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U.S. urban decline and growth, 1950 to 2000


  • Jordan Rappaport


Following World War II, many large U.S. cities began to rapidly lose population. This urban decline climaxed during the 1970s when New York City, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Atlanta each lost more than 10 percent of their population. The sharp declines of these and numerous other U.S. urban municipalities led many to believe that large U.S. cities were dying. ; Then, during the 1980s, New York and Boston began to grow again. In the 1990s, so did Chicago, Atlanta, and Minneapolis. The reversal of population declines by these and a few other U.S. urban municipalities has led many to believe that large U.S. cities were coming back. ; Rappaport explains why, contrary to such perceptions, recent U.S. history has not been characterized by a period of pervasive urban decline followed by a widespread urban renaissance. To be sure, a few large cities were able to successfully reverse steep population declines. But over the past 50 years, most large U.S. cities either declined continuously or else grew continuously. Such varied growth experiences resulted from a complex combination of national, regional, metropolitan area, and local factors. These included a continuing shift of population from the Northeast and Midwest to the South and West, a slowing shift of population from cities to suburbs, and the much more rapid growth of some metropolitan areas relative to others.

Suggested Citation

  • Jordan Rappaport, 2003. "U.S. urban decline and growth, 1950 to 2000," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, issue Q III, pages 15-44.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedker:y:2003:i:qiii:p:15-44:n:v.88no.3

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    Cited by:

    1. Rappaport, Jordan, 2004. "Why are population flows so persistent?," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(3), pages 554-580, November.
    2. Ubarevi?ien?, R?ta & van Ham, Maarten & Burneika, Donatas, 2014. "Shrinking Regions in a Shrinking Country: The Geography of Population Decline in Lithuania 2001-2011," IZA Discussion Papers 8026, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Leah Platt Boustan & Allison Shertzer, 2010. "Demography and Population Loss from Central Cities, 1950-2000," NBER Working Papers 16435, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Whitaker, Stephan & Fitzpatrick IV, Thomas J., 2013. "Deconstructing distressed-property spillovers: The effects of vacant, tax-delinquent, and foreclosed properties in housing submarkets," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(2), pages 79-91.

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