Cities Are Coming Back, But Urban Poverty Remains an Immense Challenge

Huffington Post by F. Kaid Benfield

Cities are Coming back...

It is hard to think of a phenomenon that has done greater damage to our environment (as well as to our economy and social fabric) than the mass exodus from our older cities and towns that took place in the latter half of the 20th century. While we paved over farmland, forests, and watersheds, causing people to drive ever-longer distances to get things done, we tragically sucked population, investment and life out of older neighborhoods and communities as people with choices fled for the suburbs.

Our cities and the damage done

Sun Belt cities were spared much of the damage, but Eastern and Midwestern cities were especially hard-hit. While the periods of population loss have varied from one location to another, the numbers tell the story: Washington, DC, where I live, lost 29 percent of its population between 1950 and 2000; Chicago lost 26 percent between 1950 and 2010; Atlanta lost 21 percent between 1970 and 1990. Even Seattle and Denver lost significant population during their periods of decline, and Cleveland has so far lost a staggering 57 percent of its population since 1950 and is still shrinking. While the losses have been particularly evident in large cities, our traditional small cities and towns have not been spared; the population of Corning, New York (2010 population 11,183), for example, declined by 39 percent between 1950 and 2000.

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