Essays on Sunbelt Cities and Recent Urban America

Essays on Sunbelt Cities and Recent Urban America

Essays on Sunbelt Cities and Recent Urban America

Essays on Sunbelt Cities and Recent Urban America

Excerpt

The three most important demographic trends in the United States in the twentieth century are the migration of southern blacks from farms to cities, the movement of urban Americans from older neighborhoods to developing suburbs, and the continued shift of the national population toward the South and West. None of these three continental phenomena has yet received the concentrated, consistent scholarship that they merit, but among them the history of the Sunbelt particularly deserves attention.

The most important research problem in dealing with the Sunbelt is that of definition. What do Oregon, New Mexico, and Virginia have in common other than the fact that all are political subdivisions of the same nation-state? Does membership in the "Sunbelt" depend upon the average number of sunny days or on the mean yearly temperature? Does it depend upon economic prosperity or rapid population growth? Is the Sunbelt characterized by a unique kind of cityscape, one that sprawls thinly over the suburbs and is unusually dependent upon the automobile?

As the essays in this book demonstrate, none of these definitions of the Sunbelt holds up under careful scrutiny. As anyone who has endured a North Texas winter can attest, the weather can be severe in many parts of the region. Nor do the South and West have a lock on economic growth and prosperity; portions of Arkansas and Mississippi, for example, have been completely bypassed by the post-World War II boom and seem permanently stuck in the Great Depression. Similarly, many of the areas that led the nation in population and business growth in the 1970s, such as Texas, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Oregon, went into a tailspin during the 1980s, while some of the states of the so-called Rustbelt, such as Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York, saw tax receipts soar and unemployment rates . . .

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