Kljk; Ljkk; L
Business and Management
Submitted By stephenv
Summary Notes on Levittown by Kushner
1. From a sociological perspective, the Levvittown story is significant for many reasons but some of the most important ones are:
* The use of and power of prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination in setting the rules of inclusion and exclusion of the “American Dream.” * (What is the American Dream?) * the ability of individuals (e.g. the Levitt brothers) to monopolize an entire housing industry. * the actions or inactions taken by our national (and state/local) government that encouraged segregated housing in the U.S., even for veterans, who obviously had served in our wars. * the permanence of the housing segregation from the actions of the Levitt brothers and the U.S. government even now, as housing in the U.S. continues to be segregated by race/ethnicity (as well as socio-economic status). * the intricate connection between housing and quality of schooling at the K-12 level in our country. The higher the value of one’s property, the more taxes one pays, and the better the schools those taxes help support. * the intricate connection of quality of schooling and going to colleges, especially highly-ranked colleges * the intricate connection between college degrees and well-paying jobs, and even closer connection to college degrees from certain colleges and universities to well-paying jobs – almost a pipeline from K through graduate degrees * the intricate connection between jobs and ability to send your own children to certain schools and continue the success story or lack of
2. Discussion of Levittown itself – the basics
* The Levitt brothers and their family - Bill became a national icon on the level of Walt Disney and Henry Ford, on the cover of Time magazine, etc. His brother Alfred was a self-taught architect - They were smart, political, and had the means to capitalize (literally and figuratively) on a host of issues created after the soldiers returned from WW II with very little housing (to buy) available for them, and rents in the cities were increasing; one small irony in all of this was that they were also Jewish and had escaped intolerance, discrimination, prejudice, etc. in their own country * If any of you ever saw the movie, The Perfect Storm, about a fishing crew and its boat, and how they all died (depressing!), then you can think psychologically of a perfect storm about housing that occurred in the U.S. after the second WW – in other words, there were a number of issues that separately may have led to a different solution, but the combination of them together, helped create a monopoly, basically on the housing industry for many years * In addition, to the crowding in the cities, from long-time inhabitants and increasing immigrant populations, there were outbreaks of diseases such as smallpox and cholera, the cities were increasingly crowded in terms of numbers of people living in small, cramped places, and the assembly-line production of the automobile meant that there was access to places not accessible by the current public transportation systems – buses and trollies, for example – the 1929 Stock Market crash * Country was in a housing crisis, due in large part to a combination of high birth rates after the war (what became the Baby Boom generation) and a very small amount of new construction. As the video showed, many were living in Quonset huts, and multiple families were usually in them. * The influence politically of believing that individual ownership of homes would be a better plan than public housing. Senators like McCarthy equated public housing with socialism. * Strongly against unions. * There was a willing and eager population of returned soldiers, who had access to the GI Bill, especially if you were white (98% of GI benefits went to whites), which meant they had the money to invest in their own homes * Why were ownership and investment in your own homes so important concept at the time? Promote democracy, fight communism if you had a stake in your own country * Bill’s concept of “mass production” as applied to the housing industry * Government and political involvement – ability to pass laws and regulations, e.g. NOT to integrate neighborhoods * Bill’s business savviness – buying the whole line of producers – from the nails to the framing to the furniture and appliances – he could bargain for prices, etc. * How this was all accomplished? * Introduction of covenants (which previously had been “gentlemen’s agreements” but now encoded in law * National Association of Real Estate Boards (agreements as early as 1917, became national and federally mandated), intimidation and terrorizing by the KKK (in NY at the time, but then some of the Southern groups were involved in the Meyers/Weschlers’ issue) * Banks & other lending institutions’ use of redlining and greenlining – areas that were safe to give out loans; others not – no good credit ratings – High grades were given to homogenous areas and red (or alert) colors were given to “mixed” – undesirable neighborhoods, based on the bankers and loan officers’ opinions were given D- * The federal lending agencies (FHA- or Federal Housing Authority) used the same method – as your book put it “The FHA exhorted segregation and enshrined it as public policy.” As your book put it on page 18, “…the most important cause of residential segregation was the FHA, because they thought changes (e.g. integration) would cause instability and reduction in values of housing in the U.S. –So their task was to maintain stability by: Keeping out businesses, keeping lower-class occupations out, and by maintaining racial group dominance
3. Who were the main families?
* The Levitts * The Meyers and Weschlers – the families at the center of the story from the buyers’ side and from a racial perspective – all educated (at the time), all certainly middle-class or lower middle class for the time period * Neighbors and Supporters * Neighbors and Non-supporters
For your assignment, you need to write an essay on Levittown and housing in general in the United States. Listed below are the requirements for you essay. It should be no longer than 6-7 typed pages, or 5 pages, front and back, in a Blue Book. If you hand write it on regular paper, it should be between 5-7 front pages only.
Requirements, Suggestions, and Prompts for Levittown paper.
Requirements: 1. There is a 5-7 page maximum for your paper, depending on whether you write it in a Blue Book, regular notebook paper or type it.
2. The paper is your entire assignment.
3. You will be counted off, some, on spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors, but most of your points will be based on your essay’s content and your demonstrated understanding of how important the event s in Levittown continue to impact housing in the U.S,. currently.
4. Look up the dissimilarity index for the town/city/metro area where you spent the majority of your childhood and incorporate its index into your paper about Levittown. A good source for the dissimilarity index is www.censusscope.org/segregation.html . (You will be able to choose your city/town/metro by state.) Also, you may want to look at the median income for your area; a good source for overall statistics of different cities is www.Kiplinger.com/tools/bestcities_sort/
5. You must write about the book’s material from a sociological perspective, as well as a critical-thinking perspective. An overarching theme in race relations in this country is something we discussed the first week of class. We talked about how initially relations between different racial and ethnic groups could be cooperative, but that over time, they often become dominant and subordinate. How that happens is as follows: (1) ethnocentrism, (2) competition for resources, and (3) unequal power. All three are required for a group to become the dominant group. It does not necessarily have to be the dominant group in terms of numbers (think of South Africa). Use this as your basis for describing how William Levitt accomplished the physical, emotional, financial, and dominant housing availability, by race, in this country. In other words, what kind of ethnocentrism was there, what was the resource for competition, and how did Levitt acquire such power to affect the legacy of housing segregation that we have today, in 2014, in the U.S.? And why does housing segregation matter in terms of racial disparities in 2014?
6. Use one of the prompts below to guide you in your paper or use a similar quote of your choosing from the book:
* “Levitt left behind a complex legacy – the man who both provided the American Dream to a generation of veterans and denied it to an entire race.” Page 197 in Levittown
* “Levittown was an opportunity tragically lost.” Page 198 in Levittown
* “After a 2000 census identified Levittown, NY, as being 94.1% Caucasian, the NY Times declared Long Island ‘the most racially segregated suburban region in the country.’” Page 202 in Levittown
7. Include in your paper the interconnections of some of our major social institutions – family, housing, education, jobs, religion, government, the law, police and law enforcement, etc. – and how these social institutions favored one racial group over another (which IS discrimination and racism, by the way) and perpetuated that favoritism. What was their basis of favoritism and discrimination? Also, discuss what is required for there to be major social change within these institutions. What was special about the Meyers family and the Wechsler family? What was special about the Klan members and their leaders? Note some of the ironies in all of the stories – e.g. the fact that Levittown, PA was in a Quaker-founded colony/state, among many others. And include your personal reaction to the story of Levittown. Include in your summary and/or body of your paper, the index you found for your town/city/metro area, and your reaction to that number.