McDonald’s Communities

This is the sort of thing I assume everyone who reads this blog already has seen, but I guess I forgot to post it. An excellent article by the Guardian about how McDonald’s has become the community center for a lot of poorer communities.

When many lower-income Americans are feeling isolated by the deadening uniformity of things, by the emptiness of many jobs, by the media, they still yearn for physical social networks. They are not doing this by going to government-run community service centers. They are not always doing this by utilizing the endless array of well-intentioned not-for-profit outreach programs. They are doing this on their own, organically across the country, in McDonald’s.

Betty and Omar on their wedding day.
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Betty and Omar on their wedding day. Photograph: Chris Arnade

Walk into any McDonald’s in the morning and you will find a group of mostly retired people clustering in a corner, drinking coffee, eating and talking. They are drawn to the McDonald’s because it has inexpensive good coffee, clean bathrooms, space to sprawl. Unlike community centers, it is also free of bureaucracy.

This sort of class demography connects loosely to this fascinating list of 66 types of American community by demographic interest made by the marketing firm Claritas. All the way from

01 – Upper Crust:  The nation’s most exclusive address, Upper Crust is the wealthiest lifestyle in America haven for empty-nesting couples over 55 years old. No segment has a higher concentration of residents earning over $200,000 a year or possessing a postgraduate degree.

02 – Blue Blood Estates:  Blue Blood Estates is a family portrait of suburban wealth; a place of million-dollar homes and manicured lawns, high-end cars and exclusive private clubs. The nation’s second-wealthiest lifestyle, it is characterized by married couples with children, college degrees, a significant percentage of Asian Americans and six-figure incomes earned by business executives, managers and professionals.

To

64 – Bedrock America:  Bedrock America consists of young, economically challenged families in small, isolated towns located throughout the nation’s heartland. With modest educations, sprawling families and blue-collar jobs, many of these residents struggle to make ends meet. One quarter live in mobile homes. One in three haven’t finished high school. Rich in scenery, Bedrock America is a haven for fishing, hunting, hiking and camping.

65 – Big City Blues:  With a population that’s 50 percent Latino, Big City Blues has the highest concentration of Hispanic Americans in the nation. But it’s also the multi-ethnic address for downscale Asian and African-American households occupying older inner-city apartments. Concentrated in a handful of major metros, these young singles and single-parent families face enormous challenges: low incomes, uncertain jobs and modest educations. More than 40 percent haven’t finished high school.

66 – Low-Rise Living:  The most economically challenged urban segment, Low-Rise Living is known as a transient world for young, ethnically diverse singles and single parents. Home values are low-about half the national average-and even then less than a quarter of residents can afford to own real estate. Typically, the commercial base of Mom-and-Pop stores is struggling and in need of a renaissance.[4]

WARNING: DO NOT read this list to find which of these communities is you, and where that falls on the status ladder. That way lies endless status anxiety that has no cure.

It’s a pretty powerful reminder of how many Americans are just old and not highly-socially-mobile, in a way that is fairly underrepresented in media depictions of “the average American.”

 

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