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Working Papers

Reversing Philadelphia’s Population Decline

Working paper #375
William G. Grigsby

Philadelphia has lost 600,000 population since 1950, 70,000 in the last decade alone. The shift from rail to automobile transportation and the precarious fiscal situation of the city contributed to residential decentralization. Policy maker’ efforts to reverse this trend have been unsuccessful. Today, fewer workers need to live in the city in order to be near their jobs, and each year, the competitive disadvantage of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods has become more pronounced. It is possible to reverse this trend. Vacant land can be used to build neighborhoods for middle- and upper-income families who would improve Philadelphia’s finances. Retired persons could live close to high-quality medical care and cultural attractions and young couples could remain longer in the city. A mixed-income new-town/in-town with 10,000 residential units would be funded through enhanced residential and commercial real estate values and job creation, and lead to other investment throughout the city.

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