suburbanisation AS - Abingdon School Study Site

What are “the suburbs”?
• Movement of upper and middle-class people from
core areas to surrounding outskirts. The process
began in the mid-nineteenth century but became a
mass phenomenon in the late-twentieth century.
• Critical elements
– Social stratification
– Long history dating from railroad and streetcar suburbs
– Phenomenon of the masses since 1950s
The pre-suburban industrial city
Industrial revolution
Competition for land
Clustering of factories in city center
Clustering of working class in city center
– density
– unpleasant living conditions
The beginnings of suburbanization
Horse cars
starfish pattern
city becomes larger geographically
work and home begin to be separated
social segregation begins
The U. S. suburban population grew from
26.7% in 1950 to 49.8% in 2000.
Pop. in Cities, Suburbs, and Nonmetro Areas
1950 to 2000
In millions of people
central cities
Suburbanisation is a landhungry process (Phoenix).
Suburbanisation as a mass
phenomenon after 1950.
Phoenix grew by 1 million
between 1990 and 2000.
• Freeways and transport corridors increased
accessibility of the suburbs.
• Critical link between transportation technology and
urban form = 4 stages of urban development
• (1) pedestrian and horsecar travel from 1800-90
• (2) electric streetcars between 1890 and 1920
• (3) recreational automobiles from 1920-50
• (4) freeways from 1950 to present.
Suburbanization increases
• Residential suburbanisation continued along
streetcar lines
• commercial suburbanisation increases
– follows population
• industrial suburbanisation also increases
– invention of truck
– high land prices in city center
Rise of the automobile
• About 1920 automobile ownership rising
• Ford improves mass production techniques
– cars become more affordable
• Government subsidises car travel
• Cars out-compete streetcars
• Starfish is filled in
Why the explosion?
• Post-war economic boom
– baby boom
– returning veterans
– pent-up wartime demand
• road building
– spoke and hub
– interstate highway system
Social and demographic trends
• High fertility of the baby boom era raised the
demand for housing.
• Large families demanded large homes.
• The nuclear family replaced the extended family
as the ideal.
• Prevailing model of male breadwinner and women
as homemakers. Suburban location gave them
home, garden, and automobile – cult of
Results of post-war suburbanization
starfish filled in
city much larger in area
much lower population densities
separation between home and work increases
segregation increases (uses, classes, and
The suburban ideal
• Post WWII explosion creates “the suburbs”
– concrete, material landscape/geography
• Simultaneous development of a cultural
ideal/image/vision of the suburbs
American Dream
Elements of the suburban ideal
residential space--separation of home and work
clean, quiet, healthy, safe
in harmony with nature
nuclear family/single family house
private life/private space
Protestant, white, middle-class
Decentralization has had many negative
consequences for newer suburban areas
• Traffic congestion
• Air pollution
• Loss of open space
• Overcrowded schools
A condominium
development closes in
on the mountains in the
background in this Feb.
25, 1997 photo in the
south Denver suburb of
Littleton, Colorado.
Urban sprawl hitting
cities like Denver is the
fastest growing threat to
the environment, says
the Sierra Club, citing
problems with lost open
space and increased air
and water pollution.
Traffic creeps along
Littleton Road (aka
route 202) in
Parsippany, N.J., during
the morning rush hour
on Dec. 10, 2003. A new
twist on commuting in
the New Jersey suburbs.
Suburbanites are still
commuting, but in many
cases their ride to work
takes them to other
suburbs -- not cities.
A real estate sign stands on a
rowhouse lawn in the Philadelphia
suburb of Collingdale, Pa., May
29, 2002. Across the country, old,
often small, suburbs that were
among the first to welcome the
cities' middle class are now seeing
their populations dwindle or
stagnate as those of outer suburbs
continue to grow. Nowhere is this
more apparent than in Delaware
County's older suburbs, such as
Collingdale, while its western
towns are dotted with farms and
brand-new developments.
• Between 1950 and 2000, the U.S. became a
suburban nation. 50% of population lives in
• Growth of suburbs reveals societal forces –
transportation technology, residential
preferences, housing policy, and
demographic change.