The Government of Metropolitan Areas in the United States

By Paul Studenski; Frank H. Sommer et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
THE NATURE OF METROPOLITAN COMMUNITIES

Suburbs cluster about every large city. Together with the city they constitute an urban district or metropolitan area. This area is a social, economic, and sometimes physical, unit. It dominates a wider economic area or market which constitutes its hinterland and competes with other metropolitan areas in the national and international market. Politically, however, it is not a unit, for the city and its suburbs are usually organized as separate governmental entities. Concerning these areas, which it recognizes in its statistical computations, the United States bureau of the census has said:

In many cases . . . the number of inhabitants enumerated within the municipal boundaries (of a city) gives an inadequate idea of the population grouped about one urban center. In fact, in only a few of the large cities do the municipal boundaries closely define the urban area. Immediately beyond the political limits of many cities, and connected with them by rapid transportation systems, are densely populated suburban districts which Industrially and socially are parts of the cities themselves, differing only in the matter of governmental organization.

No social or political phenomenon of American life deserves more attention than the startling urban concentration which the last century has brought forth. Until recently, however, the attendant phenomenon of "metropolitanism" has almost escaped notice, and the political organization of these metropolitan areas has been given little attention. The political boundaries of cities have been fixed from time to time on grounds of immediate expediency, but they have never more than momentarily coincided with the actual limits of rapidly expanding communities.

Table I presents the areas and populations of metropolitan regions as conceived by the census bureau in the census of population of 1920. Undoubtedly the census of 1930 will show larger areas and greater populations for these regions than those revealed in the 1920 figures, since the automobile and improved transportation have accelerated the suburban movement during the past decade. Moreover, as discussed below, the census bureau will probably adopt a new method of determining the boundaries of metropolitan regions, and the 1930 data will therefore not be altogether comparable to those of 1920. Unfortunately the returns for 1930 are not yet available.

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