Urban America and Tenement Housing

The United States of America today is the country with a large urbanized territory, which grows every day. Urbanization of America has a long history and many interesting facts. The development of urban American territory requires multiple resources annually and has controversial consequences for both the population and ecosystem. With the rising prices for land in many American states, the process of urbanization becomes more and more acute and necessary. Urbanization in the United States began with the increase in population and continued developing ever since. This paper investigates the roots of urban America and analyzes how the urbanization has changed the life of the American society and what consequences it had for the population and ecology in general.

I would like to start with the examination of tenement housing in America that became very popular with the increased flow of immigrants in the second half of the 19th century (Goldfield, 2007). Tenements were a good way to provide housing for thousands of people who could not afford buying land for their families and building houses. Tenements were big houses with many small separate rooms that could serve as a shelter for immigrants and their families. Usually, such buildings were situated in poor districts, and apartments were settled by low-income groups (McKelvey, 1963). In the beginning, tenements were a blessing for industrial class whose small earnings limited their opportunities. However, soon the tenements became overcrowded, which led to fast worsening of the situation. Living conditions in such houses were far from comfortable. The apartments were dark and very small. In such conditions, the air flow was very poor, which caused spread of the diseases and contributed to anti-sanitary (Riis & Leviati, 2011). Tenements became notorious for disease, poverty, crime, and squalor.

Moreover, the limited space conditioned the mixing of the population. Numerous nations and ethnic groups lived under the same roof which specified the character of living in such houses. Multi-national population of tenements conditioned the development of nationally and culturally diverse society of the modern United States. Urbanization of such big cities as New York influenced the further development of the American society. Since the urbanization began, the United States became a fully grown urban nation. Today, the New York City is divided into several districts where people of different nationalities, races, and social status live. There are Chinatown, Russian district, Irish district, Jewtown, Italian District, Arab Street, several ghettos where many black people live, and a lot of other different places that serve as communities for diverse nations and cultures. However, in the beginning of American urbanization, there was no such distinction between districts and their population. Tenements gathered thousands of people of different national and cultural backgrounds who had the same problems – poverty and undefined social status.

Urban growth in the United States has conditioned the creation of different class groups with different lifestyles and values. The perfect example of the modern urban city is New York. This city is a great demonstration of how the population gets divided into several groups depending on its ethnic and cultural background, social status, and income. There are prestigious districts for rich business men and celebrities, poor districts for low-income groups and lower class, and middle-class districts. Moreover, big cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco have large suburbs with diverse population.

Urbanization is closely connected with industrialization; therefore, its development is conditioned by the technical progress. In the beginning of the 20th century, many settlements were situated near the centers of excavations of the natural resources or plants and factories. Such tendency was typical not only for the United States, but for Europe as well. In this perspective, the population of the nearby settlements mostly consisted of the working class. Furthermore, the population of the big cities’ suburbs also included working class and small merchants (Warner, 1972). However, the situation in the cities was quite different.

The centre of the big cities was mostly occupied by rich people who had other property out-of-town and some large business either in the city or somewhere in the suburbs as well. The outskirts were occupied by the working class and immigrants who could not afford a house in the centre of the city or land out of the town. The tenements of the last century were considered to be a shelter for the poor, but today, these buildings are being modernized while the borders of towns grow each year. The living conditions in tenements are much better now; people are not dying from the anti-sanitary and the lack of clean air and water. However, the lack of free space is still a problem.

Urbanization as the part of the humanity’s progress has controversial consequences. While giving more space for people to live in the big cities, urbanization did not provide the comfortable living conditions for them. Moreover, tenements did not solve the problem of overpopulation, but instead, even contributed to it. The ecosystems around big cities also have been impaired by the urbanization. As urbanization is closely connected with the process of industrialization, the damage to the nature is easily explained. With the development of factories and excavations, the urbanization became more acute and necessary. Nevertheless, urbanization gave thousands of people a shelter and an opportunity to live in the big cities and build their lives and careers. Modern America is an urban nation that has its future in further urbanization; therefore, urbanization should be perceived as the inevitable process conditioned by the progress of humanity.