Trading Places: America Goes Through "Demographic Inversion"

michigan central station detroit photo

Michigan Central Station by David Kohrman from Forgotten Detroit

For years, Europeans and Canadians have wondered what happened to American cities, why did their cores turn into dead zones and suburbs flourish while in Paris or Toronto, the cores were wealthy and vital while the suburbs became hotbeds of crime. Alan Ehrenhalt writes in the New Republic about how many American cities are beginning to become more like Vienna or Vancouver.

"In the past three decades, Chicago has undergone changes that are routinely described as gentrification, but are in fact more complicated and more profound than the process that term suggests. A better description would be "demographic inversion....The people who live near the center--some of them black or Hispanic but most of them white--are those who can afford to do so."

lee statler ruined hotel photo

Lee-Statler Hotel in Detroit by David Kohrman from Forgotten Detroit

Ehrenhalt lists the reasons for the demographic inversion:

-Deindustrialization "has eliminated many of the things that made affluent people want to move away from it. Nothing much is manufactured downtown anymore (or anywhere near it), and that means that the noise and grime that prevailed for most of the twentieth century have gone away."

Cars and traffic:"In Atlanta, where the middle-class return to the city is occurring with more suddenness than perhaps anywhere in the United States, the most frequently cited reason is traffic. People who did not object to a 20-mile commute from the suburbs a decade ago are objecting to it now in part because the same commute takes quite a bit longer. To this, we can add the prospect of $5-per-gallon gasoline."

-Young adults expressing different values, habits, and living preferences than their parents. "The demographic changes that have taken place in America over the past generation--the increased propensity to remain single, the rise of cohabitation, the much later age at first marriage for those who do marry, the smaller size of families for those who have children, and, at the other end, the rapidly growing number of healthy and active adults in their sixties, seventies, and eighties--have combined virtually all of the significant elements that make a demographic inversion not only possible but likely."

Excellent reading at ::The New Republic via ::BoingBoing

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