3.27.2009

Diversity in the Suburbs


With downtowns picking up our very richest and inner ring suburbs increasingly bearing many of the same social challenges as their inner city neighbors, stereotypical city-suburb differences are giving way to a more nuanced spatial story. One interesting development is the unrelenting ethnic diversification of a big city’s major suburban communities (the last two data points from a presentation I attended on the Penn campus earlier this month):

* Having conducted Philadelphia’s study of the participation of minority and women owned firms in municipal business for the past three years, my firm has seen noticeable growth in the proportion of contracts won by non-whites who are located in the suburbs.

* From 1970 to 2006, the percentage of our region’s foreign-born population that lives outside of Philadelphia has gone from one-half (52%) to two-thirds (68%).

* This decade, almost ten times more Mexicans have moved into the Philadelphia suburbs than have moved into Philadelphia (this startling fact is somewhat blunted by the greater existence of undocumented Mexicans within the city than in the suburbs).

There’s more to unpack here, to be sure. But suffice to say that there’s now a lot more that cities and suburbs potentially have in common, in terms of challenges such as multilingual education and immigrant services, as well as enhancements such as ethnic restaurants and workplace diversity. We live in interesting times, and we live in a wonderful country.
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