Rx for Suburbia

Many suburban communities face the same problems as inner cities—and need the same kind of help

| March / April 2003

There’s no such thing as the suburbs,” declares Myron Orfield, a former Minnesota state legislator who’s gained national attention for his research on patterns of decline and prosperity in America’s metropolitan areas. “Suburbs are not all alike anymore.”

Unfurling a map of the Detroit region splashed with bright reds and blues, he zeroes in on a few towns south of the city: Ecorse, River Rouge, Inkster. “These places are devastated. Boarded-up strip malls. Abandoned houses. Potholes in the streets big enough for kids to play in.” Then moving his finger across the map north to Bloomfield Hills, he says, “This is what we think of when we hear suburbs”: big houses, wide lawns, golf courses, shiny malls and office parks.