Olympic Dreams: The Impact of Mega-Events on Local Politics

By Matthew J. Burbank; Gregory D. Andranovich et al. | Go to book overview

2
ECONOMIC GROWTH
AND LOCAL POLITICS

Leaders of nearly every city in the United States want to project the image of their city as a thriving metropolis. Whether a city prospers or withers on the vine, however, depends on many factors. Beginning around 1830 and continuing into the early twentieth century, for instance, many cities grew rapidly because of a combination of immigration and internal migration from the farms to the cities (Mohl 1985, 18–26; Monkkonen 1988, 5–6). Industrial expansion provided jobs in cities that could be filled by Americans fresh from the farm or by newly arrived immigrants seeking to get ahead economically. As a result, cities with a strong industrial base, such as New York, Detroit, Chicago, and Pittsburgh, grew substantially in population and wealth.

Patterns of urban growth changed in the twentieth century, however, as manufacturing industries matured and migration into the large cities slowed. The widespread affordability of automobiles coupled with new and better roads allowed Americans to live farther from their places of work. This increased mobility, along with government programs designed to promote home ownership, helped fuel the growth of suburbs in the years following World War II. Internal migration changed as well, as people moved away from the Northeast to the Sunbelt cities of the South and West. A significant consequence of these new patterns, particularly the growth of the suburbs, was that central cities lost a disproportionate number of middle-class residents. Many older cities were left with an aging infrastructure of streets, bridges, and public buildings, and increasingly, their populations were bifurcated between well-off residents in exclusive neighborhoods and poorer residents in older homes of the central cities.

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