The comparative metropolitan analysis project

Patricia Gober

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The rise in spatial analysis, numerical methods, and theory testing of the 1960s thrust the field of urban geography into a period of reductionist research, one that assumed the urban system was no more than the sum of its parts and that these parts could be studied without reference to the system itself. Amid this reductionist approach to urban inquiry came the Comparative Metropolitan Analysis Project of the 1970s, which sought to use results of the 1970 Census to assess progress on a range of urban-policy issues, including race, class, poverty, and housing in the nation's 20 largest metropolitan areas. The project produced (1) a comparative atlas of the 20 urban regions, (2) a book assessing management and performance in 12 major policy areas, and (3) a collection of 20 short monographs outlining the physical, social, and economic make-up of urban areas, highlighting both common problems and local individuality. This essay reviews the history, intellectual context, and significance of the project with an eye toward the fundamental tension between its integrative and outward-looking aspirations and disciplinary trends of fragmentation, specialization, and insularity. Due to this tension, the project quickly disappeared from our disciplinary consciousness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)423-432
Number of pages10
JournalUrban Geography
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 1 2002


  • Comparative atlas
  • Metropolitan vignette
  • Synthesis
  • Urban policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Urban Studies


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