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Why Have Cities Declined Since World War Ii?

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Submitted By ewylam
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Why have cities declined since World War II?
Leading up to World War II the growth of United States cities was paramount to the success and progression of the industrial revolution. Ultimately the increasing population density of early cities supplied the labor and consumption that was necessary to fuel the economic fires which in turn pushed the nation into global supremacy. In a sense the size of population and economic success were circularly entwined. After World War II the United States, its veterans, and citizens were riding the high of an international war hero. Prosperity, federal economic stimulus, and a growing need to escape the urban lifestyle lead to a decline of cities in the years following the war.
“1945 through 1970 was a pinnacle in the history of suburbanization” (Nicolaides 216). Postwar prosperity contributed to the decline of urban cities because for the first time in the history of the United States more than just the rich could be land and home owners. Working-class citizens were afforded the credit necessary to move out into the suburb and the government encouraged this exodus because it portrayed strength on the global stage. “The suburbs signified the continued possibility of upward mobility, expanding opportunity, rising standards of living and income, and the latest technologies of the good life” (Nicolaides 216). During this time frame “hundreds of thousands of working-class as well as middle-class people” were able to by suburban homes and almost all of them were once urban residents (Chudacoff 426).
During and after World War II the federal government “began expanding its powers” and it created federal subsidies that ranged from “interstate highways that further opened up the West, to a social security system that allowed comfortable retirement in good-weather areas” (Nicolaides 187). Additionally “low interest government loans to returning veterans and mortgage insurance provided by the Federal Housing Administration” provided for optimum economic conditions for working and middle class citizens to escape the high population density and hustle and bustle of the city (Chudacoff 429). In the years following the war the emphasis of federal spending was so over weighted towards the suburbs that scholars cautioned against the impact on cities (Nicolaides 188). “They point(ed) out that most federal spending privileged suburbs over the cities, that little in the way of an explicit ‘urban policy’ existed, and that benefits to cities were mostly an unintended consequence” (Nicolaides 188). Combine the stimulus packages the declining urban support from the government the thought of leaving the city for a suburban lifestyle would have been hard to ignore. In fact it was, and as the cities declined the suburbs exploded.
The industrialization of urban cities was paramount to the success of the United States and its allies during World War II. However all the capitalism and industrialization had a negative side. Urban residents “sought refuge from the odious consequences of capitalist production- poverty, exploited workers, and the misery of their lives” (Nicolaides 3). Urban life was increasingly difficult and impoverished conditions continued to go largely unattended. Cities, while industrial powerhouses were dirty, crowded, and unsightly. “The fight against blight gradually receded and the fight against sprawl came to fore” (Bruegmann, Chudacoff 450). As cities became less and less friendly the allure of suburban half acre lots with a newly built home in a planned community was all that middle-class urbanites needed to pack up and leave.
The economic success of the United States in the years after World War II helped mark one of the most prosperous times in our nations history. Wages were higher and home lending was greater than ever before which allowed the strong working and middle classes to be able to achieve the ultimate American dream. The government assisted citizens who wanted to move out of the cities with subsidies and stimulus packages intended to assist in home ownership. Mean while the focus on cities drifted toward to the expanding suburbs and they began to be over taken by blight. All of these factors combined to foster a situation where the decline of US cities was inevitable.

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