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William H. Frey photo

The New Urban Revival in the United States: Metro Renewal, Minority Growth and Suburban Dominance

Publication Abstract

Frey, William H. "The New Urban Revival in the United States: Metro Renewal, Minority Growth and Suburban Dominance." PSC Research Report No. 93-268. January 1993.

Urbanization patterns in the United States have taken some unlikely turns over the past quarter century. After following fairly predictible trends in the 1950s and 1960s toward increased urban growth and western movement, the U.S. in the 1970s, like many other developed countries, experienced a pattern of "counterurbanization," which in the U.S. was associated with several redistribution reversals that were linked to both metropolitan size and region of the country. Assessing these reversals revealed major changes in the social and economic contexts for urban and regional growth. The changing national industrial structure, the rise of the global economy, and improvements in communications and production technologies have altered the geography of opportunities across space and the ability of populations to respond to these changes. At the same time, the diffusion of "urban" amenities to all parts of the country -- including areas previously considered to be remote or rural -- have expanded the location options for both employers and residents. More so than in the past, the population and economic growth of regions, metropolitan areas, and small places are dependent on how successfully these areas can adapt to rapidly changing circumstances.

Despite the realization that the contexts for urban and regional redistribution has been altered, there has thus far been little consensus among scholars as to the form of urbanization that would emerge in the 1980s and 1990s. With findings from the 1990 U.S. Census now in hand, however, the broad dimensions of the new urbanization in the U.S. can be detected. Three of these dimensions appear to be significant and are likely to continue to characterize U.S. urban growth for the next decade: (1) a return to urbanization (although an urbanization qualitatively different from that of the 1950s and 1960s); (2) the expanded growth of the nation's minority populations (primarily blacks, Hispanics, and Asians); and (3) a continued spread of population and jobs outward from historic central cities of metropolitan areas. This paper evaluates these three dimensions.

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