JP Morgan CEO on Neighborhood Health

We’re not the only ones that see two types of neighborhoods in America. In a recent training seminar, J. P. Morgan CEO, Jamie Dimon, stated that the U.S. economy has essentially been split into those benefiting from thriving corporations and those who are left behind. Even more importantly, he noted, ‘If you travel around to most neighborhoods where companies live, they’re doing fine. So we’ve kind of bifurcated the economy.”

Thinking on this issue, Dimon pinpointed higher ed as a potential place to make change. He sees available jobs and people who need jobs but aren't qualified to do the work. Thus, he suggests investing in training programs. Although his programs would certainly be beneficial, we know that people who have more education and more financial capital are less likely to live in poor areas.

He identifies the problem as a bifurcated economy illustrated in the state of US neighborhoods. But the solution he suggests will not heal neighborhood economic segregation. People who have more education and more money will continue to live where companies are thriving.

Why? There’s a cycle.

  1. politicians draw school boundary lines

  2. families, who can afford to, chose to live on the side of the line with better schools (‘voting with their feet’)

  3. the quality of life—schools, businesses, family income levels, poverty rates, crime rates—on either side of the line become drastically different.

One side of the line becomes economically healthier and the other side more economically depressed. Those who can’t afford to live “on the good side of the line” aren’t just left behind geographically, but also economically and socially. This destructive process of economic segregation also moves job opportunities away from poor areas and to where wealthier families cluster.

SO, what can we do about it? How do we change poorer neighborhoods? Our solution - Give families living in poorer neighborhoods access to more school options. If bad schools drive away healthy economy, we need to disconnect neighborhoods from bad schools. Dimon is right; there are clear lines separating the rich and the poor... Those lines are school district lines. It’s time to promote systems without lines.