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Middle Neighborhoods in the Desert Southwest: A First Look

3/28/2022

Middle Neighborhoods in the Desert Southwest: A First Look

Author(s)/Creator(s): Alan Mallach, Center for Community Progress, and Marcia Nedland, Fall Creek Consultants

Middle neighborhoods — the neighborhoods of our towns and cities where middle income people live — have been and continue to be the backbone of our communities. Yet nearly everything that has been written about middle neighborhoods has focused on the older cities of the Northeast and Midwest, and the great majority of the programmatic initiatives that have emerged have been in those same cities.

This issue raises a knotty question. After all, the older cities of the Northeast/Midwest do not represent all of America. Arguably, the greatest and most dynamic belt of urban population in the United States is the region loosely known as the Desert Southwest, the great crescent running from California to Texas, including Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico. Today, seven of the 10 largest cities in the United States are in this belt, as are 20 of the nation's 50 largest cities. What about their middle neighborhoods? Are they increasing or decreasing? What are the key features of their residents, and how are they different from neighborhoods that are richer or poorer? What challenges do they face, and how should local practitioners and policymakers address them? 

This short paper takes a first look at middle neighborhoods in a cluster of Desert Southwest cities in order to provide some initial and provisional answers to these questions. We selected six, more or less, representative cities to examine: Fresno, California; Phoenix, Arizona; Las Vegas, Nevada; Albuquerque, new Mexico; and Arlington and Lubbock, Texas. 

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