Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Suburban Ghetto

The Suburban Ghetto: Suburbanization, at least in the 1950s, was an exclusive process. It entailed the movement of whites from an area of high concentration in the city to an area of low concentration in the country. And like the inventions of jazz music and the hamburger, suburbanization was a wholly American phenomenon. Europeans never quite adopted the cookie-cutter style housing techniques, as they preferred to use brick and mortar instead of wood. There was simply less land available in Europe for this kind of mass development. Even so, planned communities effectively became the norm throughout post-World War II America. These communities came to fruition in the midst of Jim Crow. The federal government in the 1930s, with New Deal agencies like the Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC), systematically sought to prevent certain social groups from moving to the suburbs. By denying loans to people in urban minority neighborhoods and guaranteeing them to white contractors who built massive suburban communities, the federal government essentially controlled the sociological aspects of suburbanization. The classic example is Levittown, New York (pictured above). Between 1947 and 1951, this suburb saw a net increase of 20,000 homes; but not one of them contained a black family.

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