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Cities Inside Out: Race, Poverty, and Exclusion at the Urban Fringe

Michelle Wilde Anderson

Stanford Law School

January 5, 2007

Across the country, from Aberdeen, North Carolina to Modesto, California, city growth has bypassed hundreds of low-income neighborhoods founded under conditions of racial segregation in the early to mid-twentieth century. Denied annexation to neighboring municipalities, these urban pockets remain unincorporated, covered only by county governance and, in some cases, rural service standards. This article represents the first comprehensive academic treatment of such communities, which I call unincorporated urban areas. Challenging popular assumptions regarding an inner-city of racialized poverty in contrast to a white, suburban privatopia, unincorporated urban areas turn our attention to suburbs where the gravitational pull of the urban economy, affordability constraints, and the desire for homeownership have led to the settlement of low-income communities of color at the unregulated fringe, just beyond city limits.

The article analyzes the adequacy of local government structures serving unincorporated urban areas and the flexibility for reform within those structures. It asks, for the first time, whether two tiers of general purpose local government - a city and a county - offer urbanized areas greater participatory voice, stronger protection from undesirable land uses, improved collective services, and greater household mobility than county rule alone. In so doing, it raises the question of what adequacy in the context of local government might mean, revealing unquestioned assumptions about the allocation of power among cities, counties, and states. New legal issues concerning municipal services, extraterritorial eminent domain, and the risk of land loss come into focus in this investigation of cities inside out - urban life placed outside the reach of municipal government.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 71

Keywords: Local government law, urban policy

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Date posted: March 1, 2010 ; Last revised: September 13, 2014

Suggested Citation

Anderson, Michelle Wilde, Cities Inside Out: Race, Poverty, and Exclusion at the Urban Fringe (January 5, 2007). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1007359 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1007359

Contact Information

Michelle Wilde Anderson (Contact Author)
Stanford Law School ( email )
559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States

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