Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Susan Hoffmann

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Campus Only


The social and economic deterioration of Benton Harbor, Michigan from the 1950s through the 1990s is the focus of this thesis. It centers on deteriorating housing conditions, white flight, middle class flight, urban renewal programs aimed at clearing black neighborhoods, and crime rates of this inner city. The decline in Benton Harbor is measured against cities such as Detroit and Chicago for the purpose of comparing Benton Harbor to the works of other researchers. The theories of Thomas Sugrue, William Julius Wilson, Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton and the findings of the Kerner Commission are examined throughout this paper. Findings include a measure of the decline of Benton Harbor based on housing conditions, employment figures, poverty levels, and crime rates. An examination of the changing population in Benton Harbor throughout the latter part of the 20th century is included. Concluding the paper is a combination of the theories gathered from the researchers examined for an explanation as to what actually happened in Benton Harbor. Job loss, segregation, urban renewal and racial tension are all cited as possible causes of the economic deterioration of Benton Harbor.

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