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A Move Back into Cities Indicates Changing Middle-Class Mores

<p>Author Alan Ehrenhalt says that conditions are ripe for the permanent return of downtown residential neighborhoods, and that a "demographic inversion" has already begun in Manhattan, Chicago and Washington, DC, among other cities.</p>
August 1, 2008, 1pm PDT | franny.ritchie
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In its August issue, The New Republic takes a look at Chicago as a case study for the influx of the middle-class back into downtown areas. "To describe what has happened virtually overnight in Logan Square [a neighborhood north of the Loop] as gentrification is to miss the point. Chicago, like much of America, is rearranging itself, and the result is an entire metropolitan area that looks considerably different from what it looked like when this decade started."

"There are responsible critics who argue that, in absolute numbers, the return to the urban center remains a minor demographic event. They have a point But, even if the critics are mostly right there is no doubt that a demographic inversion, in which the rich are moving inside and the poor are moving outside, is taking place. The crucial issue is not the number of people living downtown, although that matters. The crucial issue is who they are, and the ways in which urban life is changing as a result."

Ehrenhalt suggests that the move to downtown residential areas is part backlash on the part of suburban-bred twenty-somethings; part a response to a decrease in urban crime; and part a response of wealthy empty-nesters who want to take advantage of urban activity. He also points to demographic changes such as later marriage and the rise of cohabitation as trends that make a demographic inversion "not only possible but likely."

Thanks to Franny Ritchie

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Published on Wednesday, August 13, 2008 in The New Republic
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