House by House, Block by Block: The Rebirth of America's Urban Neighborhoods

By Alexander Von Hoffman | Go to book overview

7
CONCLUSION

The revival of the inner city is under way across the United States. The changes taking place in New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Atlanta also have been occurring in Washington, D.C., Miami, Kansas City, San Antonio, Denver, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and elsewhere. In some cities the revival has just begun or is progressing slowly. Revitalization in Philadelphia and Detroit, for example, has been limited to a relatively small number of neighborhoods. Unlike other large cities, Philadelphia and Detroit are still evolving away from the original industrial economies that made them grow. As a result they continue to shed population, slowing the redevelopment of the neighborhoods. Yet even these lagging metropolises show signs of innercity revival.

The revival reflects historic shifts in the functions of American inner-city neighborhoods. In the recent past, American inner cities were made up of ghetto neighborhoods for racial minorities, many of which later became depopulated districts for the elderly and families on welfare. Some neighborhoods still remain as they were, but most have evolved toward becoming either working-class immigrant districts or gentrified neighborhoods. (In this regard, some American cities are coming to resemble traditional European cities, such as Paris, in which the wealthy inhabited the core and the working classes lived on the periphery.)

Districts such as the South Bronx and South Central Los Angeles exemplify bedroom communities for ethnic, usually immigrant, working-class people. They resemble earlier immigrant quarters of the late nineteenth century, except that their inhabitants usually do not have the opportunity to work, as their predecessors did, in centrally located port and large-scale industrial jobs. They are just as likely to work in service occupations—as orderlies in hospitals, office cleaners, receptionists—and to work in the suburbs. Presumably, with sufficient economic opportunity, the immigrants will move out to new areas and suburbs. If more immigrants arrive to replace the current occupants, the inner-city districts will remain ethnic neighborhoods. Otherwise they will begin to change again.

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