Friday, February 24, 2012

Employment Decentralization as Urban Sprawl Character in 1950-80

by Houshmand E. Masoumi

Employment decentralization is one of the factors, which give a good estimation of the rate of urban and suburban sprawl.
Suburban sprawl as an urban form has received attention more than any other form of development after the World War II. Urban sprawl and decentralization can be considered from several aspects such as housing, transportation, social issues, etc.
A factor, which has always been a good indicator of sprawl, is employment decentralization. The location of jobs shows the attitude of people and industry about the circumstances of communing and living.


Employment Decentralization in the 1950-1980 Period

Since 1950s, along with the massive migration of the American affluent, middle-class, and working-class from inner-city to the periphery, the employment location experienced the same trend. The industrial centers and employers gradually transferred the jobs to the suburbs.
As Logan and Golden report manufacturing jobs grew 16 percent in the suburbs from 1958 to 1963, while dropped 6 percent in central cities. Between 1963 and 1977, the manufacturing jobs of the central cities fell by 700000 in metropolitan areas, while the same figure in suburbs grew by 1.1 million.
That is also the story for retail and wholesale employment which fell by 100000, during the aforementioned years. The related suburbs gained 1.8 million jobs.


CBD versus Suburbia

In a book written in 1, the authors note that between the years 1960 and 1980 the two third of the jobs created in American cities were in suburbs. Also 60 percent of the metropolitan jobs were located outside the CBD. This transfer of jobs to suburbs caused many empty lots in central cities and Central Business Districts.
The U.S. national statistics of employment indicate that the employment location changes in 1950-1980 have been similar to the spatial development patterns. Of course the relationship between the outward migration of these years and location of jobs had a reciprocal relationship. The people’s migration aroused job decentralization and the suburban employment locations encouraged people to live in suburbs.
However this trend slowed down after 1970s and 1980s and. AT the same time, a generation of urbanists tried to inform Americans about the deficiencies of suburban sprawl and also more sustainable urban forms such as different types of Neo-Traditional Development. This was while cities tried to change the shape of their downtowns with several revitalization and gentrification plans.



  • Feagin, J. R. and Parker, R. (1989), “Building the American Cities: the Urban Real Estate Game”, Prentice-Hall.
  • Logan, J. R. and Golden, R. M. (1986), “Suburbs and Satellites: Two Decades of Change”, American Sociological Review 51:430-431.

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