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(The Urgent Case for) Middle Neighborhoods, One of the Most Overlooked Assets in America

By Paul Brophy and Frank Woodruff

The recently-released Opportunity Atlas provides fresh evidence that neighborhoods — even blocks within neighborhoods — are determinants of children’s life chances, even when families have similar incomes. Similarly, the Neighborhood Life Expectancy Project shows how disparities in health, block by block, are based on neighborhood conditions.

These new reports are a reminder that the streets we call home — even more than the cities, counties, towns and suburbs we live in — are major predictors of quality of life and life opportunity. Given this growing understanding of how neighborhoods affect life outcomes, why aren’t more policymakers, civic and private leaders turning their attention to them?

One important issue gaining traction in urban policy discussions is the critical role of middle neighborhoods, which may be the most overlooked asset in today’s cities and suburbs.

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National links: Middle neighborhoods — ordinary, important, underfunded

By Jeff Wood

“Middle neighborhoods” are prevalent and important — so why are they ignored? Your bus network may never change, even though changing it would make it better. During campaign season, mayoral candidates shift their focus from downtowns to neighborhoods.

Neither the little guy nor the bigwig: “Middle neighborhoods” are home to much of the US population. They aren’t flashy — most residents make 80% to 120% of area median income — but they’re often strongholds of racial diversity and allow people to be upwardly mobile. Despite their importance, they don’t get the same attention and funding as the poorest or wealthiest places. (Kelly Regen and Stephanie Sung | Next City)

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