In 2002 it was estimated that one in eight Americans will live in gated communities. What has sparked this alarming trend?
Behind the Gates is Setha Low's revealing account of what life is like inside these suburban fortresses. After years researching and interviewing families in Long Island, New York and San Antonio, Texas, Low provides an inside view of gated communities to help explain why people flee to these enclaves. Parents with children, young married couples, "empty-nesters," and retirees express their need for safety, their secret fears of a more ethnically diverse America, and their desire to recapture the close-knit, picket-fenced communities of their childhood. Ironically, she shows, gated neighborhoods are in fact no safer than other suburbs, and many who move there are disheartened by the insularity and restrictive rules of the community.
Low probes the hopes, dreams, and fears of her subjects to portray the subtle change in American middle-class values marked b
The not inconsiderable irony is that, as Low quite conclusively demonstrates, the "vigilance necessary to maintain these 'purified communities' actually heightens residents' anxiety and sense of isolation rather than making them feel safer." Inside the gates people may feel relatively safe, and they let their children play outdoors with relatively little concern for their safety, but the fear remains. The "internal freedom" of the gated community "comes at a high social and psychological cost," particularly -- or so there is reason to believe -- for children. — Jonathan Yardley