URBAN LIFE GETTING BETTER

September 20, 2004

Nearly 75 percent of the nation's largest cities experienced a drop in urban hardship -- a measure of factors such as poverty levels, unemployment, and crowded housing -- between 1970 and 2000, according to a study by the Nelson Rockefeller Institute.

The study analyzed 55 metropolitan areas with respect to unemployment, dependency, education, income level, poverty, and housing conditions from 1970 to 2004. Using this data, researchers composed a hardship index, where a score of 100 represents the worst conditions. The authors found:

  • More than 36 percent "improved" their hardship levels over the last three decades.
  • Another 38 percent "greatly improved" their hardship index score by 20 percent or more.
  • Only 18 percent of cities, or fewer than one in five, either "declined" or "strongly declined" in signs of economic prosperity during the three-decade-long study period.

The researchers say the cities with lowest hardship benefited from having elastic city boundaries, an ability to capture a moderate share of metropolitan-area population, comparatively high levels of newer housing and less intense pressures from high rates of racial segregation, poverty, limited education and unemployment than other cities.

Source: Lisa Montiel, Richard Nathan and David Wright, "An Update on Urban Hardship," Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, August 2004.

 

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