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A comprehensive national study of inner-ring suburbs in the U.S.

Once the American Dream

Inner-Ring Suburbs of the Metropolitan United States

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Bernadette Hanlon

"An engaging contemporary study of twenty years of suburban change in the U.S., Once the American Dream is more comprehensive than earlier works on suburbs, focusing on differences among suburbs rather than the city/suburban differences. The breadth of stories told against the analysis helps provide good insights and makes the national picture more local to readers. Hanlon ably demonstrates how to apply useful methodologies to the study of contemporary metropolitan geography."
—David L. Phillips, Professor of Urban and Environmental Planning, University of Virginia

At one time, a move to the suburbs was the American Dream for many families. However, despite the success of Levittown, New York, impoverished "inner-ring" suburbs—those closest to the urban core of metropolitan cities—like Lansdowne, Maryland, are in decline. As aging housing stock, foreclosures, severe fiscal problems, slow population growth, increasing poverty, and struggling local economies affect inner-ring suburbs, what can be done to save them?

Once the American Dream analyzes this downward trend, examining five thousand suburbs across one hundred different metropolitan areas and census regions in 1980 and 2000. Hanlon defines the suburbs’ geographic boundaries and provides a ranking system for assessing and acting upon inner-ring suburban decline. She illuminates her detailed statistical analysis with vivid case studies. She also demonstrates how other suburbs, particularly those in the outer reaches of cities, flourished during the 1980s and 1990s. Once the American Dream closes with a discussion of policy implications and recommendations for policymakers and planners who deal with suburbs of various stripes.

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Excerpt

Read Chapter 1 (pdf).

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Reviews

"Once the American Dream breaks new ground in its national coverage of the differentiation among types of suburbs, the measurement of suburban decline, and case studies illustrating the comparison between declining inner-ring suburbs and newer suburbs. Hanlon’s book is well organized, the writing is clear, and the figures, tables, and maps are helpful, as is the appendix. With the increased interest in the situation of the inner-ring suburbs, this book will appeal to students and scholars of urban planning, metropolitan development and politics, and sociology."
Dennis Keating, Professor and Distinguished Scholar, College of Urban Affairs, Cleveland State University

"Hanlon’s book...is well researched and clear in focus. It’s also very timely, given the state of the housing market in the United States, and the evolving sense of place that is changing for aging suburbs as well as certain neighborhoods in certain cities – especially the aging, industrial urban areas of the Northeast and, to a lesser degree, the upper Midwest."
Plan Philly

"A good example of interdisciplinary urban studies, Hanlon's study is engagingly written yet data rich....Once the American Dream is a useful and readable volume. It serves as something of a primer and reference work on contemporary suburbia but also as an excellent summary of what is known about suburban differentiation and a well-documented example of how a variety of data methods can be applied to an interdisciplinary urban issue. The vignettes of specific communities give much additional texture to the findings.... Overall, the book deserves a wide audience."
Urban Affairs Review

"This is a thoughtful, detailed, and comprehensive analysis of inner-ring suburbs in the United States. It adds new dimensions and nuance to the research on the diversity of these places as well as how they compare to outer suburbs. The work is especially useful because it connects all the dots to make recommendations for several levels of government."
Economic Development Quarterly

"[E]xhaustively research[ed]…intriguing and informative…. What is new is the way Hanlon builds on prior literature to develop an interesting new methodology for differentiating suburban typologies…. Hanlon has given the research a good kickstart."
Journal of the American Planning Association

"Hanlon’s study is theoretically informed, empirically rich, and carefully assesses its findings. In fact, the book may set a new standard in research on contemporary suburban developments in North America…. Once the American Dream is an extremely welcome addition to the existing stock of literature on the suburbs. Moreover, it offers a new understanding of the contemporary role and status of U.S. suburbs…which has scarcely been addressed before. The volume has quite an extensive empirical basis and is very well written. In just under 200 pages, it concisely presents dense and carefully developed content. In the context of suburban decline, it may become as classical a contribution to the literature as some of [the] previous works that had emphasized the rise of the suburbs."
Urban Geography

"[Hanlon] develops an interesting decile method for classifying suburbs that compares the socio-economic performance of a suburb to the performance of the metropolitan region it is located in.... Practitioners and policy makers involved in community revitalization will find Once the American Dream useful because of the best practice examples. It is an easy read, written in a smooth and simple manner.... [An] important addition to existing scholarship."
The Journal of Urban Affairs

"[Hanlon] offer[s] a detailed analysis of the inner-ring suburbs of the 100 largest urban areas and a comprehensive overview of the research to date on the forces shaping these communities....She provides detailed case studies of Dundulk, Maryland, and Cleveland Heights, Ohio, which exemplify some of the problems facing these vulnerable inner-ring communities.... This book serves as the most comprehensive view to date of the state of the inner-ring suburbs."
City and Community

"This book will be useful for courses covering metropolitan or suburban development, courses that are increasingly offered in urban studies programs. In compact form, it synthesizes much of what we know about patterns of development and decline in U.S. urban regions. It provides a useful summary of much of the literature on older suburbs. A particularly helpful feature for students and other newcomers to the topic is a full-page table summarizing the results of over a dozen important studies on the topic. Hanlon makes skillful use of concrete examples found in specific suburbs around the United States to illustrate points she is making."
Contemporary Sociology

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  Also available in e-book

 

Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Tables
Acknowledgments
1. Once the American Dream
2. Decline Is a New Suburban Reality
3. Defining Inner-Ring Suburbs
4. Forces Shaping Inner-Ring Suburbs
5. Sidestepping Inner-Ring Suburbs
6. Declining Inner-Ring Suburbs
7. Suburbs in Crisis
8. Different Types of Inner-Ring Suburbs
9. Fixing Inner-Ring suburbs
10. Conclusion
Appendix
References
Index

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About the Author(s)

Bernadette Hanlon is a Trott Visiting Assistant Professor in the City and Regional Planning program in the Austin E. Knowlton School of Architecture at Ohio State University. Her research interests include suburban growth and decline, urban policy and planning, and state and local government.

Subject Categories

Urban Studies
Geography
Political Science and Public Policy

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