The Chicago Tribune looks at how the economic crisis has led to a “recalibration” for some in the large and wealthy suburb of Naperville:
For Naperville, in some ways the quintessential suburb for middle-class strivers, the latest census data show that the median household income of $101,911 is nearly double the Illinois median. Nearly two-thirds of the adults 25 and older have attained at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 30.3 percent statewide.
Young families have flocked to the suburb about 30 miles west of Chicago since the 1980s, attracted by good schools, jobs along the Interstate 88 corridor and public transit to Chicago. With a population of 141,853 in 2010, Naperville was the fifth-largest city in the state. The local government pays attention to details, from maintaining well-manicured parks to coordinating the traffic lights in downtown Naperville during rush hour to ease traffic congestion…
But there are signs that more residents are struggling to get by in a stagnant economy…
People in their 40s and 50s with school-age children felt the brunt of the last recession through the destruction of home equity values and the loss of value in 401(k) accounts. Meanwhile, median family income has fallen substantially over an entire decade for the first time since the Great Depression. And health care costs have grown sharply during the same period.
I think I understand the purpose of the article: the economic crisis is even affecting wealthier communities like Naperville where it seems like many had reached the American Dream. On the other hand, I’m still not sure this article accomplishes its purposes. People the Tribune talked to have suffered setbacks but they are still doing okay compared to many Americans. One family was affected when the husband lost his well-paying job so the wife returned to full-time work. But the husband found a job again and the wife is now not working again. Another family owns a comedy club where business has been tight. However, business is now picking up and they still have their substantial investment in the club. More Napervillians are saving more or focusing more on their families but they can still generally afford to do this.
I’m not downplaying the troubles many in Naperville have faced. However, Naperville residents are not the ones who have been hit the hardest among Americans. Indeed, the median household income, the number of jobs, the quality of life, and the low levels of poverty and crime still make Naperville an unusually well-off place in the United States. Naperville and its residents will weather the storm better than many as long as the community is able to retain its strong white-collar employment base.