Urban decay (also known as urban rot and urban blight) is the sociological process by which a previously functioning city, or part of a city, falls into disrepair and decrepitude. It may feature deindustrialization, depopulation or deurbanization, economic restructuring, abandoned buildings and infrastructure, high local unemployment, increased poverty, fragmented families, low overall living standards and quality of life, political disenfranchisement, crime, elevated levels of pollution, and a desolate cityscape, known as greyfield or urban prairie.
Since the 1970s and 1980s, urban decay has been associated with Western cities, especially in North America and parts of Europe (mostly the United Kingdom and France). Since then, major structural changes in global economies, transportation, and government policy created the economic and then the social conditions resulting in urban decay.The effects counter the development of most of Europe and North America; on other continents, urban decay is manifested in the peripheral slums at the outskirts of a metropolis, while the city center and the inner city retain high real estate values and sustain a steadily increasing populace. In contrast, North American and British cities often experience population flights to the suburbs and exurb commuter towns; often in the form of white flight. Another characteristic of urban decay is blight—the visual, psychological, and physical effects of living among empty lots, buildings and condemned houses.
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