The Bifurcated City

After drifting toward decrepitude since the 1970s, the urban core of many cities have experienced real, often bracing, turnarounds. Yet concern is growing that the revitalization of parts of these cities has unevenly benefited some residents at the expense of others. The crucial, and often ignored, question remains whether the policies that have helped spark urban revivals have improved conditions for the greatest number of residents. In a new study for the Center for Opportunity Urbanism, we found that, in most cities, unbalanced urban growth has exacerbated class divisions, while doing little to address the decline of middle-class households. Our analysis, which puts special focus on the urban cores of Chicago, Los Angeles, and Dallas, shows that the once-rapid growth of urban cores and their surrounding neighborhoods has slowed dramatically; net domestic outmigration, according to Census estimates, has increased from 10,000 in 2012 to 440,000 in 2017. At the same time, some of the most actively gentrifying areas, such as San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle, have become increasingly plagued with social dissolution and rising homelessness.

In recent years, a relatively small downtown population has done better, but surrounding areas have not. Philadelphia’s central core rebounded between 2000 and 2014, but for every district that gained in income, two suffered income declines. Research by urban analysts Joe Cortright and Dillon Mahmoudi shows that the number of high-poverty (more than 30 percent below the poverty line) neighborhoods in the U.S. has tripled in the last half-century, from 1,100 in 1970 to 3,100 in 2010.

Poverty is not, as is widely suggested, now primarily a suburban problem. The poverty rate, according to the American Community Survey, remains two-thirds higher in urban cores than in suburbs. Equally important, many longstanding middle- and working-class neighborhoods are disappearing. Teachers, firemen, and police officers are struggling to afford homes in many American cities, according to a study from Trulia. This pricing-out also applies to many skilled blue-collar professions like technicians, construction workers, and mechanics.

Read the entire article at City Journal.

Homepage photo credit: Eric Allix Rogers via Flickr under CC 2.0 License.