Place Promotion Implications of the Demographic Trends Masked by Annexation in U.S. Cities: A Comparative Analysis of the Northeast and Midwest versus South and West

Authors: Joseph J. Danko III*, Brown University
Topics: Urban Geography, Urban and Regional Planning, Geographic Information Science and Systems
Keywords: annexation, demographic change, U.S. cities, shrinking cities, back-to-the-city movement
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Zulu, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


For more than a century, annexation has played an integral role in the population growth of many cities throughout the United States. The frequency and size of annexation has greatly differed and continues to vary amongst cities due to physical limitations, state laws, and municipal political agendas. Prior research has also established a synergistic relationship between urban annexation decisions, race and income in the specific regions (e.g., American South). To date, however, few studies have simultaneously explored the interplay of these factors in cities across multiple U.S. regions and have discussed the implications using annexation to control narratives of demographic trends vital to place promotion tactics (e.g., total population growth). The ability to highlight or hid specific trends via annexation gives some cities competitive advantages over others in terms of attracting investment, recruiting talent, and providing better public services. This subject matter has been largely underexplored in previous research due to the lack of a national database of the historical city boundaries before periods of major annexation. The present study uses new data developed under an NIH grant to address this gap in the literature. It compares the demographic changes during the 20th and 21st centuries inside the historical boundaries of at least 35 major U.S. cities with those occurring in the portions of these places that were eventually annexed. These findings are then used to show how largely 20th century annexation decisions continue to influence contemporary debates about population shrinkage, the back-to-the-city movement, and city competitiveness.

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