Economic Erosion and the Growth of Inequality
Philadelphia's economic base has undergone a wrenching change in the years since World War II, from a major source of manufactured goods to an economy dominated by business and consumer services. While the nature of work has changed, the location has as well, increasingly shifting the locus of newer jobs away from the older industrial neighborhoods and into the suburbs. The personal and spatial dislocations implicit in this dramatic change in Philadelphia's economy have further ramifications, as jobs have increased in both the low-wage and high-wage sectors, but not in the moderate-wage range. This restriction of middle-income job opportunities has had a tremendous impact across the region, and particularly seems to have fueled the neighborhood and political conflicts explored in later chapters.
This economic shift is not unique to Philadelphia--but it has dominated the social relationships of the city's recent past, as well as those of the present. Explaining what has happened here does not require us to focus only on Philadelphia's history as an industrial city. This is not the story of a one-industry town, collapsing under the strain of sudden competition from another source. Nor can recent events be explained by the venality, greed, or stupidity of the city's industrialists. The roots of change in Philadelphia lie in a national shift in the nature and location of work--from manufacturing to service industries, from Frostbelt to Sunbelt, and from central city to suburbs and beyond.
Built as a railroad center, a shipping center, and a manufacturing center, Philadelphia was the industrial hub of a region that contained prosperous farms as well as numerous smaller commercial centers and factory towns. The story of its transition since World War II from a manufacturing center to a service center is similar in broad outlines to that of many older American cities, yet distinctive in important respects. The city's factories fell victim to broad national forces affecting all urban industrial centers--