Race, Poverty, and American Cities

By John Charles Boger; Judith Welch Wegner | Go to book overview

Conclusion

The Kerner Commission Report offers a number of important insights that could usefully be recycled as we approach the end of the century. On the one hand, it argues for specific targeting of inner cities for revitalization. Its depiction of the human potential and existing built environment of cities makes a powerful case for place-based policies to preserve and restore the vitality of existing urban assets. The neglect of urban policy in the decades following the report and the worsening of inner-city poverty and deterioration since its publication suggest that its place-based prescription was right. Right now the political tide has again turned against a meaningful urban policy. The withdrawal of public resources that is currently threatening America's cities, however, will inevitably produce a reaction and the demand for new approaches. An effective strategy will have to blend place-based policies with general economic stimuli, social policy with economic policy, and state and local with federal approaches. If this can be accomplished, we may finally be able to consign the Kerner Commission Report to the historical archives, honoring it as a seminal document in the restoration of our great American inner cities.


Notes
1.
See Louis Winnick, "Place Prosperity vs. People Prosperity: Welfare Considerations in the Geographic Redistribution of Economic Activity," in Essays in Urban Land Economics in Honor of the Sixty-Fifth Birthday of Leo Grebler ( Los Angeles: University of California, Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics, 1966), 273.
2.
For a discussion of Winnick's contribution, see Roger Bolton, "Place Prosperity vs. People Prosperity' Revisited: An Old Issue with a New Angle," Urban Studies 29 ( 1992): 185-203. See also Matthew Edel, "'People' versus 'Places' in Urban Impact Analysis," in Norman J. Glickman, ed., The Urban Impacts of Federal Policies for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development ( Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980), 175-91.
3.
See Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders ( Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1968), 233, 236 (hereafter cited as Kerner Report).
4.
See President's Commission for a National Agenda for the Eighties, Urban America in the Eighties ( Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1980). For a review of how urban policy lost its place-based focus and succumbed to an economic developmentalist approach, see Ann Markusen and David Wilmoth , "The Political Economy of National Urban Policy in the USA, 1976-1981," Canadian Journal of Regional Science 5 ( 1982): 125-44.
5.
See Gordon L. Clark, Interregional Migration, National Policy, and Social Justice ( Totawa, N.J.: Rowman and Allanheld, 1983).

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