A different New Orleans

In today's NY Times, David Brooks offers two rules for New Orleans' rebuilding:
"The first rule of the rebuilding effort should be: Nothing Like Before. Most of the ambitious and organized people abandoned the inner-city areas of New Orleans long ago, leaving neighborhoods where roughly three-quarters of the people were poor."
Without the requisite experience of middle class living, an endless cycle of poverty became the norm. Children in New Orleans were born into poverty, experienced poverty everyday, and lived in poverty as adults. Katrina, according to Brooks, is a golden opportunity to break this vicious cycle. His second rule:
"That's why the second rule of rebuilding should be: Culturally Integrate. Culturally Integrate. Culturally Integrate. The only chance we have to break the cycle of poverty is to integrate people who lack middle-class skills into neighborhoods with people who possess these skills and who insist on certain standards of behavior."
Brooks refers to the Gautreaux program in Chicago as an example of how to culturally integrate. This program successfully fought in court the proposed building of 10,000 low-income housing in almost exclusively poor, black neighborhoods. This receipe for the cycle of poverty was averted by the introduction of Section 8 housing that allowed for poor families to live in private housing in middle class neighborhoods. This exposure to middle class living--with its expectations of educational and professional success--changed the next generation, offering poor children a way out of the cycle.

Social engineering can never be successful, but there is ample evidence that over the long term, mixed income housing, though not a panacea, helps break the cycle of poverty by offering children models of success.