Sub-urbanization in America
AHousing is an outward expression of the inner human nature; no society can be understood apart from the residences of its members.@ That is a quote from the suburban historian Kenneth T. Jackson, from his magnificent piece on suburbanization Crabgrass Frontier. Suburbanization has been probably the most significant factor of change in U.S. cities over the last 50 years, and began 150 years ago. It represents Aa reliance upon the private automobile, upward mobility, the separation of the family into nuclear units, the widening division between work and leisure, and a tendency toward racial and economic exclusiveness.@ Overall it may represent the change in attitude of the American people.
Suburbanization has been occurring for the last 150 years in this country and in Europe, although the Europeans haven=t had the change that the United States has witnessed. The causes of change on such a larger scale can be pointed at four aspects of metropolitan areas also pointed out in Jackson=s work on suburbanization. The first on is that Americans have such low density residential areas, and often their is not a distinction between urban and rural. Our cities were laid out over space, with even New York City and Philadelphia not as densely populated as some cities in Europe. The next distinguishing factor is a want to own a home. At least two-thirds of all Americans own their own home, with rates less than half of that present in cities in Europe. Next, is the average length that American travel to work, also being much higher than in other countries. Finally, the last distinguishing factor is that social status and income correlate with suburbs, the further away from the central business district, the higher the income level. It is believed that the average income in cities goes up 8% every mile away from the CBD, with their being many exceptions.
Such an economic shift is identified as being a result of Awhite flight@, where the urban whites fled to the suburbs after WWII, with the immigrants, blacks, and rural dwellers moving in. The economy switched from an industrial economy to a post-industrial or service economy, with the older factories being replaced by smaller factories (computers, airplanes, appliances), requiring higher skilled workers. In effect these new factories were located outside the city in the suburbs. The central city would be left with nothing, and virtually no opportunities of any magnitude. Detroit is a city that I believe can be identified as the city which went through the greatest amount of change, being heavily relied on one industry. During the first half of the twentieth century, Detroit was probably the most economically booming city in the United States. Since about 1950, Detroit has gone from Aarsenal of democracy@, having one of the fastest growing populations and was home to the highest paid working-class workers as well, to losing nearly 1 million people. Many jobs...