Expanding the Focus
Yesterday's cities are today's metropolitan areas. Not only have cities grown beyond their early municipal boundaries, but the rapid expansion of suburban areas after World War II generated a seismic shift in the way people live and distribute themselves in urban areas and in the ways that we think about current and future urban issues. With over three-quarters of the U.S. population living in urbanized areas, this new urban reality concerns the entire nation.
While some cities in the United States have the ability to expand their boundaries as their population grows, Philadelphia, like most older cities, does not. The dynamics of urban development have spilled across the boundaries that made political sense in the nineteenth century. These dynamics have erased the easy distinctions between cities and suburbs defined by earlier boundaries. Our contemporary sense of the city has changed how we think about metropolitan regions. Today, both in Philadelphia and in metropolitan areas nationally, more than 70 percent of the population live and work in the suburbs. The problems of job loss, physical deterioration, affordable housing, development and redevelopment, racial segregation, inadequate school quality and funding, high tax levels, and the unresponsiveness of government now trouble suburbs as well as the cities. The appearance of these problems in the suburbs emphasizes the need to understand the larger metropolitan processes that affect both city and suburb. For those living and working in the greater Philadelphia area, the persistent social and economic divisions, even as they