" BES Project Abstracts 2005
Institute of Ecosystem Studies

2005 BES Annual Meeting Presentation and Poster Abstracts


The State of the Suburbs: An examination of Inner Suburbs in Baltimore, 1980 to 2000
 
Bernadette Hanlon and Thomas J. Vicino
 
Abstract: Many inner suburbs of rustbelt cities in the Northeast and Midwest are experiencing economic and social problems normally associated with central cities. We conducted a case study of Baltimore’s inner suburbs to assess evidence of decline. Our primary source of data to measure suburban decline is place level census data, which enabled us to operationalize a definition for inner suburbs and spatially analyze them from 1980 to 2000. Our analysis, focusing on demographic composition, income and poverty dynamics, housing characteristics, and land-use patterns, shows evidence of socioeconomic decline among the majority of inner suburbs in Baltimore. The extent of this decline varies among these suburbs. Baltimore’s inner suburbs witnessed increases in poverty, which became more pronounced during the 1990s. These suburban places are aging and inner suburban residents are passing away without a younger generation to replace them. Baltimore’s inner suburbs have difficulty attracting new population, and white flight is prevalent. The housing stock is also aging and, in most cases, no longer attractive to middle and upper-income families. Our analysis suggests three main factors lead to the decline of inner suburbs in Baltimore: economic restructuring, inferior housing stock, and economic and racial segregation. We conclude with a conceptual model of suburban change, positing that inner suburbs move through four stages: growth, stability, decline, and crisis phases. We classify Baltimore’s 21 inner suburbs by these different stages.