Uneven Development and Social Equity in American Shrinking Cities: Can the Growing Social and Economic Gap be Narrowed?

Monday, July 14, 2014: 6:15 PM
Room: 311+312
Oral Presentation
Alan MALLACH , The Brookings Institution, Roosevelt, NJ
The phenomenon of uneven development as a way of differentiating growing and shrinking cities is well-established, but emerging patterns of uneven development within many shrinking cities have been less extensively examined. While there has long been some degree of internal variation within United States shrinking cities, these variations have become markedly more pronounced in the past decade. A conjunction of market shifts, demographic trends, and economic pressures have resulted in some areas seeing regeneration at levels not seen for many decades in these cities, while decline appears to be accelerating in other areas. The evidence of central core revitalization on the one hand and the accelerating decline of many traditional single-family neighborhoods on the other is particularly striking, with population growth, job growth and housing market strength increasingly spatially concentrated in the core, leading to a growing polarization of these cities by race and income, and raising important questions of economic and social equity. This paper will begin by summarizing the evidence from research into economic, demographic and racial change over the past decade in a cluster of ten large American shrinking cities including Detroit, St. Louis, and Pittsburgh. The paper will explore the challenges and implications for policymaking and governance of this increasing polarization, leading to a proposed conceptual framework for how governmental and NGO actors, particularly community development corporations, can foster more equitable revitalization in American shrinking cities. This framework will address the question of the policy space available for redistributional strategies in an environment of severe resource and policy constraints, and the extent to which that in turn dictates rethinking governance roles and responsibilities in shrinking cities.