The Consequences of America’s Metro Migration

Malls and old American neighborhoods are in the same place: dead and soon to be forgotten

Dylan Hughes
Marker
Published in
6 min readJul 27, 2021

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Photo by Steve Harvey on Unsplash

After the end of World War II, popular media often portrayed American families as accomplished, happy, and most importantly, back together. In fact, they were really happy to be back together. In the post-war economic boom, couples were industriously popping out babies and moving their growing families out of the cities and into the suburbs.

With them came their spending power, of course, putting a dent on Main Street retail stores.

It didn’t take long for businesses to follow people out to the suburbs, resulting in the birth of the iconic American shopping mall, which combined retail shopping, food service, and entertainment into one large, indoor building.

Thanks to President Eisenhower, interstate highways were blooming across America, too, and these massive retail complexes on the side of the road soon began to attract traveling consumers and helped prop up domestic tourism.

As America grew, so did the reach of malls.

For decades, malls were the best place for consumers to purchase clothes, toys, games, and anything in between — making holiday shopping that much easier.

Over time, however, malls became too plentiful. America has by far the highest retail square footage per capita than any other country in the world at 23.5 square feet per person (Canada is next in line at 16.8 square feet). The growth of online shopping with the advent of the internet became a challenge as well.

Amazon and other e-commerce companies have now become dominant while brick-and-mortar stores have eaten into each other’s profits. “Anchor stores” like Sears and JC Penney have been forced into bankruptcy while other popular stores have trimmed down their in-person offerings and invested more into the online avenue to avoid a similar fate.

Malls are not completely dead, and even the ones that have lost most or all of their business have transitioned to selling people experiences alongside goods. Some mall spaces feature Instagrammable backgrounds and settings to bring people in, hoping they’ll buy a thing or two on the…

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Dylan Hughes
Marker
Writer for

Two-time self-development author writing on whatever interests me. Follow me on Instagram: chyaboidylan