Accession Number: 2256
Title: Measuring Suburban Need and Distress.
Author(s): Brown, Marilyn A.
Isserman, Andrew M.
Publication Date: 01/1981
Sponsoring Organization(s): U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Washington, DC
Performing Organization(s): Illinois Univ.
Availability: HUD USER, P.O. Box 23268, Washington, DC 20026-3268; phone (800) 245-2691; fax (202) 708-9981; or TDD (800) 927-7589
Descriptors: Suburbs. Regional planning. Needs assessment.
Abstract: This study addresses the related issues of the measurement, magnitude, and incidence of suburban need. Specifically, its objectives are to evaluate the relevance of central city need measures to the suburban context and to identify appropriate suburban measures, to determine the sensitivity of need assessment to differences among need measures and indexes, and to compare the relative need of distressed suburbs and central cities. The study also examines the need of older suburbs and other specified kinds of suburbs relative to suburbs as a whole and develops a taxonomy of suburbs which will be useful in understanding the combinations of different needs which exist among suburbs. These issues are analyzed using data on the suburbs of three standard metropolitan statistical areas (SMSA's): Chicago, Ill., Boston, Mass., and Los Angeles, Calif. The primary data source is the 1970 census because similar data from the 1980 census are not yet available. Twelve need measures consistent with the objectives of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program were selected to analyze suburban need. They include four measures of poverty, two measures of substandard housing, two measures of crime, the unemployment rate, per capita income, educational attainment, and the median value of dwelling units. These 12 need measures are reduced to 4 groups of associated variables, called dimensions, in the case study areas. The study demonstrates that central city need measures should not be transferred uncritically to the study of suburbs. Results indicate that 30 percent of 302 suburbs of Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles have lower per capita incomes than their central cities, 21 percent have higher relative concentrations of the elderly poor, and 18 percent have higher incidences of property crime. The study found that the problems of these suburbs remain hidden as long as all suburbs in an SMSA are compared as an aggregate entity to their central city. The taxonomies demonstrate that individual suburbs may appear to be very similar in need according to a comprehensive need index yet face very different problems. The relatively high need levels of some of the case study suburbs strongly suggest that suburbs should not be overlooked in designing policy for urban areas. Basic research questions are raised about the nature and evolution of suburbs and the interrelationships among community development problems. Both better data and better theory are needed to guide public policy. Tables, maps, and figures are included. Appendices provide supplementary data. (Author abstract modified)