In many cities, up to 40 percent of residents live in middle neighborhoods, representing a major source of municipal fiscal health. Even so, these neighborhoods are not adequately serviced by the market or supportive public policies, nor are they beneficiaries of large-scale philanthropic support. As a result, in the face of colliding demographic, socio-economic, and market changes in cities and regions across the country, middle neighborhoods are steadily disappearing.

Around the nation, policymakers, community leaders, and researchers are mobilizing a groundswell of support to reverse this trend. Early results thus far are promising. Owing to the efforts of growing community of practice, there has been substantial progress documenting and sharing strategic interventions that stabilize and strengthen middle neighborhoods. Current efforts include determining next steps to broaden and diversify a national movement.

“Building Advocacy for Middle Neighborhoods,” the second national middle neighborhoods convening in Cleveland, OH on November 13th-14th, 2018, will further this movement, with approximately one hundred and fifty participants who will gather over a day and a half at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland with support from The American Assembly, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, National Alliance of Community and Economic Development Associations, and local organizations including Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation and Cleveland Neighborhood Progress.

In 2015, The American Assembly and the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank initiated an investigation of middle neighborhoods, to raise awareness and increase understanding of these neighborhoods. Some findings of their research efforts concluded that:

  • Little is being done to fortify the places where the majority of working and middle class families live and work—and an ounce of prevention is far less expensive than the pound of remediation needed once a neighborhood has declined.
  • In some cities, middle neighborhoods are home to more than half of its total population, representing a significant portion of the local tax base.
  • A large percentage of people of color live in middle neighborhoods. Because homeownership has long been a primary driver of intergenerational wealth in the U.S., eliminating disparities in homeownership is one of the most powerful ways to narrow the wealth divide and its disproportionate impacts on African American families.

In the fall of 2017, a national meeting in Baltimore, MD at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond brought together leading authorities and local advocates to understand middle neighborhoods. The meeting and subsequent report, the Middle Neighborhoods Action Agenda, were built from a year of outreach conducted for On the Edge: America’s Middle Neighborhoods (2016), an authoritative book combing research, case studies, and essays edited by Paul C. Brophy and published by The American Assembly and The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

Learn more about our “Building Advocacy for Middle Neighborhoods” meeting in Cleveland, OH.

In the Media

Next City Wants Your Op-Ed about Middle Neighborhoods

August 21st, 2018 | Next City Next City and The American Assembly…

Has urban renewal come at the cost of suburban decline?

June 8th, 2018 | The Times-Picayune By Kevin Litten The magazine…
On the Edge

On the Edge
By The American

Edited by
Paul C. Brophy



  • Henry CisnerosFormer Secretary of U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Founder and Chairman, CityView

    “Many attributes define the health of cities – economic strength, unemployment levels, cultural amenities, and physical attractiveness – but they all should manifest themselves in quality places to live. In that sense, sustaining decent, safe, and livable neighborhoods is the most basic purpose of a city. Preserving and enhancing a city’s middle neighborhoods is not peripheral strategy; it must be at the heart of efforts to strengthen a city. Paul Brophy has assembled a group of experts who have effectively identified the challenges, underscored the importance, and offered solid prescriptions for capitalizing on the urban assets which are the middle neighborhoods.”

  • Nancy CantorChancellor, Rutgers University, Newark

    “Is America a land of opportunity anymore? Can families who strive for educational achievement, home ownership, job security, and healthy lives, find a place in our cities today? Middle neighborhoods, the subject of this terrifically thoughtful volume, sit critically in the center of that landscape. The essays in this volume speak convincingly from the force of on-the-ground experience that middle neighborhoods can spearhead the broader effort to recapture America’s opportunity map. It is a must read at a time when it is too facile to give up and too urgent to wait to invest.”

  • Tom BarrettMayor, City of Milwaukee

    "Anyone familiar with American cities will recognize middle neighborhoods. They are important components of diverse and changing urban settings. This book offers enlightening observations, analysis, and advice on middle neighborhoods that are useful to policy-makers, academics, urbanists, and city residents."