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Brookings Report: “Bright Flight” Transforming Cities and Suburbs

7:41 AM PDT on May 10, 2010

2912708983_5b597d4261.jpgNot as appealing as they once were. (Photo: Scorpions and Centaurs via Flickr)

The suburbs of America are not what they used to be. And neither are the cities.

This morning, The Political Environment pointed us to an article on the Huffington Post about "The State of Metropolitan America,"
a new Brookings Institution report on the shifting demographics of
American cities and suburbs (it includes a nifty interactive map).
Hope Yen writes that the report, which analyzes census data from
2000-2008, reveals a reversal of the long-established trend of "white
flight" to suburbia:

In a reversal, America’s suburbs are now more likely to be home to
minorities, the poor and a rapidly growing older population as many
younger, educated whites move to cities for jobs and shorter commutes.…

"A new image of urban America is in the making," said William H.
Frey, a demographer at Brookings who co-wrote the report. "What used to
be white flight to the suburbs is turning into ‘bright flight’ to
cities that have become magnets for aspiring young adults who see
access to knowledge-based jobs, public transportation and a new city
ambiance as an attraction."

"This will not be the future for all cities, but this pattern in
front runners like Atlanta, Portland, Ore., Raleigh, N.C., and Austin,
Texas, shows that the old urban stereotypes no longer apply," he said.

The rate of poverty is rising five times faster in the suburbs than
in cities. It’s a pattern that Brookings sees as a major policy

Calling 2010 the "decade of reckoning," the report urgespolicymakers to shed outdated notions of America’s cities and suburbsand work quickly to address the coming problems caused by the dramaticshifts in population.

Among its recommendations: affordable housing and social servicesfor older people in the suburbs; better transit systems to link citiesand suburbs; and a new federal Office of New Americans to serve theeducation and citizenship needs of the rapidly growing immigrantcommunity.

The report merits much more careful analysis and closer reading. But
one thing seems evident: "suburbs" and "cities" are no longer clearly
defined categories with predictable attributes. The vast metropolitan
landscape of America is far more fluid and dynamic than it has been in
decades past. And old-school policy solutions are not going to be
applicable to these new challenges.

More from around the network: On WashCycle, the saga of Mid-Atlantic AAA and the bike lanes of Pennsylvania Avenue continues. Human Transit and Orphan Road both ask some tough questions about the future of Seattle’s trolleybuses. And Bike Skirt takes a trip to Charleston — where she educates a driver on the rules of the road.

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