America’s Suburban Landscape
Why has America pursued a pro-suburban development policy over the past century, and what are the consequences of this societal preference? Scholars from such diverse fields as economics, environmental studies, demography, engineering, government, and ethnography wrestle with these fundamental questions on a daily basis, and they will drive our research, discussions, and hands-on activities throughout the semester. Of particular interest to our class is the impact that suburban bias has had on America’s transportation systems, popular culture, housing supply, and environmental health. We will examine the effects of suburban bias upon families and children, aesthetics, local economies and communities, nearby core cities, and issues of race, class, and gender. The course will trace the history of American suburbs, with an especial focus on the development of laws and policies dedicated to outward growth. Students will observe land use policies in Canton, present a problem-based group memo on a metropolitan development issue, use GIS to calculate the individual costs and benefits associated with different land use decisions, and conduct a semester-length, process-based research project on a pressing suburban question. We will conclude the course by considering the future of the suburbs. In America, how will suburban communities respond to deep concerns related to increasing poverty, aging infrastructures, millennials seeking different built environments, and housing supply imbalances? Beyond the US, how will developing countries meet the needs of the hundreds of millions of people expected to move to metropolitan areas over the next two decades? And how will they apply lessons from a century’s worth of precedents in American development and planning?