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TABLE 2.-Metropolitan population by State, 1960—Continued

Percent in

SMSA's Oklahoma

45.9 Kansas

39.1 Nebraska

38.4 South Carolina

35. 8 Kentucky

34.8 Iowa

33. 2 West Virginia

30.9 New Mexico

27.6 North Carolina

25.5 Arkansas

23.0 Montana

22. 6 Maine

21.6 New Hampshire

19. 2 Idaho

14. O South Dakota

12. 7 North Dakota

10.6 Mississippi

10.2 Alaska

0 Vermont

0 Wyoming

Source: Derived from U.S. Bureau of the Census, Census of Population: 1960, vol. 1, "Characteristics of the Population," pt. A, “Number of Inhabitants," table 18, using SMSA's as defined on Oct. 18, 1963.

In the United States as a whole, only about half the people in metropolitan areas—58 million out of 112.9 million-lived within the central cities in 1960. Most of the population growth of metropolitan areas between 1950 and 1960 took place in suburban territory. In fact, if 1950 municipal boundaries are held constant, the central cities altogether showed a population rise of only 767,000, or 1.5 percent, during the 1950–60 decade. Territory added to some of these cities by annexation gave them another 4.9 million inhabitants in 1960, so that their total increase of population during the decade was 5.6 million, or 10.7 percent. Meanwhile, the “fringe” portion of the metropolitan areas showed a population growth of 17.9 million, or 48.6 percent-which was in addition to the shift to the central cities, during the decade, of formerly outlying territory having 4.9 million inhabitants in 1960.

Individual metropolitan areas vary tremendously in size. Three such areas have more than 5 million inhabitants each; at the other extreme are 22 areas with fewer than 100,000 inhabitants apiece. The 1960 Census of Population showed marked recent population growth for every size group of metropolitan areas, as indicated in table 3.

TABLE 3.-Population growth, 1950–60, by size of metropolitan area

SMSA population

(in inillions)

Percentage of

3.000.000 or more.
1,000,000 to 3,000,000
500.000 to 1,000,000.
250,000 to 500,000.
100,000 to 250,000.
Coder 100,000

19. 2
14, 5

23. 2 25.0 36.0 25, 6 25.8 24. 4

Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Census of Population: 1960, vol. 1,“ Characteristics of the Population,” pt. A,“Number of Inhabitants,” table 2, p. XXVI.

Altogether, recent trends and current developments suggest that by 1980 the United States will have a population of about 260 million, with approximately three-fourths of this number then residing in metropolitan areas-more than 190 million people.


Cities have traditionally been regarded as places that offer exceptional opportunities for economic advancement. Today the metropolitan area, rather than the central city alone, has become the locus of jobs and economic activities that sustain the rapidly growing population. Economic resources are highly concentrated in the metropolitan areas of the United States—even disproportionately concentrated, relative to the metropolitan share of national population. In 1960, when some 63 percent of the people were living in metropolitan areas, these areas accounted for 78.6 percent of all bank deposits in the United States. And in 1958, metropolitan areas accounted for more than three-fourths (76.8 percent) of the value added by manufacture, contained 67.2 percent of the country's manufacturing establishments, accounted for 73.8 percent of the total number of industrial employees, and 78.5 percent of all manufacturing payrolls. Of the total amount of value added by manufacture in that year, 55.2 percent was attributed to 40 major metropolitan areas, in which 52 percent of all industrial establishments were located with 62.8 percent of industrial employees and 57.1 percent of the payrolls.

As of 1961, property in metropolitan areas accounted for more than 69 percent of the Nation's taxable assessed valuation. Analysis of the gross assessed value of locally assessed real estate by class of property indicates that the more valuable residential, commercial, and industrial properties comprise a significantly larger portion of the property tax base in metropolitan areas than outside (table 4).

TABLE 4.-Distribution of taxable property, 1961

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Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Census of Governments: 1962, vol. II, "Taxable Property Values," table 4.

The levels of wealth and economic activity within metropolitan areas would suggest that economic resources are readily at hand to finance the growth of these areas and to cope with their problems. Yet these resources are unevenly distributed and therefore are not necessarily available to those parts of metropolitan areas that are most in need. Aggregate information for all metropolitan areas, or for a single area in its entirety, is suggestive but does not tell the whole story. A closer inspection is needed to determine the distribution of people and of economic resources within metropolitan areas.

2 Federal Reserve System, "Distribution of Bank Deposits by Counties and Standard Metropolitan Areas," December 1960.

3 U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1958 Census of Manufactures (information pertains to the 188 metropolitan areas then designated).

SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC DISPARITIES A basic distinction within metropolitan areas is that between the central city and the suburbs. Typically, these are very different kinds of communities. On the one hand, the word "city" suggests bustling streets with a mixture of factories, offices, apartments, and homes crowded together amidst heavy traffic, noise, dirt, and excitement. "Suburb" conveys an impression of a uniformity of quiet, tree-lined streets, with spacious lawns between single-family houses, two cars in every garage, sprawling shopping centers, cleanliness, quiet, and monotony. Governmental differences also abound. While the central city is usually governed by a single, tightly organized “strong-mayor" system, the suburbs are governed by many relatively small units, including numerous special districts, as well as by counties that continue to reflect a rural orientation. These differences imply that the city dweller and the suburbanite are very different sorts of persons, with divergent tastes, attitudes, needs, and social and economic status.

Politically, differences are apparent in the conflict between central cities and their surrounding suburbs, conflict which is often highly articulated in the State legislatures. The two kinds of communities compete there for shared tax revenues; for financial aid for schools, welfare programs, and highways; for legislation which may benefit one metropolitan segment more than the other. Cities and suburbs confront each other directly at the local level in arguments over who is subsidizing whom in matters of transportation services, zoning policy, health and welfare services, water pollution, and so on. It often seems that the only common meeting ground lies in their reluctant partnership as the two halves of a statistical identity—the met ropolitan area.

This competition and contention stem in part from a public image that magnifies central city-suburban differences in economic and social characteristics even beyond existing realities. The central city is viewed as the only home of the poor, nonwhite, undereducated, unskilled, unstable, and unhealthy, while the suburbs are assumed to accommodate almost exclusively the happy, healthy, middle class, "average” American family. The very rich, it is believed, live in both places, but they can afford to. "While the economic'interdependence of these two dichotomous parts is acknowledged (exemplified by the fact that most suburbanites work in the city), a social and political community of interest over the metropolitan area as a whole is frequently denied.

These widely held beliefs about central city-suburban differences have been reinforced by several striking and observable trends of recent population change in the larger metropolitan areas. While the suburbs of these areas have grown rapidly and have attracted a broad cross section of the population, many large central cities lost

population in the 1950's while experiencing a marked change in racial composition. The facts of recent population change in the large cities suggest that the people of metropolitan areas are becoming increasingly distributed along economic and racial lines. Table 5 portrays the racial composition of recent population growth in the Nation's 22 largest cities—those with a 1960 population of 500,000 or more.

To investigate the prevalence and extent of differences between central cities and suburbs in economic, social, and racial characteristis, the Commission undertook a special analysis of data from the 1960 census of population and housing. Census reports were used to find out “who lives where” in terms of the social and economic characteristics of the population. Residence within either central cities or the remainder of the metropolitan area was correlated for persons and families against 10 broad population characteristics: Race, age, mobility status, family composition, education, occupation, employment status, family income, housing characteristics, and commuting patterns.

TABLE 5.-White and nonwhite population of major cities, 1950 and 1960

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Source: Calculated from U.S. Bureau of the Census, "General Population Characteristics," PC(1)B reports of the 1980 Census of Population.

Taken together for an individual, these characteristics largely determine how he lives: With whom, in what kind of housing and neighborhood, doing what kind of work, the level of goods and services he can command, the social and economic position he may anticipate for his future. When these characteristics are aggregated and compared for central cities and their surrounding areas, they present à composite sketch of the population which provides insights into

* For a fuller description of the statistical analysis and a tabulation of results, see Metropolitan Social and Economic Disparities: Implications for Intergovernmental Relations in Central Cities and Suburbs (Washington : Advisory Commission on Intergovern. mental Relations, January 1965), app. B, pp. 207-253.

the public needs of the community and the kinds and amounts of governmental services required.

For the 190 largest standard metropolitan statistical areas (SMSA's), the percentage of the population falling into each category in the central city and in the remainder of the SMSA, respectively, was calculated. The remainder of an SMSA, after subtracting its central city, is referred to hereafter as suburban for purposes of simplicity. Thus the suburbs, in this analysis, include a number of outlying cities and older communities.

The degree of central city-suburban disparity in each metropolitan area was expressed as the difference between the proportion of central city residents having certain characteristics and the proportion of suburban residents having the same characteristics. These differences were then correlated statistically with six major characteristics of metropolitan areas in general: Region, size, population dispersion, rate of population growth, percent of nonwhites, and economic base as measured by rate of employment in manufacturing, trade, and finance and services.


The results of this statistical analysis reveal the extent of disparities between the central city and suburbs for each population characteristic in each metropolitan area, the kinds of metropolitan areas in which disparity patterns are similar, and under what circumstances disparity patterns vary. The strongest conclusion to be drawn from the analysis is that very few meaningful generalizations about economic, social, and racial disparities can be applied to all metropolitan areas. For a number of population characteristics, the differences among metropolitan areas are far larger than the differences between central cities and their surrounding area. For most characteristics, it is possible to generalize about disparities only for particular kinds of metropolitan areas.

The classic dichotomy of the poor, underprivileged, nonwhite central city contrasted with the comfortable white suburb does not hold true throughout the country. While racial disparities are large everywhere, the other elements of the dichotomy-education, income, employment, and housing-fit the stereotype consistently only in the large metropolitan areas and those located in the Northeast. The Northeast includes 41 of the 190 standard metropolitan statistical areas studied, and outside of that region there are 39 metropolitan areas with populations over half a million. For the remaining 110 metropolitan areas, this dichotomy does not generally apply.

In the small and medium sized metropolitan areas outside the Northeast, some elements of both high and low socioeconomic status tend to be equally prevalent in both central cities and suburbs, while other low status characteristics predominate in the suburbs and some high status characteristics are more significant in the central cities. In many metropolitan areas of the South and West, poverty, especially among nonwhites, is more typical of the suburbs than the central city.

5 See also Leo F. Schnore, "The Socio-Economic Status of Cities and Suburbs,” American sociological Review, XXVIII (February 1963), pp. 76-84.

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