Synopses & Reviews
In The Great Inversion and the Future of the American City
we travel the nation with Alan Ehrenhalt, one of our leading urbanists, as he explains how America’s cities are changing, what makes them succeed or fail, and what this means for our future.
Just a couple of decades ago, we took it for granted that inner cities were the preserve of immigrants and the poor, and that suburbs were the chosen destination of those who could afford them. Today, a demographic inversion is taking place: Central cities increasingly are where the affluent want to live, while suburbs are becoming home to poorer people and those who come to America from other parts of the world. Highly educated members of the emerging millennial generation are showing a decided preference for urban life and are being joined in many places by a new class of affluent retirees.
Ehrenhalt shows us how the commercial canyons of lower Manhattan are becoming residential neighborhoods, and how mass transit has revitalized inner-city communities in Chicago and Brooklyn. He explains why car-dominated cities like Phoenix and Charlotte have sought to build twenty-first-century downtowns from scratch, while sprawling postwar suburbs are seeking to attract young people with their own form of urbanized experience.
The Great Inversion is an eye-opening and thoroughly engaging look at our urban society and its future.
"The conventional model of the post-war American metropolis a desolate inner city, home to impoverished minorities and immigrants, surrounded by affluent white suburbs is turning itself inside out, according to this intriguing survey of the new urban geography. Ehrenhalt (The Lost City) examines a panorama of inner-city districts where well-heeled residents are flocking back in search of nightlife, short commutes, and dense, vibrant communities, including: Chicago's once gang-ridden, now swanky Sheffield neighborhood; Houston's Third Ward, in the throes of racially-charged battles over gentrification; and even sprawling, car-bound Phoenix, where a new light rail system may prove a magnet for downtown development. He contrasts these upscaling city precincts with suburbs like Ohio's Cleveland Heights, uneasily split between leafy subdivisions and dilapidated tenements, and Georgia's Gwinnett County, a formerly lily-white Atlanta ex-urb that's now majority-minority thanks to a tide of Hispanic and Asian immigrant strivers. Ehrenhalt's old-school urbanism, reminiscent of the work of Jane Jacobs, integrates fine-grained readings of street life with shrewd analyses of demographics, crime patterns, transportation systems, housing policy, and zoning and tax regulations to reveal the changing dynamics of metropolitan areas. The result is a lucid, provocative, and rather hopeful forecast for America's cities one that illuminates their enduring appeal. Photos. Agent: Chris Parris-Lamb, the Gernert Company." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Alan Ehrenhalt, one of our leading urbanologists, takes us to cities across the country to reveal how the roles of America's cities and suburbs are changing places--young adults and affluent retirees moving in, while immigrants and the less affluent are moving out--and the implications for the future of our society.
How will our nation be changed by the populations shifting in and out of the cities? Why are these shifts taking place? Ehrenhalt answers these and other questions in this illuminating study. He shows us how mass transit has revitalized inner-city communities in Chicago and Brooklyn, New York, while inner suburbs like Cleveland Heights struggle to replace the earlier generation of affluent tax-paying residents who left for more distant suburbs; how the sprawl of Phoenix has frustrated attempts to create downtown retail spaces that can attract large crowds; and how numerous suburban communities have created downtown areas to appeal to the increasing demand for walkable commercial zones. Finally, he explains what cities need to do to keep the affluent and educated attracted to and satisfied with downtown life. An eye-opening and thoroughly engaging look at American urban/suburban society and its future.
About the Author
Alan Ehrenhalt was the executive editor of Governing magazine from 1990 to 2009. He is the author of three books: The United States of Ambition, The Lost City, and Democracy in the Mirror. In 2000, he was the winner of the American Political Science Association’s Carey McWilliams Award for distinguished contributions to the field of political science by a journalist. He is currently executive editor of Stateline, a daily news service reporting on politics and policy in all fifty states. Ehrenhalt lives near Washington, D.C.