The trite explanation for that is, when you see Earth from space, the borders disappear. You’ll be looking at Africa or Europe, and thinking back to what happened there 60 or 70 years ago, and you’ll be wondering: How could that little line right there have meant anything to anybody? You can’t even see it from a million feet away. But more important is that you can see that people all around the planet live more or less the same way. One of the guys on the crew put it best. He said we look like bacteria in a kitchen—we’re living in these sheltered little warm spots that have a nice supply of moisture. You can look down on a city and think, hey, I know that place. But then you wait half an hour, and you’re on the other side of the world, looking at a place you’ve never even heard of and, wow, it looks exactly the same.
So you make this link. You realize, “Those people are the same. They’re trying to solve the same problems the same way. They just have their own particular set of barriers and circumstances.” So it affects your response, when you hear about some idiot doing something stupid that has a negative effect on it all. You have to accept it; there are good dogs and bad dogs in life. You just wish that people could get a little more of that million-feet-away perspective."
The tendency of humans to segregate by place has also persisted across long time spans and eras despite the transformation of specific boundaries, political regimes and the layout of cities. Research by archaeologists indicates that spatial divisions like ours were found in ancient cities, too.
The greatest divisions of place today are at the very top, creating what we might call the new 1 percent neighborhoods. In recent decades, cities have been pulling apart; income inequality by neighborhood has increased. As a consequence, the kinds of mixed-income neighborhoods many of us remember from growing up have grown rarer, while exclusively affluent and exclusively poor neighborhoods have grown much more common.
The Great Recession has exacerbated this divergence. Just as they have been among individuals, economic hardships have been unequally shared by neighborhoods: poverty, vacancy rates and particularly unemployment rates increased at a greater clip in disadvantaged and minority neighborhoods from 2005 to 2011 than elsewhere.
We live in a free society, of course, but the high-end spatial concentration of income and its associated resources, like well-endowed schools, security, abundant services and political connections, in effect pulls up the drawbridge from our neighbors. The hypersegregation of “the truly advantaged” speaks volumes about the continuing significance of place and raises important questions about what kind of society we want to be."