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Economy

The New Suburban Crisis

Once the key driver of the American dream, the suburbs have reached the end of a long era of cheap growth. Now their advantages to economic mobility have nearly disappeared.
The suburban crisis will not be televised.
The suburban crisis will not be televised.Eric Thayer/Reuters

During the mid-1980s, before anyone thought of the suburbs as being on a downward trajectory, the urban designer David Lewis, a Carnegie Mellon colleague of mine at the time, told me that the future project of suburban renewal would likely make our vast 20th-century urban renewal efforts look like a walk in the park.

Indeed, with their enormous physical footprints, shoddy construction, and hastily installed infrastructure, many suburbs are visibly crumbling. Across the nation, hundreds of suburban shopping malls are dead or dying; countless suburban factories, like their urban counterparts a couple of generations ago, have fallen silent.