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Economic ties bind cities', suburbs fate.

Cities and suburbs have a common and essential stake in their shared economies. Growing disparities between these jurisdictions erode and eventually undermine the vitality of the regional economy and, hence, the welfare of both cities and suburbs. And, the good performance of these urban centered regional economies is essential to improved national economic performance. Federal policy since 1980 has virtually ignored the importance of these regional economies to the nation and, certainly, the importance of core cities to the region and nation.

The linkage between city and suburban economic disparities and metropolitan and suburban economic performance is poorly understood. Suburban authorities and residents may seek to increasingly distance themselves from the problems of cities in the belief that the destinies of suburbs are not shared.

Clearly, there is a direct relationship between city-suburban disparities and rates of employment growth. Metropolitan areas with lower disparities tend to have higher rates of employment change. Those with higher disparities tend to have lower rates of employment gains. In other words, metropolitan areas with smaller per capita income disparities tend to be more prosperous. Growing disparities and employment growth tend not to go together. As disparities increase, employment change declines.

The tendency for lower disparities and higher rates of employment growth is apparent. Clearly, there are exceptions to this generalization. A few metropolitan areas with relatively higher per capita income disparities have experienced relatively high rates of employment growth. These exceptions may be due to the size of these cities relative to their suburbs, unique characteristics of their economic bases, other unique local or regional characteristics, or they may simply be exceptions to the general trend.

The use of metropolitan employment growth rather than suburban employment growth in these calculations may overstate the interdependence of cities and their suburbs. This would occur if very low rates of employment growth in central cities had a significant depressing effect on metropolitan employment growth rates. In other words, it is possible that, in metropolitan areas with high disparities, suburbs could experience relatively high rates of employment growth while employment growth rates for the metropolitan area as a whole are reduced because of poor performance in the central city.

Other research, however, suggests that this is not the case. It examines the relationship between economic disparities and suburban performance using population growth rather than employment growth as the measure of performance. [7] This research also finds that the futures of cities and suburbs are intertwined. Critical findings of this research are:

[section] Metropolitan areas that have relatively low population loss in their urban cores tend to have relatively high gains in their suburbs. Those with high population loss in their cities tend to experience population losses or marginal gains in their suburbs. This relationship is so strong that the probability that this relationship could result by chance is only about one in 40.

[section] Per capita incomes of cities and suburbs tend to rise and fall together.

[section] Metropolitan areas with growing suburbs tend to have smaller income disparities between city and suburbs than do troubled regions with no substantial population growth. Growing income disparities between cities and suburbs and suburban population growth do not go together. As disparities increase, rates of population growth decline. This evidence shows a relationship between declining urban cores and suburban stagnation.

This documentation of the economic interdependence of cities and their suburbs strongly suggests that the capacity and willingness of cities and suburbs to work cooperatively to effectively address their common economic needs will be an important determinant of their mutual economic future. Where suburbs turn their backs on their cities, or cities refuse to cooperate with their suburbs, they are undermining their own economic prosperity. Cities and suburbs that recognize their common stake in their common economy and jointly pursue the economic good of the metropolitan economy are more likely to prosper.
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Title Annotation:Special Report: Mutual Economic Health Needed by Cities, Suburbs
Author:Ledebur, Larry C.; Barnes, William
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Mar 9, 1992
Previous Article:Regional economic health depends on center cities.
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