Suburbs Essay

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In the USA, a city’s suburbs are the set of incorporated municipalities located outside the city’s political boundaries, but adjacent to the city or to its other suburbs. Suburbs form a band around the city that has lower population density overall than the city, but predominately urban land uses. ”Suburb” refers to this band of suburbs and also to a particular municipality within this band. ”Suburban” can refer to a way of life identified with suburbs.

The definition of suburb and characteristics of suburbs differ around the world, in part because of differences in local government. US municipalities, including suburbs, have substantial political and fiscal autonomy; the property tax is their major source of revenue. Thus a municipality with a shopping mall or industrial park can fund services, including schools, more easily than a residential suburb.

Early US cities absorbed people and activities by using land more intensively and by expanding on the edge. Cities routinely annexed newly-urban land. Annexation became less common as state laws made annexation difficult while facilitating the incorporation of a new municipality. Incorporated places soon ringed many older cities, blocking city expansion and providing inexpensive land near the city. This process accelerated after World

War II, when diverse federal and state policies subsidized new schools, sewer lines, and other infrastructure. Some cities, especially in the west, continued to annex, creating substantial differences among US cities and their suburban bands.

The suburbs of any US city tend to be different from each other, yet internally homogeneous. Age produces some differences; the extent land use is residential produces others. Differences that affect the municipality’s ability to fund services are the most consequential. A suburb with both wealthy residents and substantial non-residential development can provide services more easily than a primarily residential community with low-income residents. Over time, these differences can produce substantial ”stratification of place” among a city’s suburbs.

Bibliography:

  • United States Bureau of the Census (2009) http://www.census.gov/.

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