William H. Frey photo

New Dynamics of Urban-Suburban Change: Immigration, Restructuring and Racial Separation

Publication Abstract

Frey, William H., and Elaine L. Fielding. "New Dynamics of Urban-Suburban Change: Immigration, Restructuring and Racial Separation." PSC Research Report No. 94-321. 9 1994.

This paper provides an overview of urban and suburban change in the United States over the 1980-1990 period based on the results of the 1990 census. Its tables provide statistics on regional, metropolitan, and city-suburb change by race-ethnicity, for a variety of socio-economic measures. Its Appendix tables provide detailed statistics on central city-suburb redistribution by race for all individual metropolitan areas and selected central city-suburb statistics for the largest 15 metropolitan areas.

The analyses identify three broad influences on the nations regional and urban change during the 1980s: (1) immigration-related minority gains which are leading to sharper regional differences in race-ethnic demographic profiles; (2) urban and regional restructuring which has brought an uneven return to urbanization in the backdrop of the 1970s rural renaissance; and (3) a suburban-dominated society which has accompanied a selective deconcentration of residences and jobs, further isolating poorer and minority city populations that are unable to move out.

These urban demographic developments have created both new opportunities and challenges. Sharper, more dynamic growth patterns have brought renewed population gains to the revitalized economies in the nations coastal regions, especially in the South Atlantic states and in the states surrounding California. At the other extreme are many metropolitan areas located largely in the interior parts of the country which have suffered economic declines and selective out-migration of their younger and best educated populations. Apart from these two contexts are the large, multi-ethnic immigrant port of entry areas in California, Texas and the greater regions surrounding New York, Miami, and Chicago, where new demographic dynamics have just begun to emerge.

The dominance of the suburbs, within metropolitan areas, has created opportunities for new urban economic development and is the primary residential location for the nations middle class population. However, it has also accentuated the plight of new immigrants and minorities as well as poverty-stricken and low-skilled residents who continue to remain isolated in segregated cities and inner-suburban communities and neighborhoods. Patterns of concentrated poverty, especially among minorities, have accelerated in the central cities of many Midwest and southern interior metropolitan areas which experienced economic declines during the 1980s. Increases in the poverty population are also evident in the central cities of large port-or-entry metropolitan areas.

The above dynamics of recent urban demographic change can be associated with regional industrial restructuring, racial polarization and varied patterns of poverty concentration. They pose continuing challenges to federal and local policies aimed at bridging the divided opportunity potentials which are emerging both within and across regions.

Data used: Decennial U.S. censuses.

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