Newcomers to Old TownsSuburbanization of the Heartland

Newcomers to Old TownsSuburbanization of the Heartland

Sonya Salamon

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226734125

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


Although the death of the small town has been predicted for decades, during the 1990s the population of rural America actually increased by more than three million people. This book explores these rural newcomers and the impact they have on the social relationships, public spaces, and community resources of small town America. The author draws on richly detailed ethnographic studies of six small towns in central Illinois, including a town with upscale subdivisions that lured wealthy professionals as well as towns whose agribusinesses drew working-class Mexicano migrants and immigrants. She finds that regardless of the class or ethnicity of the newcomers, if their social status differs relative to that of oldtimers, their effect on a town has been the same: suburbanization that erodes the close-knit small town community, with especially severe consequences for small town youth. To successfully combat the homogenization of the heartland, the author argues, newcomers must work with oldtimers so that together they sustain the vital aspects of community life and identity what first drew them to small towns. An illustration of the recent revitalization of interest in the small town, this work provides a significant addition to the growing literature on the subject.