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The Urban Future

May 7, 2012

Joel Garreau in Wilson Quarterly:

Is gentrification the “fifth great migration,” that will fill old downtowns with upper-middle-class white folks, while the tract mansions of the outer ring become slums for immigrants? So suggests Alan Ehrenhalt, the former executive editor of Governing magazine. In The Great Inversion and the Future of the American City, he proposes that a demographic shift is under way that is reversing generations of suburbanization and white flight. (…)

Ehrenhalt believes that “the massive outward migration of the affluent that characterized the second half of the 20th century is coming to an end.” Soon, he predicts, scarcely anyone “will be buying large, detached single-family houses 30 miles from the city limits.” And, more specifically, “Chicago in 2030 will look more like the Paris of 1910 than like the Detroit of 1970.”

As corroboration of this vision of the future, he notes the undeniable fact that the ’burbs have not been lily white for decades. Their good jobs, good schools, property values, and low crime rates continue to attract great numbers of hard-working, middle-class African Americans and immigrants. Meanwhile, as some inner-city neighborhoods become safer, they are drawing the market segment that developers refer to as “the risk oblivious.” Often, these are intrepid young white people without school-age children who recognize that it was always nuts to ignore the marvelous real estate near the old downtowns. Frequently, they are followed by the somewhat less adventurous and more affluent. [More]

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