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A Research Agenda for Shrinking Cities

Justin B. Hollander

This prescient book presents the intellectual terrain of shrinking cities while exploring the key research questions in each of the field’s sub-domains and reviewing the range of methodologies within these topics.
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Chapter 2: Regional perspectives

Justin B. Hollander


In 2011, I wrote the book Sunburnt Cities (Hollander 2011c) about the ways that the Great Recession was wreaking havoc on residential communities in the U.S. I conducted the research for the book from 2008 to 2010, a period considered by some economists to be the lowest point in American economic conditions since the Great Depression in the 1930s. Hit hard by foreclosures, vacancy, and housing abandonment, communities across the country were shaken badly by forces largely out of their control. I had spent several years prior analyzing the ways that distressed cities in the American Rust Belt managed population and economic decline, and much of that narrative centered around the ways that jobs and people left places like Buffalo (New York) or Detroit (Michigan) to settle into the warmer climates of the American Sun Belt. The story of the rise of one region of the country (South and West) at the expense of another (Northeast and Midwest) was suitable for a feature film. In fact, Michael Moore famously told that story through the experience of Flint, Michigan in his acclaimed documentary Roger and Me.

With good guys, bad guys, and the fun-in-the-sun spirit of places like Florida and Arizona, the story really stuck and played a role in reinforcing a defeatism present in many of these post-industrial Rust Belt cities (Beauregard 2012). The reality, however was much more complex.

Certainly, there is ample evidence to support elements of this tale (see Glaeser and Tobio 2008)...

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