Urban Growth and Decline in the United States

A Study of Migration's Effects in Two Cities

by Peter A. Morrison


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The United States is a highly urbanized nation with abundant space, yet large portions of some areas are emptying out, while migration to a few, favored metropolitan areas is increasing. This duality of growth and decline, dependent on an intricate system of migration flows, is a central feature of U.S. urbanization. This paper examines U.S. migration from a broad analytical viewpoint and through the experience of two specific cities. The functions and dynamics of the migration process are considered: what causes migration to occur, how it affects migrants, and how it affects the places they leave and to which they go. Two case studies are presented within which general urbanization phenomena are examined: San Jose, California, a case study of rapid population growth; and the City of St. Louis, Missouri, which exemplifies central-city population decline. Viewed as opposite extremes of a growth-decline continuum, these cities illuminate the common demographic processes operating in two highly contrasting settings.

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