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The Servant Class City

Urban Revitalization versus the Working Poor in San Diego

2016
Author:

David J. Karjanen

The Servant Class City

Exposes a dark side of the sunny city that has enticed workers and tourists for decades

The Servant Class City documents how, over a period of three decades, San Diego’s urban transformation eroded the economic standing of the city’s working poor. David J. Karjanen demonstrates that urban policy in San Diego, which has been devoted to increasing tourism, has fostered the creation of jobs that do not provide either livable wages or paths to upward mobility.

Written in an accessible style, this is a cautionary tale of how urban revitalization bypasses low-income communities, constraining the economic mobility of the working poor and increasing their reliance on shady financial services and other predatory institutions.

Nik Theodore, University of Illinois at Chicago

San Diego, California, is frequently viewed as a model for American urban revitalization. It looks like a success story, with blight and poverty replaced by high-rises and jobs. But David J. Karjanen shows that the much-touted job opportunities for poor people have been concentrated in low-paying service work as the cost of living in San Diego has soared. The Servant Class City documents how, over a period of three decades, San Diego’s urban transformation actually eroded the economic standing of the city’s working poor.

Karjanen demonstrates that urban policy in San Diego, which has been devoted to increasing tourism, has fostered the creation of jobs that do not actually provide either livable wages or paths to upward mobility. Marshaling a wealth of heretofore uncollected data, he challenges the presumption that decades-long stagnation of job mobility in the united states is a result of insufficient worker training or a “skills mismatch,” or is attributable to various personal qualities of the urban poor.

Karjanen interweaves profiles of people with a compelling presentation of data. Each chapter addresses a significant topic: hospitality industry jobs, retail work, informal employment, “fringe banking,” and economic barriers to mobility. In revealing the true story of the “poverty traps” that are associated with low-wage jobs in the service economy, The Servant Class City complicates the rosy picture of life in an American tourist boomtown.

The Servant Class City

David J. Karjanen is assistant professor of American studies at the University of Minnesota.

The Servant Class City

Written in an accessible style, this is a cautionary tale of how urban revitalization bypasses low-income communities, constraining the economic mobility of the working poor and increasing their reliance on shady financial services and other predatory institutions.

Nik Theodore, University of Illinois at Chicago

The Servant Class City is a remarkable book. There are few other books that document growing urban inequality's mechanisms in such a fine-grained way, with both qualitative and quantitative evidence.

Jane Collins, University of Wisconsin–Madison

The book’s strong point is its grounding in the real lives of people.

Planning Magazine

The Servant Class City

Contents
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Part I. Changing Urban Fortunes
1. Subsidizing Capital and Expanding Low-Wage Work
2. A Good Job Is Hard to Find
Part II. Working in the Servant Class
3. Working in the Hospitality Industry
4. Working Retail in the Inner City
5. Working On, Off, and Around the Books
Part III. Living in the Servant-Class Economy
6. Do-It-Yourself Safety Nets
7. Asset Poverty and the High Cost of Fringe Banking
8. The Low-Income Trap: Barriers to Economic Mobility
Conclusion: An Expanding Servant Class or a Pathway to Prosperity?
Appendix A. The Communities
Appendix B. Servant Class Occupations in San Diego
Appendix C. Survey Data and Methodology Chronology
Bibliography
Index