Capstone/Thesis Title

Disinvestment and Suburban Decline

Intended Date of Award

2013

Degree Name

Doctorate in Public Administration (DPA)

Chair

David Schultz

Vice-Chair

Tony Filipovitch

Abstract

Beginning in the mid-1970s, U.S. suburbs started to experience many of the same problems typically associated with earlier inner-city decline including accelerating income decline, increasing family poverty, falling housing prices, growing income polarization, escalating crime, and increasing racial and ethnic diversity.

Conventional wisdom often lays the blame for neighborhood decline on who moves in and who moves out. This is understandable, as neighborhood migration is easily observable. It is the hypothesis of this research, though, that the less visible disinvestment of capital from suburban neighborhoods is an initial cause of suburban decline that precedes and coincides with the more observable physical, social, and economic indicators of decline.

Neil Smith’s theory of gentrification provides the theoretical foundation for this dissertation. It is the effect of disinvestment that leads to a drop in both house value and in the capitalized ground rent, as reflected in declining relative sale prices and rents. Lower-income persons are often drawn to purchase homes or rent apartments in these declining neighborhoods, as they are more affordable compared to newer neighborhoods. This research applies Smith’s theory to the Minneapolis-St. Paul region to determine is relevance in explaining suburban decline from 1980 through 2010. This analysis found disinvestment from inner suburbs, and that disinvestment increased and accelerated during the period of analysis. Although inner suburban disinvestment did not uniformly occur at the same time, and the geography of disinvestment took on a more sectoral rather than uniform pattern.