Programs designed to help the poor must perennially contend with this awkward fact: We need people who aren’t poor to pay for them. And this is no easy sell. "They ask the question, 'what’s in it for us?'" says Harrison Campbell, an associate professor of geography at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte. The answer has been tricky to explain with hard data. Sure, helping others might make you feel better. But does it make you better off, too?
In at least one scenario, Campbell and colleagues Huiping Li and Steven Fernandez are beginning to prove that it does. They've found that when poverty rates and segregation are high in metropolitan areas, those regions perform economically worse relative to less segregated places. Segregated regions – by race as well as skills – have slower rates of income growth and property value appreciation. And this isn’t just true for minority families stuck in segregated pockets of inner-city poverty. It's true for everyone, the suburbs and city alike.