Restructuring the Philadelphia Region: Metropolitan Divisions and Inequality

By Carolyn Adams; David Bartelt et al. | Go to book overview

1
EXPANSION, DECLINE, AND GEOGRAPHIES OF INEQUALITY

The narrative of the Philadelphia region's transition into the twentyfirst century is a tale of mixed themes. The metropolitan area has expanded dramatically, developing a complex spatial pattern of inequality that defies conventional categories of city and suburb. The timing of growth and decline has affected the kinds of communities we find in different locations in the region. At the most basic level, the emergence of elite suburbs in the late nineteenth century and the emergence of middle-class suburbs in the early- to middle-twentieth century created patterns of housing and land use that in turn affected the subsequent transformations that took place after World War II.

The diverse development trajectories of the region's communities suggested to us that we need more complex categories for thinking about these patterns than “city” and “suburb.” Relying on the simple distinction between city and suburbs does not capture the dynamics of regional development in a decentered region. As a consequence, we have created a typology of the region's communities that emerges from a cluster analysis of the population, socioeconomic, and housing differences among communities. Access to jobs, housing, and educational opportunities is markedly different in the resulting five community types: Urban Centers, Stable Working Communities, Established Towns, Middle-Class Suburbs, and Affluent Suburbs. Accordingly, we use this chapter to begin the discussion of several geographies that affect access to income, wealth, and opportunities for mobility.

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