"An engaging contemporary study of twenty years of suburban change in the U.S., Once the American Dream is more comprehensive than earlier works on suburbs, focusing on differences among suburbs rather than the city/suburban differences. The breadth of stories told against the analysis helps provide good insights and makes the national picture more local to readers. Hanlon ably demonstrates how to apply useful methodologies to the study of contemporary metropolitan geography." David L. Phillips, Professor Urban and Environmental Planning, University of Virginia "[Hanlon] offer[s] a detailed analysis of the inner-ring suburbs of the 100 largest urban areas and a comprehensive overview of the research to date on the forces shaping these communities...She provides detailed case studies of Dundulk, Maryland, and Cleveland Heights, Ohio, which exemplify some of the problems facing these vulnerable inner-ring communities... This book serves as the most comprehensive view to date of the state of the inner-ring suburbs." City and Community "Hanlon's book...is well researched and clear in focus. It's also very timely, given the state of the housing market in the United States, and the evolving sense of place that is changing for aging suburbs as well as certain neighborhoods in certain cities - especially the aging, industrial urban areas of the Northeast and, to a lesser degree, the upper Midwest." Plan Philly "This book will be useful for courses covering metropolitan or suburban development, courses that are increasingly offered in urban studies programs. In compact form, it synthesizes much of what we know about patterns of development and decline in U.S. urban regions. It provides a useful summary of much of the literature on older suburbs. A particularly helpful feature for students and other newcomers to the topic is a full-page table summarizing the results of over a dozen important studies on the topic. Hanlon makes skillful use of concrete examples found in specific suburbs around the United States to illustrate points she is making." Contemporary Sociology, January 2012 "Hanlon's study is theoretically informed, empirically rich, and carefully assesses its findings. In fact, the book may set a new standard in research on contemporary suburban developments in North America... Once the American Dream is an extremely welcome addition to the existing stock of literature on the suburbs. Moreover, it offers a new understanding of the contemporary role and status of U.S. Suburbs...which has scarcely been addressed before. In just under 200 pages, it concisely presents dense and carefully developed content. In the context of suburban decline, it may become as classical a contribution to the literature as some of [the] previous works that had emphasized the rise of the suburbs." - Urban Geography, October 2010
At one time, a move to the suburbs was the American Dream for many families. However, despite the success of Levittown, NY,impoverished “inner-ring” suburbs—those closest to the urban core of metropolitan cities—like Lansdowne, MD, are in decline. As aging housing stock, foreclosures, severe fiscal problems, slow population growth, increasing poverty, and struggling local economies affect inner-ring suburbs, what can be done to save them?
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Once the American Dream analyzes this downward trend, examining 5,000 suburbs across 100 different metropolitan areas and census regions in 1980 and 2000. Hanlon defines the suburbs’ geographic boundaries and provides a ranking system for assessing and acting upon inner-ring suburban decline. She also illuminates her detailed statistical analysis with vivid case studies. She demonstrates how other suburbs, particularly those in the outer reaches of cities, flourished during the 1980s and 1990s. Once the American Dream closes with a discussion of policy implications and recommendations for policymakers and planners who deal with suburbs of various stripes.