questions.  This study does that in droves.  Big mortgages for suburban homes require major time investments in commuting.  Many now live in one suburb and commute to another suburb.  Not easy.
Long commutes bad for marriage
A long commute to work might further job prospects and put more money in the bank but it could also increase the risk for divorce by 40 percent, a new study from Umeå University in northern Sweden shows”


Towards the tail end of the boom the media in North America coined the term “supercommuter” for people cruising as much as ninety minutes each way between home and workplace.  Presumably that was by choice.  Now, the Great Recession seems to be incentivizing some long drives.
Recession breeds wave of supercommuters

(23) Shopping mauled

Out on the new, poorer frontier there’s at least one fun thing we can all bank on: dead shopping malls.  Perhaps along with zombie car dealerships and deep coma garden centres the malls will form a stock of adaptable, recyclable structures more suited to a post-cheap energy and post-high finance world?  Are you wagering that stash of gold bars and shot gun shells on it?  Didn’t think so.

Ghosts of shopping past photo gallery
Malls of a certain age audio link on page
“The enclosed mall itself, though, is as dead as your average big-city newspaper. Which is to say: not dead yet, exactly, but no one’s betting on its future.”
Dead Malls

(21) Rising inequality: OECD data

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development produces a host of data directly useful for assessing social conditions.  Do we need a supercomputer to connect rising inequality and the stacked economic gains of the rich with suburban poverty and downward mobility?

Notes for individual countries are found on the OECD site (.pdf files):

Better than many for a long time but no reason to be smug: Canada
Faltering after some improvement: United Kingdom
Forget it, only Turkey & Mexico are worse for income inequality: United States
Some improvement but could do better: Australia

(20) Can the middle class & the suburbs be saved?

The mass appearance of one begat the other and so we find the fate of the middle class and the fate of suburban life conjoined in a fashion that would have given Eng and Chang Bunker a good fright.  You could not have had one without the other.  Moving forward into the Long Emergency and a world of expensive petroleum, general resource depletion, traumatic economics, badly impaired credit/financial systems and shock doctrines we may end up losing much of both suburbia and its most loyal customers.  Leave it to The Atlantic Monthly to be a source of timely content for us yet again.
Can the Middle Class Be Saved?
“The Great Recession has accelerated the hollowing-out of the American middle class. And it has illuminated the widening divide between most of America and the super-rich. Both developments herald grave consequences. Here is how we can bridge the gap between us.”Atomic Weapon Test 1940s - Operation CrossroadsElizabeth Warren is an academic expert with a specialty in credit law and consumer debt/bankruptcy issues.  She was in the documentary Maxed Out and the link below takes you to a presentation she gave in 2008.  57 minutes that will open your eyes.  If you have the stomache for the details of the destruction of the middle class in America block out the time.  Seriously, this wonderful, articulate, compassionate and very smart woman should be the president of the USA, not that nice, utterly feckless Obama guy.
The coming collapse of the middle class
YouTube 57:38

(19) England & France…

Prise de la BastileBetter quality, less reactionary consideration of recent riots in England is starting to emerge.  The first item for this posting is from The Guardian and it makes a reasonable connection to prolonged suburban rioting in France’s suburbs six years ago, examining the motives of actors in the street.  The second, an older item from The Economist, …well, reading is believing.

Striking parallels between UK riots and France 2005 unrest

Rebranding la banlieue: an attempt to brush up the image of Parisian suburbs

(18) Problems, and more problems…

...the sick, sad things you see online!The Western Journal of Emergency Medicine published a paper this July describing problems associated with addiction services in suburban areas.  This is the kind of piece that expands our understanding of what suburban poverty means in a needed, detailed way.  Much of the discussion of low density, ex-urban life focusses on matters of land use, environmental sustainability, energy, politics, taste and aesthetics.  We are now long beyond the point where social realities need to be considered on an equal footing with the physical design of communities.
Suburban Poverty: Barriers to Services and Injury Prevention among Marginalized Women who Use Methamphetamine

(17) Two cities: five worlds

The difficulty of accurately perceiving social conditions in suburban communities is rooted in space and structure.  Much of our definition of cities attaches to their evolution under nineteenth century industrialization.  When we think of say Paris or Baltimore the weight of our general definition of them is shaped by this older process of identity building.  When the era of ex-urban hyper-building got going after 1945 new approaches to understanding human communities were required and began to come about – but have been only partially successful.  It seems that wherever the land, capital, political relationships, and economic imperatives are in place multiple worlds developed, inner and outer ones.
There are still arguments over exactly what constitutes suburbia but… well, we feel we know it when we see it.  Suburbia is misunderstood, changing, and remains screened by the larger, older identities of place.  This pair of links, to items from NewGeography.com, offer general approaches to a more integrated understanding of place.
The two worlds of Buenos Aires 
Toronto: three cities in more than one way

(16) Metro Matters [Kneebone & Allard podcast]


The working poor
and immigrants were pulled to the suburbs and the Edge Cites during the real estate boom.  After the crash, these groups are stranded in dispersed locations where social services and jobs tend to be thin on the ground.  Enormous stress is created for vulnerable people when, for example, they try to access food banks on foot or via public transit.  When they get to a resource they may then find it struggling for resources as well.  Rapid growth in suburbia during the boom often resulted in under-funding of social services or reliance on uneven private, charitable efforts.  The perception of poverty as an urban or inner city social ill also distorts responses and, like the Great Recession that sponsors so much of it, is not really going away fast.  This podcast is about 15 minutes and refers to recent Brookings findings.
Next American City » Metro Matters Podcast » The Suburban Poor: An Interview with Elizabeth Kneebone and Scott Allard.