Fortress America: Gated Communities in the United States


All across the nation, Americans are forting up - retreating from their neighbors by locking themselves behind security-controlled walls, gates, and barriers. An estimated 8 million Americans live in gated communities today. These communities are most popular in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Chicago, Houston, New York, and Miami. This trend has become popular in both new suburban developments and older inner-city areas as residents seek refuge from the problems of urbanization. But what does it mean for the nation? Fortress America is the first sweeping study of the development and social impact of this rapidly growing phenomenon. While early gated communities were restricted to retirement villages and the compounds of the super-rich, today the majority are for the middle to upper-middle class. But even existing modest-income neighborhoods are using barricades and gates to seal themselves off. The book looks at the three main categories of gated communities and the reasons for their popularity: lifestylecommunities, including retirement communities, golf and country club leisure developments, and suburban new towns; prestige communities, including enclaves of the rich and famous, developments for high-level professionals, and executive home developments for the middle class, where the gates symbolize distinction and stature; and security zones, where fear of crime and outsiders is the main motivation for fortifications. They argue that gating does nothing to address the problems it is a response to. They propose alternatives, such as emphasizing crime prevention, controlling traffic in neighborhoods, designing new developments to encourage sustainable communities, and creating metropolitan regional planning governance.

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Washington, DC
Publication year:
  • 1997


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