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Working Papers

An Economic Development Strategy for the City

Working paper #367
William G. Grigsby

In seeking to reverse their continuing population losses, Philadelphia and other older American cities are combating a population decentralization process that began at least as far back as the Civil War, long before the automobile, the Federal Housing Administration, urban decline, and other alleged causes of suburban flight. The primary cause of central-city population loss has been rising incomes and the consequent growing mismatch between what increasingly wealthy households can afford and what the small obsolescing dwellings that characterize the bulk of the central-city housing stocks have to offer. Even if central cities reduce their crime rates and improve the quality of their schools and other urban services, they will continue to lose population unless this income/housing-quality gap is not closed, or alternatively, they experience an influx of low-income foreign immigrants.

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