Date of Award

Spring 2007

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Jablonsky, Thomas

Second Advisor

Avella, Steven

Third Advisor

Keating, Ann D.


What is a suburb? Americans have defined suburbs in a wide variety of ways that are not always compatible or convergent. Many definitions of suburbia explain what it is not (some undesirable trait of the city) rather than enumerating what it is. These definitions range from the highly technical to the common-sensical [sic], but can be reduced to six core distinctions. Twenty-first century America defines suburbs according to some combination of population density, land use, class, racial or ethnic homogeneity, gender roles, geography, and political incorporation. Of course, there are many possible permutations of these categories and the acceleration of growth on the metropolitan fringe makes any attempt at a firm definition difficult. Perhaps the first image conjured by the word suburb is related to the physical form of a place. A suburb is typically defined as a location characterized by low population density. Problematically, this form can be present in both core cities and their putative suburbs. Recently developed planning doctrines such as New Urbanism seek to change this distinction by bringing higher density to so-called suburban development in the hopes of enabling public transit use and decreasing the pace of urban sprawl. Land use has also been used to distinguish suburbs from cities, with suburbs serving as the residential "bedroom communities" to nearby industrial cities. This category becomes less relevant almost daily as a result of the emergence of "edge cities" which have become regional employment centers challenging the dominance of the core city...



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