Skip to content

The Comeback and Competition of the Inner City

Two new studies explore the movement of businesses and people back to the city, but outside the central business district.
relates to The Comeback and Competition of the Inner City
Lucy Nicholson / REUTERS

In the 1950s and 1960s, America’s inner cities experienced sharp declines as people and businesses moved out to the suburbs. By the early 1970s, one of my urban planning professors at Rutgers went so far as to dub the inner city “a sandbox,” with federal transfers being used to essentially placate disadvantaged residents. But over the past decade or so, inner cities have staged a comeback, leading to what’s been dubbed a “great inversion” as people and jobs move back to and near downtown, and poverty and disadvantage increasingly take up residence in the suburbs.

Still, a debate has emerged among urban scholars as to what kinds of cities have really made a comeback and how much growth continues to be centered in the suburbs. When the economist Jed Kolko crunched the latest Census figures, he found urban revival to be limited to the young, skilled, and affluent (who can afford and are contributing to escalating housing prices), while the suburbs continue to account for more growth.