Read Raphael Bostic’s last post in our partnership with Home Matters.
We have a long history of mobility. It’s one of the advances that set the New World apartfrom the Old. Our founders wanted us to move. They didn’t want us confined to the class we were born into or the name we were given or the land our parents could bestow on us. They wanted us to set out across this vast continent, and they didn’t want us to settle until we found a home we could call our own.
The funny thing is, for all we idealize it, I don’t think there is such a thing as one American dream. I think we each carve out our own individual dream. I think that’s what it means to live in a free nation. When Thomas Jefferson first envisioned “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” he was rejecting a European social order based strictly on lineage, rather than choice. Thus, he said, we must be free to move and trade and live where we feel truly home.
A couple years ago, some of my colleagues at USC set out to answer an old question with a new twist. They wanted to know how many jobs you could find if you lived in a low-income neighborhood. Specifically, they wanted to know how many jobs you could commute to.
Most Americans take it for granted that employment is place-based. You can’t work at a building that’s too far away. But what happens when you can only afford to live in a few of neighborhoods in a city, a reality that many low-income families face? How many jobs are too far away?
In my last post, I talked about the predatory lending schemes that ensnared homeowners during the recent bubble, and I argued that we can prevent another financial disaster by giving borrowers access to affordable credit that won’t bankrupt them in their quest for the American dream. Baradaran’s story shows that it’s possible.
We live in a world where people who need credit the most have the least access to it—a world where “the less money you have, the more you pay to use it,” says Baradaran.
While much of my academic career has been spent studying how families get credit to buy homes, the past few years have made me much more aware that simply getting credit isn’t a goal in itself. No, if the credit isn’t sensible and sustainable, the pain can be far worse than any gain that could have resulted. Consider these stories…
You would have never known, unless you were trained to look for the signs, that Clarence and Wendy Wincentsen were a good mark …
Community has been fraying in this country. Americans have become increasingly segregated by class and race, sorting into like-minded neighborhoods cut off from the views and experiences of the rest of the population. We now drive greater and greater distances to live apart from one another, and we have invested less and less in the infrastructure needed to bring us together.
At least 56,000 college students are homeless in the United States today. Some have been found to attend the University of Southern California, where I teach. Just down the road from us, California State University has found that one-tenth of its students is homeless. If true, we are significantly underestimating the problem nationwide, because most of these students don’t tell the federal government that they’re homeless when they apply for federal aid. We really have no idea how high the number goes.
When people talk about home, usually they have in mind the place where they cook their food, store their belongings, relax and recover from the day’s activities, bathe, and lay their heads to sleep. But for many, this isn’t right. For them, home is quite a different thing. It is where they can live without fear and loathing and avoid the hatred of others. It is a place where they can comfortably be who they are.
They say that twilight is the most dangerous time on the battlefield. Half day, half night, the light plays tricks on your eyes, and the time plays tricks on your body. It is in this moment of transition that you are most vulnerable to an attack. But this battlefield transition is not the only time…