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Working Papers

“Shrinking Cities” Revisited

Working paper #711
Witold Rybczynski and Peter Linneman

In the Fall 1997 issue of the Wharton Real Estate Review, the authors proposed a unique solution to the problems faced by many American cities that had been steadily losing population over the previous forty years: consolidating sparsely populated neighborhoods, and even de-annexing selected districts. Between 1990 and 2009, large cities such as Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Baltimore, Detroit, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Toledo, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. suffered population losses. Although there is some evidence that Rustbelt cities are taking tentative steps implementing planned shrinkage, political and social barriers to strategies such as de-annexation continue to be formidable.

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