Podium: The growth of the American ghetto

From a lecture given by the Harvard academic at a seminar on social exclusion held at the London School of Economics

I AM very pleased to have the opportunity to address a topic that I am sure will receive increasing attention in the next century - the state of American cities and the relentless decentralization of economic and residential life in the US.

At the metropolitan fringe, shopping malls, housing subdivisions, industrial clusters and corporate offices grow at an incredible rate. Accordingly, in the new economy, rapidly developing suburbs have become the locus of population growth, employment growth and wealth creation. The older areas - city centres and inner-ring suburbs - are left behind with growing concentrations of poverty, particularly minority poverty, and without the fiscal capacity to grapple with the consequences: joblessness, family fragmentation and failing schools.

Since 1960, the proportion of whites inside city centres has decreased steadily, while the proportion of minorities has grown. In 1960, the US population was evenly divided among cities, suburbs and rural areas. By 1990, the proportion of residents living in both cities and rural areas had declined significantly; so much so that the suburbs contained nearly half of the nation's population. Urban residents dipped to only 31 percent of the US population by 1990. Urban areas experienced their greatest population losses in the1970s, when city centre populations nationwide barely grew and many large cities suffered substantial declines in population.

Beginning in the mid-1970s the employment balance between central cities and suburbs shifted markedly to the suburbs. Manufacturing is now over 70 per cent suburban; wholesale and retail trade is just under 70 per cent. Since 1980, over two-thirds of employment growth has occurred outside the city centre.

As jobs disappear, so does the city's tax base, which, in large part, consists of commercial property, factories, office buildings, shopping malls and other businesses. The movement of jobs to the suburbs goes hand in hand with the shift of the commercial tax. The loss of fiscal capacity and wealth takes its toll over time. The growth of concentrated poverty has been even more dramatic.

High-poverty neighbourhoods, in which at least 40 per cent of the residents live in poverty, have grown at an alarming rate.

Between 1970 and 1990, the population in the high poverty metropolitan neighbourhoods - be they black ghettos, Latino barrios, or even white slums - grew by 92 per cent. Eight million people now live in these high- poverty metropolitan areas. The increased concentrations of poverty have resulted in higher taxes for the people and businesses that remain in cities.

A growing number of observers now think about cities and suburbs as related, not antithetical, as comprising a single economic and social reality. This vision is called metropolitanism. The vision of metropolitanism recognizes that the dichotomy between cities and suburbs is frequently drawn too sharply, often leading one to overlook the new reality: namely, that suburbs today are not an undifferentiated band of safe, prosperous and white communities.

Indeed, there are two major kinds of suburb. On the one hand, there are the older inner-suburbs frequently adjacent to the city. They feature crumbling tax bases, concentrations of poor children, eroding job markets, crime, disinvestment and increasingly deserted commercial districts.

On the other hand, there are the newer or outer suburbs. They are gaining economically, but they are straining under sprawling growth that creates traffic congestion, overcrowded schools, loss of open spaces, and other sprawl-related problems and a lack of affordable housing.

The vision of metropolitanism foresees a policy agenda that changes the rules of the development game, pools metropolitan resources, gives people access to all areas in the metropolis and reforms governance.

Reforms put forward to achieve the objective of city-suburban cooperation range from proposals to create metropolitan governments to proposals for metropolitan tax base sharing, collaborative planning, and regional authorities. Among the problems shared by many metropolises is a weak public transit system.

Promoters of the vision of metropolitanism can advance a more positive image of cities as they work to bring about the integration of cities and suburbs. The future of metropolitan regions in the US, as well as the social inclusion of its disadvantaged urban residents, may very well depend on the success of their efforts.

Arts and Entertainment

photography
Arts and Entertainment
Adolf Hitler's 1914 watercolour 'Altes Rathaus' and the original invoice from 1916

art
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tvThe two new contestants will join the 'I'm A Celebrity' camp after Gemma Collins' surprise exit
News
The late Jimmy Ruffin, pictured in 1974
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Northern Uproar, pictured in 1996
people

Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the new Paddington bear review

Review: Paddingtonfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Tony stares at the 'Daddy Big Ears' drawing his abducted son Oliver drew for him in The Missing
tvReview: But we're no closer to the truth in 'The Missing'
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

    Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

    Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
    The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

    The young are the new poor

    Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
    Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

    Greens on the march

    ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

    Through the stories of his accusers
    Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

    The Meaning of Mongol

    Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible