1. In your metropolitan area, are poor people evenly distributed throughout
or do they tend to live in distinct places?
2. How would you define a suburban area? What are its characteristics?
Video Key Words
Empowerment Zone Urban to Suburban Migration
Neighborhood Revitalization Suburban Sprawl
Geographic Information System (GIS) Farmland Loss
Relative Location Edge Cities
Central Business District (CBD)
Boston: Ethnic Mosaic examines the phenomenon (spectacle) of inner-city abandonment as an example of a process that
has changed the internal structure of Boston. The case study also looks at how immigration affects the city's ethnic
The second case study, Chicago: Farming on the Edge, focuses on the prime agricultural land that is located on the
periphery of the city and the forces that determine its use and development over time. With continuing migration to the
suburbs, farmers face enormous pressures to sell their land to developers. In these high-demand areas, fortunes can be
made through the sale of increasingly scarce agricultural land.
These two case studies create a portrait of the urban form that has emerged in post-industrial America. They also reveal
some of the serious implications of that form for the people remaining in the urban core, for those who want to continue
their way of life as farmers, and for those who want to preserve some of the nation's best farmland. The forces driving
development away from old urban centers are strong. The question is whether those forces should or could be contained.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
Effects on Chicago
(list at least 3) List three things about life on
Cause: People Moving from a farm based on the video and
Effects on the Suburbs PowerPoints we viewed
Chicago to the suburbs List three ways farm
(list at least 3)
life and city life in
Effects on the Farmers Chicago are similar
(list at least 3)
Honors/AP: Infer the future city life in
effects on Food Supply Chicago List three ways
Honors/AP: Infer the future suburban life and city
effects on highways in and life in Chicago are
near Chicago List three things about similar
AP: Infer the effects on
life in the suburbs based
other farmers in Illinois on the video
Cityscapes of Boston
Located in North America, the United States and Canada have the most urbanized and mobile populations in the world.
Two of the most important results of that mobility are the abandonment of inner-city neighborhoods by the middle class
and the increasing loss of prime agricultural land to suburban development. The land-use pattern that is emerging is one
that looks something like a doughnut. This has been created by the middle class fleeing an increasingly poor and empty
downtown for life and work in a ring of suburbs and edge cities.
The first case study, Boston: Ethnic Mosaic, visits the hometown of some of the nation's finest institutions of higher
education and centers for research and development. Boston has a vibrant central business district, but it is also
experiencing middle class flight. The city's ethnic diversity is due in part to the attraction of cheap housing for newly
arriving immigrants. Inner-city Boston has become, however, a place where tax dollars are simply not adequate to deal
with the problems caused by poverty. Inner-city residents and the city must turn to the federal government for assistance
in solving their social and economic problems.
The case study focuses on the spatial distribution of some of Boston's ethnic and racial groups and their competition for
inclusion in a proposed empowerment zone. The zone is to include the most impoverished areas in Boston, yet those
areas don't necessarily follow established neighborhood boundaries. A geographer is asked to use her professional skills
and input from citizens to determine what boundary should be proposed in the grant application. The stakes are high: a
first-place, $100 million federal grant could go a long way in providing job training, offering social services, and attracting
new businesses to Boston's struggling core.
BOSTON CASE STUDY: IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS
At a Glance
Both inner city abandonment and suburban expansion are shaped by the transportation infrastructure. Both farm life and
inner-city life are threatened by middle class urban flight. Just as mobility has increased the choices for the middle class, it
has limited the choices for many living in the inner city who are trapped in a cycle of seemingly inescapable poverty. The
subdivision of land into small parcels renders land inadequate for farming. This is so whether divided into the five-acre lots
of exurbia, the quarter- to half-acre lots of the standard suburban neighborhood, or the intense development of core
business districts. Government intervention may be necessary to protect farmlands as well as inner-city communities. A
geographic information system (GIS) is used in both case studies to analyze the spatial impact of land-use conversion.
Case Study 1 -- Boston: Ethnic Mosaic
A Historical Pattern for Inner City Abandonment
By 1870, immigrants who were pouring into industrializing American cities sought inexpensive housing close to their
factory jobs. Tenements and row houses were filled with as many bodies as it was possible for them to hold. Conditions
were miserable, so as soon as families could save enough money, they would move into an apartment in the next best
neighborhood, usually one step beyond the center of the city but still within easy commuting distance by public
transportation. Tenements would not stay vacant long, as newly arriving immigrants replaced those who were able to
As families became more prosperous, they sought better housing -- from tenement, to apartment, to duplex, to a single-
family home usually in the suburbs. This was made possible by the ability of the most affluent families to afford longer
commutes and to buy new housing at the suburban edge. As the upwardly mobile vacated their old homes, middle class
families would take their place, creating a chain of movement out from the center of the city. This is a pattern that
continues to the present.
Immigration Helps Create Boston's Ethnic Mosaic
After the United States closed its doors to immigration in the 1920s, industrial employers in need of workers turned to the
large unemployed African American population in the rural south. This recruitment created a new wave of migration into
the manufacturing belt cities of the Northeast and the Midwest. One result of this migration was that, because many
whites refused to live with these racially different newcomers, blacks were forced to live in racially segregated
neighborhoods. Increasingly, inner cities became places of "color" as whites fled their own inner-city neighborhoods.
Empowerment Zones as a Vehicle of Change
Today, flight from the inner city is more an issue of class than one of color as middle class people of all racial and ethnic
groups attempt to leave the city for life in the suburbs. This has had a devastating impact economically for nearly all
American cities. As inner-city populations become increasingly poor, the need for costly social services becomes critical.
Most cities raise the money with which they operate through local property taxes. With the flight of the middle class,
property values have decreased, as have property tax revenues. Many cities no longer have the ability to pay for
necessary services on their own and must look elsewhere for funding to survive.
The first case study follows an empowerment zone application for several neighborhoods in South Boston. Such a federal
designation could restructure the tax base with the help of a $100 million grant. The process is complex because the area
to be defined for the application includes a number of racially and ethnically separated neighborhoods, each with its own
needs. Newly configured boundaries are created for the empowerment zone to describe the areas more precisely than do
traditional neighborhood boundaries.
As seen in the video, news of the second place, $25 million grant was positively received by the community leaders of the
most impoverished neighborhoods in the city. Eventually, Boston went on to receive the first place grant. These
empowerment zone monies were used to build new shopping and business facilities and encourage merchants to enter
these neighborhoods, thereby creating jobs for local residents.
The World in Spatial Terms
1. List reasons why geographic information systems are an important tool in defining the empowerment zones in
Boston. What social and economic factors are integrated into the system? What is the desired outcome?
2. List and discuss people's concerns regarding loss of farmland around the Chicago metropolitan area. How do
these concerns influence their perceptions of place?
3. Based on the concept of edge cities, explain the reasons why people decide to migrate from Chicago's core.
Uses of Geography
1. From a historical perspective, explain the chain of immigration and inner city abandonment as a continuum of
movement and spatial interaction. How has the chain of movement changed in today's inner cities?
2. Based on the social, economic, and ethnic make-up of Boston, what changes might occur in light of the
empowerment zone policy?