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International Handbook of Urban Systems

Studies of Urbanization and Migration in Advanced and Developing Countries

Edited by H. S. Geyer

This authoritative Handbook provides a comprehensive account of migration and economic development throughout the world, in both developed and developing countries. Some of the world’s most experienced researchers in this field look at how population redistribution patterns have impacted on urban development in a wide selection of advanced and developing countries in all the major regions of the world over the past half century.
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Chapter 14: A history of recent urban development in the United States

W.H Frey


W. H. Frey INTRODUCTION For a very long time there was a tendency among people in America to concentrate in the large and expanding cities of the United States while inside the cities there was a tendency to decentralize (Clark, 1967). Early on, the higher concentration of industries in certain parts of the country than in others played a major part in the direction of these migration flows. Although there was a gradual shifi in focus away from industries to the tertiary and quaternary sectors in the US economy during the second part of the twentieth century, economic development based on factors such as the location of natural and human resources, distances to markets and scale economies kept on attracting people to the large metropolitan areas (Ullmann, 1958; Hoover, 1963; Richardson, 1973). This is perhaps the most important reason why the turnaround in the population concentration trends that was detected for the first time after the 1970 census results came as such a complete surprise (Beale, 1977). In the extensive body of literature that has developed on the migration reversal in the United States subsequently, three prominent characteristics of the phenomenon have been uncovered thus far: (i) deconcentrating streams of people seem to cascade down the urban hierarchy (Frey and Speare, 19SS), (ii) the small and medium-sized cities closest to the core regions were the first to absorb de-concentrating migrants (Gordon, 1979), and (iii) the ripple-effect of the reversal was detected throughout the country, even in distant non-metropolitan areas in...

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