Urban Life

Reads: 1990  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
For many years the United States has been seen as a “nation of cities with 80 percent of our population” living in urban areas, however for centuries our continent was home to several million people who made few permanent settlements (Macionis 368). It was not until colonization, first by the Spanish in 1560’s and latter by the English in 1607, that there was development of permanent settlements. These settlements began as tiny villages with a few hundred residents but, “by the time the United States declared independence in 1776 about 5 percent of the population lived in cities” (Macionis 369). After the 1800’s people began pushing westward following new transportation routes. Along these routes migrants settled what became the great cities of the Midwest this “urbanization, or the movement of people from the countryside to the cities” helped with the economic boom of the west (Macionis 369). What attracted these migrants “was a torrent of pamphlets, books, articles, and photographs produced by publicists and boosters” celebrating the West as a region of wealth and opportunity (Keene,Cornell,O’Donnell 444).

Submitted: August 04, 2012

A A A | A A A

Submitted: August 04, 2012

A A A

A A A


 

For many years the United States has been seen as a “nation of cities with 80 percent of our population” living in urban areas, however for centuries our continent was home to several million people who made few permanent settlements (Macionis 368).  It was not until colonization, first by the Spanish in 1560’s and latter by the English in 1607, that there was development of permanent settlements.  These settlements began as tiny villages with a few hundred residents but, “by the time the United States declared independence in 1776 about 5 percent of the population lived in cities” (Macionis 369).  After the 1800’s people began pushing westward following new transportation routes.  Along these routes migrants settled what became the great cities of the Midwest this “urbanization, or the movement of people from the countryside to the cities” helped with the economic boom of the west (Macionis 369).  What attracted these migrants “was a torrent of pamphlets, books, articles, and photographs produced by publicists and boosters” celebrating the West as a region of wealth and opportunity (Keene,Cornell,O’Donnell 444).

One group who led this migration westward was the recently freed slaves who hoped to secure new lives as independent farmers.  And the second was “Native born whites who sought larger plots of land and opportunities for upward mobility (Keene,Cornell,O’Donnell 445).  And the largest group, eventually millions, was immigrants to America with the same desires for free farmland and the opportunities to work in mines on railroads and in the rapidly expanding economies of western towns and cities.  Overtime large ethnic groups developed in major cities such as in Minnesota with more than 66,000 Germans or the thousands of Irish Immigrants that settled in Montana, and California were more than 80,000 Chinese settled.  Railroad companies played a key role in promoting immigration to the West by advertising in Europe to encourage migration.

By the 1860 the United States Congress passes three major bills designed to help with the settlement of the “Trans-Mississippi West” or the region of the United States west of the Mississippi River.  The first of these was the Morrill Land Grant this created a system where “funds raised by the sale of public land went toward establishing colleges specializing in agricultural, mechanical and technological education (Keene,Cornell,O’Donnell 440).  The second was the Homestead Act of 1863, this act provided “160 acres of free land to any settler willing to live on it and improve it for five years (Keene,Cornell, O’Donnell 440).  And the third piece of legislation was the Pacific Railway Act of 1862, this act “created two corporations to build the transcontinental railroad which was a rail line that spanned the continent connecting the east and west coast together (Keene,Cornell,O’Donnell 441). 

Between 1860 and 1900 the country witnessed astonishing growth in urban areas, with much of this growth taking place in the West.  One of the biggest underlying factors to this booming growth was the spread of the railroad.  The transcontinental railroad was only the beginning of a vast transportation network that spread across the west.  Companies built “scores of feeder railroads, smaller lines providing access to a major one” and this growing number of railroads opened up more and more western travel and development (Keene,Cornell,O’Donnell 447).  Many western cities such as San Francisco, Portland and Denver boomed into major metropolises because of their connection to major railways.  However many western cities “struggled with all manner of urban problems, including crime, disorder, corruption, poor public health, inadequate water, and ethnic tensions.

One of the most striking features of modern urban life was the emergence of densely packed Slums.  Most of the people living in districts were immigrants who “labored for low wages as day laborers and factory operatives” (Keene,Cornell,O’Donnell 502).  The most common form of housing for poor city dwellers were tenements, or “multiple family dwellings of four to six stories housing dozens of families” (Keene,Cornell,O’Donnell 502).  Most cities of the time suffered from high rates of disease and death, mainly because of poor drinking water and primitive systems for removing sewage waste.  The overall growth and diversity of urban populations contributed to the rising crime rate.  Many people in the United States began to think that cities were a source of social problems.  At the time “two-thirds of the people living in the ten largest cities have been born abroad or were the children of immigrants” (Macionis 369).  These new immigrants formed concentrated ethnic enclaves in part because they faced hostility and discrimination from other immigrant groups also because their recognition that grouping together created important advantages that enhanced their chances of success in America.  Things got worse with the onset of the Great Depression in 1929 “one fourth of all U.S. workers were thrown out of work and lost all their income.  Homelessness, breadlines and begging on the streets were widespread (Macionis 370).

Not until the 1930’s as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal did housing quality begin to improve.  With the New Deal the federal government began to “raise taxes to fund the construction of new housing and began to provide loans to help people buy homes” (Macionis 374).  Also cities across the United States “enacted housing codes with the goal of eliminating the worst conditions of the tenements” (Macionis 374).  To meet the problem with rising crime rates cities replaced the “traditional night watch” with a established paid professional police department (Keene,Cornell,O’Donnell 507).  Cities also established boards of health and took steps to improve water quality, waste removal and street cleaning. 

In 1949 the Urban Housing Act was passed, this gave local city governments the “right to seize a decaying neighborhood, forcing out the families who lived there with only nominal compensation for their homes” (Macionis 374).  With this policy cities across the United States rebuilt the “so-called slum areas to look nice and attract some higher-income people back to the city” (Macionis 374).  Because developers were interested in profits they built “not low-income housing but town houses and apartments for people with more money” (Macionis 374).  In reality the Urban Housing Act has operated “as a form of Urban Cleansing by pushing out poor people without providing housing alternatives” (Macionis 374).  However many Americans feel that poverty is caused by personal or moral failures such as drunkenness, drug abuse, prostitution and theft.  “The poor need only to abandon their dissolute ways and seize the opportunities for success that abounded in American Life” (Keene,Cornell,O’Donnell 508).  With the Urban Housing Act clearing away city blocks of housing officials realized that many of the poor people had nowhere to go or were Geographically Immobile meaning “that there are barriers to them moving from one area to another.  Many families could not afford the cost involved in moving or because of family and social ties in a region” (tutor).  The need to house these people led to the creation of public housing, “high-density apartment buildings constructed to house poor people” (Macionis 374). Public housing was met with criticism from just about everybody.  Liberals “viewed it as a Band-Aid approach to the problem of a lack of affordable housing” (Macionis 376).  Conservatives “objected to government getting into the housing business in the first place” (Macionis 376).  Oddly enough the most vocal critics of public housing were the poor people.  To answer this problem the Government established the Section 8 Program in 1974.  This program direct federal “subsidies to developers who rehabilitate existing rental housing or build new apartments and developers agree to allocate a share of the housing to low-income families” (Macionis 376).  With development of government programs and rising rates of crime within inner cities richer people began to move away from the central cities leaving the poor behind.  These trends set the stage for a “fiscal crisis with the cost of social service programs and fewer people and business in the city and a smaller tax base many cities stood on the brink of bankruptcy” (Macionis 376). 

The search for new housing “prosperity and greater physical mobility combined to draw more and more people out and away from the cities into suburbs or urban areas beyond the political boundaries of cities” (Macionis 370).  Urban expansion has also resulted from several specific government policies.  The first is the interstate highway system “built by the federal government after World War II these highways created booming growth in outer suburbs” (Macionis 372).Federal loan programs have helped many families buy new homes with a small down payment at irresistibly low prices.  New developments offered “mass-produced housing and strip malls” with cookie cutter designs (Macionis 372).  However, across the country “developers had little trouble selling new homes to families eager to own their own piece of leafy suburban real estate” (Macionis 370).

The full consequences of Urban Sprawl “include the high cost of commuting with the loss of personal time, stress from dealing with traffic congestion and increased air pollution” (Macionis 372).  Mass produced housing developments and strip malls have no regional distinctiveness and provide little that is pleasing to the eye.  Driving around the urban sprawl around Trussville you will find the same housing styles and strip mall stores that you will find in Fultondale, Hoover or any other city circling around a major metropolitan area in the United States.  Louis Wirth developed a theory of urban life.  Wirth says that “a settlement with a large dense socially diverse population make social ties within the city fleeting and impersonal.  Because urbanites live with millions of others around them they never get to know most people they see every day” (Macionis 382). 

 


 


© Copyright 2017 History guy. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments: