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Philadelphia’s Space In Between: Inner-Ring Suburb Evolution


Metropolitan regions have evolved into highly diverse areas in their demographic, socioeconomic, and housing patterns. The issue of declining inner-ring suburbs, however, has only recently begun to receive significant attention from urban scholars and policy makers. The fundamental concept of the inner-ring suburb rests on the notion of the space “in between” the inner city and outer-ring suburbs. In this article, we explore intra-metropolitan spatial differentiations and economic disparity between four sub-areas — the downtown, inner city, inner-ring suburbs, and outer-ring suburbs—via a case study of the Philadelphia metropolitan region. Our analysis confirms that inner-ring suburbs are increasingly vulnerable to socioeconomic decline and exhibit symptoms of decline similar to those found in inner cities (white flight, population loss, and increased poverty). Understanding the role and conditions of inner-ring suburbs is essential to creating effective metropolitan smart growth policies.

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