By Mark Alan Hughes, Ph.D.
In this report, we present new findings from the 1990 Census to document changes during the last twenty years in the demographic and economic conditions of metropolitan Milwaukee. In particular, we present the striking divergence of conditions in the city and the surrounding suburbs. Among our findings:
- Suburbanization is a powerful trend: A growing majority of the metropolitan population resides outside the city. While most jobs are still in the regional center, seven out of ten new jobs were located outside the city.
- But there is a strong racial cast to this suburbanization: Thirteen of twenty white persons in the region reside in the suburbs, but fewer than one of twenty black persons in the region reside in the suburbs.
- And there are large city/suburb differences in poverty: in 1970, the city poverty rate was three times higher than the suburban rate. In 1990, the city poverty rate was seven times higher than the suburban rate.
This geography of race and class has profoundly changed the city of Milwaukee: within the city boundaries, the ghetto quadrupled in both area and population from 1970 to 1990. (Ghetto is defined as neighborhoods in which poor African-Americans represent more than one-third of all residents.)
Thus, the data present a dual pattern of concentrating poverty in the city and deconcentrating opportunity toward the suburbs. Faced with this pattern, policymakers have traditionally followed two policies: disperse the residences of poor blacks from city to suburbs using judicial and other remedies and/or develop inner-city economies using financial and other incentives to attract firms away from the suburbs. A third strategy, however, recognizes the political constraints on dispersal and the economic constraints on development. This mobility strategy attempts to connect inner-city residents with suburban job openings via innovative information and transportation policies. This third approach is being tried in metropolitan Milwaukee through an innovative program discussed here.