Report lists Buffalo-Niagara as deeply income-segregated Metro

University is in unique position to mitigate issues

Buffalo-Niagara Falls has been rated the seventh most income-segregated metropolitan area in the United States.

As part of an ongoing series in The Atlantic, noted urban studies theorist Richard Florida spoke to a rapidly growing trend in large American metros - segregation by income group. Citing a report by Charlotta Mellander, Florida states income segregation has worsened across the nation since 1980 as the wealthy retreat to lavish tracts and the poor are congregated into lower-income neighborhoods.

The article echoes a 2012 Pew Research report similarly finding a significant increase in spatial separation between the strata of society. The problem makes intuitive sense - the rich wish to live near others that are wealthy while the poor are forced into common areas by income restrictions and related issues.

The trend itself is lamentable, though hardly surprising.

Income inequality is reaching historic levels and the poverty rate in this country sits at 15 percent, or over 46 million people. The report also notes the expected reduction in predominantly middle and mixed income census tracts down from 85 percent in 1980 to 76 percent in 2010.

More deplorable, however, is that Buffalo ranked seventh among large metros where lower-income residents are most segregated.

Buffalo's placement on the list mirrors other trends. De-industrializing rustbelt cities are more susceptible to this type of segregation, according to Florida. Further, small and medium-sized college towns often also suffer from high levels of poverty concentration where a "town-gown divide" persists.

Another notorious distinction for this city (Buffalo is also the third-poorest city in the United States, according to the Census Bureau) requires more than just an apathetic feeling toward the community. Though large-scale, sweeping solutions are both elusive and beyond the abilities of anyone outside of the highest levels of government, personal and university action can be taken to mitigate resultant issues.

Increased crime rates, lower educational attainment and even more pervasive chronic disease are all issues magnified in less advantaged communities, according to The Atlantic report.

Though underlying causes of income segregation are complex, a more ardent response by the university and its members to work in and with the surrounding communities within the city, particularly disadvantaged areas, is necessary now.

Greater investment in the city, student involvement with non-profits and academic studies and research involving residents or community organizations can bridge the gown-town gap this area faces between UB and the local community.

UB, and students particularly, hold a unique position within Buffalo to assist residents and mitigate the effects of what is evidently a growing problem.

Taking greater effort to integrate within the community and build rapport between university students and the local community effectively assists locals in need while demonstrating the social concern and conscience among the student body. Volunteering, community service projects or tutoring at local city schools are all steps we can take to both ameliorate issues and integrate with the city.

Income segregation within the city does not preclude us from integrating with its residents.