Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Big Sort

So I started reading this book about a week ago. While I didn't really buy the hypothesis at first (now I am about half way done) it seems to be onto something interesting. Americans are not geographically divided politically, but rather based around religion, lifestyle, and education, which now dictates politics. While I am not sure I buy all the arguments, the data that demonstrates voting patterns in presidential elections of the past 30 year is extremely revealing.
America may be more diverse than ever coast to coast, but the places where we live are becoming increasingly crowded with people who live, think, and vote as we do. This social transformation didn't happen by accident. We've built a country where we can all choose the neighborhood -- and religion and news show -- most compatible with our lifestyle and beliefs. And we are living with the consequences of this way-of-life segregation. Our country has become so polarized, so ideologically inbred, that people don't know and can't understand those who live just a few miles away. The reason for this situation, and the dire implications for our country, is the subject of this groundbreaking work.

In 2004, the journalist Bill Bishop, armed with original and startling demographic data, made national news in a series of articles showing how Americans have been sorting themselves over the past three decades into alarmingly homogeneous communities -- not by region or by red state or blue state, but by city and even neighborhood. In The Big Sort, Bishop deepens his analysis in a brilliantly reported book that makes its case from the ground up, starting with stories about how we live today and then drawing on history, economics, and our changing political landscape to create one of the most compelling big-picture accounts of America in recent memory.
Here is a long interview at smart city and a shorter interview with the author on the Brian Lehrer show:


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