Admittedly, the title of this is clickbait - sort of. My position is this:
The United States of America, while only comprising of 4% of world population, accounts for 33% of personal vehicles owned and 50% miles driven worldwide. It’s my opinion that the American love affair with the personal autonomy afforded by the automobile has created a more diluted society through urban sprawl. This social dilution has enabled both natural and intentional segregation based on class. The result is a country comprised of various pockets of low and high density that are inequitable in education, diversity, and affluence.
I would like this topic to grow organically though conversation, so I will withhold certain points and references that would reinforce my claims in these opening statements. However, I will share more should interest and healthy debate ensue. To recap and make my opening position clear, I have offered a list of opening points to consider:
The US has grown in the last 70 years, from a planning perspective, in patterns modeled purely around the automobile. While other developed countries rely heavily on private automobiles, private ownership of vehicles and annual miles traveled per citizen are highly disproportionate to other comparable countries. This fact has allowed the country to decentralize to a level that has created far more isolated social centers than most developed countries.
Vehicle ownership has lead to a more classist society. While vehicles are much more affordable to the common person these days, they do represent a hurdle, or barrier, to access for lower income citizens. The way in which the country has developed, with an automotive focus, has neglected those that cannot rely on automobiles for access. Also, the automobile has allowed more affluent citizens the opportunity to commute from suburbs to employment centers. This has decentralized where earned dollars are ultimately being spent. So, urban cores went into decline, leaving behind the impoverished that cannot afford a vehicle or manicured suburban living. As inner city tax dollars diminished, so did city services, public transportation, and infrastructure updates to serve the less affluent left in city centers.
The two points above have resulted in segregation of classes. While manufacturing jobs were still around for the middle class, the evacuation of the urban core for the suburbs and rural areas included blue collar workers that could afford the luxury of an automobile and a new suburban home, albeit one in an area lacking the amenities of the more affluent suburbs. As policies have changed and blue collar middle class jobs have evaporated, those once middle class laborers have fallen into poverty in areas that now lack essential societal pillars. Middle class suburbs have failed and have literally left groups of people in the middle of nowhere with no jobs, poor education, and little chance to escape.