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Place Matters

Metropolitics for the Twenty-first Century

Second Edition, Revised

Peter Dreier, John Mollenkopf, and Todd Swanstrom

December 2004
448 pages, 9 tables, 6 figures, 3 maps, 6-1/8 x 9-1/4
Studies in Government and Public Policy
Paper ISBN 978-0-7006-1364-9, $16.95


book cover imageNew edition of a classic. Three distinguished scholars challenge us to put the urban crisis back on the national agenda, both as a moral challenge to our conscience and an economic challenge to America's prosperity and our families' pocketbooks. Focusing on the growing concentration of poverty in our cities and older suburbs and the mounting costs of suburban sprawl, they argue that these problems have political origins and can thus be resolved through political means--but only if we fully understand the power of place.

Despite modern telecommunications--faxes, linked computers, etc.--where we live shapes our lives and fortunes as much as ever. Place affects our access to jobs and public services (especially education), our access to shopping and culture, our level of personal security, the availability of medical services, and even the air we breathe. Economic segregation is increasing in American metropolitan areas--the rich and poor continue to move apart from one another. This has devastating effects on those who are forced to live in areas of concentrated poverty. But it also imposes costs, often unrecognized, on middle class and rich families who in their effort to escape the problems of concentrated poverty, undermine the quality of their own lives by suffering the effects of unrestricted sprawl.

The central thesis of Place Matters is that economic segregation between rich and poor and the growing sprawl of American cities and suburbs are not solely the result of individual choices in free markets. Rather, these problems have been powerfully shaped by short-sighted government policies. The first order of business must be to overhaul those policies. In the process, both urban and suburban citizens will gain a keener awareness that they are all ultimately bound by common interests and share a common fate.

Not simply another polemic on the plight of the inner-city poor, Place Matters provides a practical road map for reform based on penetrating analyses of economic and demographic trends, voting patterns, and congressional politics. While "sounding the alarm," it also provides guidance and hope for elected officials at local, state, and federal levels, as well as policy makers, scholars, teachers, community activists, business leaders, economists, social workers, and the urban clergy.

“A more level economic playing field for poor citizens of cities and inner-ring suburbs isn’t just some liberal cause. It’s critical to all Americans’ futures. To work, strategies need to be federal, state, and metro-region wide. Place matters. This book gets it, and lays out the basic arguments in brilliant fashion.”--Neal Peirce, columnist, Washington Post Writers Group and coauthor of Citistates

“An important book. Dreier, Mollenkopf, and Swanstrom have creatively diagnosed one of the most important domestic problems of the twenty-first century. This thoughtful volume is bound to become a standard reference for students, scholars, and the lay public who seek a broader understanding of the rising economic segregation in our nation’s metropolises and how to confront it.”--William Julius Wilson, author of When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor

“This book is a tour de force. It not only shows how inequality and place are inter-twined in the United States, it also provides a sophisticated analysis for how to create a new metropolitan politics. Packed with data and powerfully written, Place Matters is essential reading for anyone interested in the fate of cities and, more broadly, the future of American politics.”--Margaret M. Weir, author of Politics and Jobs

“A brilliant and important piece of work. Deeply informed, penetrating in its analysis of the problems of economic segregation and spatial inequalities, and bold yet practical in its search for solutions and proposals for reform. Place Matters is one of the best books of applied social science I have ever read and is certain to have a major impact on thinking and discourse about urban problems over the next generation.”--Richard DeLeon, author of Left Coast City: Progressive Politics in San Francisco, 1975–1991

“With the publication of Place Matters, there may be more reason to be optimistic about the future of cities. We now have a fairly good idea of how we got where we are today. And this book provides many of the substantive policy recommendations and political strategies that can get us where most of us want to go. . . . It is essential for any meaningful policy discussion.”--City & Community

Place Matters starts with a careful analysis of the government policies that abandoned certain neighborhoods to poverty and decay. Next, and more importantly, the book articulates a vision of regional development with familiar recipes for success—expanded tax credits, better child care, improved health care—but that persuasively ties those into the very streets people live in. Best of all, it’s readable.”--City Limits

“Deserves a broad readership. Dreier, Mollenkopf, and Swanstrom have combined to write one of the strongest volumes on metropolitan affairs in recent years, weaving together a wealth of contemporary information, history, and refined analysis. They make a compelling case for aggressive federal and regional action to alleviate poverty and to reduce place-based inequity within and between metro areas. . . . While this clearly written book will instruct readers with limited exposure to the connections between place and class, experienced metropolitan hands should also find the marshaling of evidence useful and the arguments worthy of attention. . . . A superior work .”--Urban Ecology

“No better summary exists of ‘progressive’ thinking on urban policy. Highly

“If you’re looking for a handbook for the next Democratic administration in Washington, read this book.”--East Bay Express

“The authors of Place Matters argue, convincingly and compellingly, that where one lives is a major factor in determining one’s well-being and life chances. . . . The logic of their argument is that place should join (not displace) race and class as major organizing frameworks for analyzing the distribution of life chances and the impact of public policy. . . . The strengths of this book are many. . . . [It is] accessible not just to academically trained social scientists, but also to public officials, policy makers, and a broad range of citizens concerned with urban problems.”--Housing Studies

“Place matters, and this volume offers a clear research agenda for uncovering the answers to why income segregation and its attendant problems plague center cities and their metropolitan areas. The authors have uncovered a vast array of important empirical questions that should inform the urban research community and urban planners.”--Journal of Politics

Place Matters is notable for its accessibility and clarity. It is also a compelling narrative, demonstrating collective and wide-ranging knowledge of the American city.”--Economic Geography

“The authors of Place Matters make a refreshing point of arguing against economic segregation using an economic argument, recognizing moral and spiritual rationales for eliminating inequality but engaging the debate squarely in their detractors’ home territory. They make the case that economic segregation is bad for society because poverty makes society less economically efficient.”--Social Policy

“Very informative for anyone concerned about the future of America’s cities.”--U.S. Mayor

“[A] useful brick in the wall of reform.”--American Prospect

PETER DREIER, Dr. E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics and director of the Urban and Environmental Policy Program at Occidental College, is coauthor of Regions That Work: How Cities and Suburbs Can Grow Together and The Next Los Angeles: The Struggle for a Livable City.

JOHN MOLLENKOPF is Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Sociology and director of the Center for Urban Research at CUNY Graduate Center. His books include A Phoenix in the Ashes: The Rise and Fall of the Koch Coalition in New York City Politics, The Contested City, and Rethinking the Urban Agenda.

TODD SWANSTROM is professor of public policy at Saint Louis University. He is the author of The Crisis of Growth Politics: Cleveland, Kucinich, and the Challenge of Urban Populism, the coauthor of City Politics, and coeditor of Beyond the City Limits.


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