Dispersing Population: What America Can Learn from Europe

Dispersing Population: What America Can Learn from Europe

Dispersing Population: What America Can Learn from Europe

Dispersing Population: What America Can Learn from Europe

Excerpt

SINCE THE DISAPPEARANCE of the American frontier nearly a century ago, almost all growth of population in the United States has been concentrated in its cities. In the last three decades the country's largest metropolitan areas have spread and merged to form great urban regions along the Atlantic seaboard, around the southern shores of the Great Lakes, and in California. Three-fourths of the American people now live in urban agglomerations of a million people or more. The rural areas and small towns outside the commuting range of these densely populated areas have, in these years, stagnated or declined.

By the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s, a political consensus had been reached that the trend toward population concentration should be checked. The President, the Congress, both major political parties, and national organizations of governors and mayors had all declared that the continuing concentration was undesirable for communities at both ends of the migration stream--the over- congested metropolitan areas at one end, and the depleted rural areas at the other. But while population dispersion was accepted as a policy objective--and written into law--implementing policies were not adopted. The President made no recommendations and Congress enacted no new measures for the purpose. No government agency had the task of planning a population distribution scheme for the United States. Indeed, the basic concepts that would underlie a population policy had not been refined enough to permit planning even to begin.

This study seeks to help bridge the gap between objective and implementation by reviewing the experience of five countries--Great Britain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and Sweden--that had faced the problem of population concentration, had concluded that the growth of their largest cities should be checked, and then had enacted ambitious . . .

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