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Southeastern Geographer Vol. 22, No. 1, May 1982, pp. 35-51 INTRAMETROPOLITAN MIGRATION IN ATLANTA: DECONCENTRATION OR BACK TO THE CITY? James O. Wheeler and Barry W. Davis The spatial form of the twentieth century American metropolis has changed dramatically from the classical monocentric organization to the contemporary suburbanized, deconcentrated, multiple-nuclei configuration . (1) Urbanization, a process of population concentration with associated clustering of industrial, retailing, and service activities, has been dominant in the changing population patterns of the United States during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The rural to urban migration process prevalent during the nation's transformation from an agrarian to an urbanized society has now largely been replaced by a process best described as déconcentration. Déconcentration in its initial form was primarily suburbanization; now the process is also associated with population movement into nonmetropolitan areas often remote from urban areas. (2) One of the most widely discussed urbanization trends of the 1970s has been the spatial redistribution of population and of jobs out of the central cities of the largest U.S. metropolitan areas into suburban, peripheral , and nonmetropolitan locations. (3) The degree to which this trend represents a reversal of traditional migration flows or is simply a continuation of these flows has been rather widely debated, especially as to whether the traditional rural to urban flow has been replaced by a metropolitan to a nonmetropolitan flow. (4) Do the 1970s reflect a "clean break" with past migration patterns, as some argue, or merely the continued decline of central cities and the growth of suburban and peripheral regions, as argued by others? (5) On the one hand, Berry has stated that "a turning point has been reached in the American urban experience. Counterurbanization has replaced urbanization as the dominant force shaping the nation's settlement patterns." (6) Counterurbanization is the process of population Dr. Wheeler is Professor of Geography at the University of Georgia in Athens, GA 30602. Mr. Davis is Staff Manager for Southern Bell Telephone Company in Atlanta , GA 30303. 36Southeastern Geographer déconcentration, and "since 1970 American metropolitan regions have grown less rapidly than the nation and have actually lost population to nonmetropolitan territory." (7) This restructuring of metropolitan America is occurring through the process of migration from more densely populated to less densely populated areas. Beale has noted that "tire decentralization trend is not confined to metro sprawl. It affects nonmetro counties well removed from metro influence." (S) On the other hand, Gordon has argued tliat, while metropolitan regions are indeed experiencing déconcentration, this process does not mean a "clean break" with the past, but rather the operation of the "wave theory" of development. Wave theory suggests that "growth takes place at tire centers of smaller cities and is evermore removed from the center as the city gets larger." (9) Morrill has recognized that "widespread and dominant centralization has yielded rather quickly to equally widespread decentralization . . ." and that "the balance between centralization and decentralization may be a function of level of development, such that metropolitan concentration occurs until the agglomerative economies become outweighed by congestion and related diseconomies, after which nonmetropolitan recovery occurs" and that this "balance may [also] be a function of 'core-periphery' status." (10) Recognizing that it is difficult to resolve the "clean break" argument empirically because comprehensive data are not available from census or other sources for the 1970s, Bourne attempted to provide several kinds of explanations for urban decline and population déconcentration. These explanations, labelled "schools of thought," are (1) structural and technological change and the search for economic efficiency; (2) cultural predispositions and the amenities-disamenities hypothesis; (3) the implicit or unintended policy hypothesis; (4) systematic exploitation, power , and conflict; and (5) uncertainty and the random space economy. Bourne recognized that these were not mutually exclusive explanations. (U) There is a growing literature on the "back to the city" movement. (12) Yet the answers to such basic questions as the magnitude of gentrification , why it occurs in selected neighborhoods but not in others, who participates in this movement, where these participants move from and their socioeconomic and demographic characteristics remain unsolved . Population déconcentration and a back to the city movement may be...


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