Cities without Suburbs, first published in 1993, has influenced analysis of America’s cities by city planners, scholars, and citizens alike. David Rusk, the former mayor of Albuquerque, argues that America must end the isolation of the central city from the suburbs if it is to solve its urban problems.

Rusk’s analysis, extending back to 1950, covers all metropolitan areas in the United States but focuses on the 137 largest metro areas and their principal central cities. He finds that cities that were trapped within old boundaries during the age of sprawl have suffered severe racial segregation and the emergence of an urban underclass; but cities with annexation powers—termed “elastic” by Rusk—have shared in area-wide development.

The fourth edition updates Rusk’s argument using the 2010 Census and the American Community Survey. It provides new material on the difference between population trends and household trends, the impact of Hispanic immigration, and the potential for city-county consolidation. The fourth edition also brings added emphasis to “elasticity mimics”—a variety of intergovernmental policies that can provide some of the benefits of regional consolidation efforts in situations where annexation and consolidation are impossible.

David Rusk is an independent consultant on urban and suburban policy. He is the author of Baltimore Unbound: A Strategy for Regional Renewal and Inside Game/Outside Game: Winning Strategies for Saving Urban America.


Introduction: Framing the Issue
1. Lessons from Urban America
Lesson 1: The Real City is the Total Metropolitan Area—City and Suburb
Lesson 2: Most of America's Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians Live in Metro Areas
Lesson 3: Since World War II, Most Urban Growth Has Been Low-Density, Suburban Style
Lesson 4: For a City's Population to Grow, the City Must Be Elastic
Lesson 5: Almost All Metro Areas Have Grown
Lesson 6: Low-Density Cities Can Grow through Infill; High-Density Cities Cannot
Lesson 7: Elastic Cities Expand Their City Limits; Inelastic Cities Do Not
Lesson 8: Bad State Laws Can Hobble Cities
Lesson 9: Neighbors Can Trap Cities
Lesson 10: Old Cities Are Complacent; Young Cities Are Ambitious
Lesson 11: Racial Prejudice Has Shaped Growth Patterns
Lesson 12: Elastic Cities "Capture" Suburban Growth; Inelastic Cities "Contribute" to Suburban Population Growth
Lesson 13: Elastic Cities Gain Population; Inelastic Cities Lose Population
Lesson 14: Shrinking Household Size Understates Elastic Cities' Gains while Overstating Inelastic Cities' Losses
Lesson 15: Inelastic Areas Are More Segregated Than Elastic Areas
Lesson 16: Major Immigration Increases Hispanic Segregation
Lesson 17: Highly Racially Segregated Regions Are Also Highly Economically Segregated Regions
Lesson 18: Inelastic Cities Have Wide Income Gaps with Their Suburbs; Elastic Cities Maintain Greater City-Suburb Balance
Lesson 19: Poverty Is More Disproportionately Concentrated in Inelastic Cities Than in Elastic Cities
Lesson 20: Little Boxes Regions Foster Segregation; Big Box Regions Facilitate Integration
Lesson 21: Little Boxes School Districts Foster Segregation; Big Box School Districts Facilitate Integration
Lesson 22: Inelastic Areas Were Harder Hit by Deindustrialization of the American Labor Market
Lesson 23: Elastic Areas Had Faster Rates of Nonfactory Job Creation Than Inelastic Areas
Lesson 24: Elastic Areas Showed Greater Real Income Gains Than Inelastic Areas
Lesson 25: Elastic Cities Have Better Bond Ratings Than Inelastic Cities
Lesson 26: Elastic Areas Have a Higher-Educated Workforce Than Inelastic Areas
2. Characteristics of Metropolitan Areas
The Point of (Almost) No Return
Cities without Suburbs
3. Strategies for Stretching Cities
Three Essential Regional Policies
Metro Government: A Definition
State Government's Crucial Role
Federal Government: Leveling the Playing Field
4. Conclusion
Appendix A: Successful City–County Consolidations
Appendix B: Potential City–County Consolidations


“The evidence that Rusk has marshaled here makes a clear and cogent case that the survival of many American cities depends on making city and suburb one.”—New York Review of Books

“Every mayor, every governor, every county executive, indeed anyone who cares about our great but ailing cities ought to read it.”—Detroit Free Press

“This book is MUST reading. Rusk makes his argument concisely, logically, and forcefully.”—Journal of the American Planning Association