American Neighborhood Change in the 21st Century: Report from Univ. of Minnesota’s Institute On Metropolitan Opportunity

For much of the 20th century, the pattern of neighborhood and population change in American metropolitan regions was simple and easy to see: wealth moved outwards towards the suburbs, while poverty grew within the city.

In the 21st century, regions are still changing. But the pattern of contemporary change is no longer simple, or easy to see. Growth at the urban periphery
continues, but there is growth in the city, too. Poverty persists in the urban core, but poverty has also spread to the suburbs. It is often no longer clear what the primary challenges facing American regions are. In the absence a single, unifying trend, competing narratives about cities have sprung up.

The goal of a new report from the Institute On Metropolitan Opportunity at the University of Minnesota Law School is report is to reveal those 21st century patterns of metropolitan change and development. Broadly speaking, this report analyzes neighborhood change, at a census-tract and metropolitan level, between 2000 and 2016. Its analysis includes the entire United States but focuses on the 50 largest metropolitan areas.

The report has four objectives:

  1. To compare different types of neighborhood change, in order to show which kinds are more or less common;
  2. To compare how different communities within each major metropolitan area are changing;
  3. To compare how different metropolitan areas around the country are changing, so that trends in one region can be accurately analogized to trends elsewhere in the United States; and,
  4. To compare the effects of neighborhood change on different groups, so that the people most affected can be properly identified.

Answering these questions is necessary and worthwhile because neighborhood change has become a topic of overwhelming importance in metropolitan policy
and politics, and a topic on which consensus can be hard to find.

Photo of Minneapolis via Adobe Stock.

Read full report (PDF).

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