The New Urban Reality

The New Urban Reality

The New Urban Reality

The New Urban Reality


America's inner cities, particularly those in older industrial metropolitan areas, have declined sharply in both population and employment over the past two decades. How much of this change is due to technological advances in transportation, communication, and manufacturing? How much of it is due to the changing racial composition of the central cities? Can any set of public policies retard or reverse the decline of the industrial cities?

This book presents an interdisciplinary collection of papers addressing these questions. In the introduction, editor Paul E. Peterson discusses the ways in which adverse economic and racial changes interact and urges more realistic federal policies to counteract these changes. In Part 1, "The Processes of Urban Growth and Decline," sociologist John D. Kasarda analyzes the growing mismatch between inner-city jobs and residents, and geographer Brian J. L. Berry discusses the economics of inner-city gentrification. Racial change is the subject of Part II: sociologist Elijah Anderson depicts race relations in a gentrifying inner-city neighborhood; sociologist William J. Wilson delineates the social and economic problems of inner-city blacks; and political scientist Gary Orfield calls for bold efforts to reverse the continuing urban pattern of racial segregation. Part III looks at the way cities have responded to economic and racial change. Economist Kenneth A. Small discusses the impact of transportation policy; political scientist Herbert Jacob finds that increasing efforts to control urban crime have not been effective; and sociologist Terry Nichols Clark emphasizes the effect of political factors on the fiscal condition of cities. Economist Anthony Downs, reviewing the issues raised by the other authors, sees little hope for racial integration as the central social strategy for solving urban problems, but does see hope in the internal resources of America's minority communities.


Two types of urban change have left America's older industrial cities in severe decline: technological innovations in transportation, communication, and manufacturing have made their infrastructure and land use patterns obsolete, and accelerating racial change has made inner cities the primary home for minority groups, particularly those with low incomes and poor job skills. The essays in this volume delineate those changes and consider which, if any, public policies can retard or reverse the cities' decline. The papers show the futility of federal actions designed to slow the technological changes that are contributing to a more decentralized pattern. Instead, the editor argues in his introduction that the most successful urban policies may not be specifically urban at all, but policies designed to encourage racial dispersion by increasing the choices available to minorities.

These papers were originally presented at a conference on "The Future of Our City" held at the University of Chicago under the joint auspices of the university's Committee on Public Policy Studies and the Law School. The conference was organized by Paul E. Peterson, the editor of this volume, who at the time was chairman of the Committee on Public Policy Studies and is now director of the Governmental Studies program at Brookings. The conference was sponsored by a grant from the law firm of Mayer, Brown and Platt in honor of the centennial of its founding. Explaining his firm's decision to commemorate its founding in this way, Leo Herzel, a partner, noted that "law firms--whose future is closely tied to that of large cities--must try to understand and improve the urban reality in which they find themselves."

Because of the location of the conference in Chicago, special attention . . .

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