Examining shrinking city of Detroit in the context of socio-spatial inequalities

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Geography and Geology

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Landscape and Urban Planning


Urban sprawl and inner city decline are two common and interconnected outcomes of contemporary metropolitan development. More than 25% of large cities in the world are considered shrinking cities. Detroit is one of the most notorious examples of severe decline in North America. We examined the residential housing vacancy severity in the City of Detroit in comparison with the seventeen other cities in metropolitan Detroit. We developed a systematic and quantitative framework to investigate city shrinking from the perspectives of both causes and dynamics. The framework consists of three consequent regressions: the regional model to analyze the causes and dynamics of urban shrinking, the city models to reveal regional disparity and to identify primary inequality factors, and the regional logistic categorical model to examine the effect of primary social-spatial inequality factors on urban shrinking. Through these analyses, we found that the odds of becoming vacant were 9.01 times higher in census tracts with the highest concentration of less educated population, 7.16 times higher where a good portion of housing structures didn't have a full kitchen, 7.06 times higher in tracts with the most concentrated Black population, 5.47 times higher where a good portion of housing were multi-unit structures, and 4.76 times higher in tracts with the poorest population. We concluded that urban shrinking was often accompanied with urban sprawl; regional inequality was manifested in multiple scales and socio-spatial inequality became increasingly alarming; the causes and dynamics of urban shrinking were inevitably intertwined; and racial segregation and persistent poverty were the primary cause of long-lasting urban shrinking in Metropolitan Detroit.

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