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The Growth of Gated Communities and Their Impact of Social Segregation

by admin on October 11, 2010

The Growth of Gated Communities and Their Impact of Social Segregation

By Natalie Aranda

Gated communities have always been with us. This dates back to the very earliest civilizations where the very wealthy have favored high walls and closed gates that have turned their communities into very private communities. In addition to providing increased security, the purposes of these communities were to foster segregation, and increase the sense of exclusion. Put bluntly, the rich desired to separate themselves from their less socially advanced neighbors.

In recent years there has been an increase in the construction of gated communities in the United States. At the same time, these communities are becoming less the exclusive haven of the very rich, and have become more and more the choice of the upper middle class and even middle class homeowner. The major reason cited for this increase is the desire for more personal safety. Fueled by a media that almost constantly bombards us with images of violence and crime, people have become more fearful. The idea of the walls and the controlled access gates promises an escape from this fear. Inside the walls, surrounded by neighbors who share their values, people feel safer. The are not as fearful to approach old age, or raise their children there.

Yet there are some who see the gated community as another divisive trend in American society. They think the major reason for the gated community is to isolate the residents from segments of society they consider inferior. One study often cited to support this idea showed that black Americans were the group least in favor of living inside a gated community. They gave as a primary reason the fact that they had been longed isolated from the mainstream and treated as social inferiors, and were not anxious now to engage in the same behavior.

The people who think the private communities divisive in nature also point to the fact that many of the newer communities are including more parks, recreational fields, shopping centers, and even schools within the walls and behind the gates. The residents are further isolating themselves from those they consider their inferiors, the critics claim.

From the very start of our country, Americans have differed in their residential choices. There are those who preferred the excitement and opportunity of the city, and there were those who preferred the open spaces and peace of the country. As in most other things there is a wide diversity in where and how we chose to live. Social segregation comes from attitudes in the hearts of men, and not from where they live. Anti-discrimination laws exist and these prevent the gated community from excluding any who can afford to live there, and have the desire to do so. There are many reasons why the security of the gated community is more wishful thinking than reality, but even so that remains the prime reason for choosing it as the place to make your home. There are always going to be people who feel superior to others, but you are just as likely to find them under a bridge or in a homeless shelter as in a gated community.

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