In 1966, the Mansfield City Directory boasted that this small north cen- tral Ohio city had the second highest average family income in the state.1 Though smaller than the state capital, Columbus, and the major industrial cities of Cleveland, Cincinnati, Akron, Canton, Toledo, and Youngstown, Mansfielders enjoyed all the benefits of big city living.
By 1970, unemploy- ment was at 4.4 percent and over 40 percent of Mansfield’s 55,000 working residents labored in manufacturing. Another 25 percent were employed in the banking, real estate, educational, and health professions that developed alongside the factories, and close to 35 percent worked in the retail and service industries that served Mansfield’s blue and white collared workers.2 Mansfield’s high income levels sustained numerous department stores, three regional train lines, jazz clubs, bars, restaurants, four movie theaters, rigorous public schools, competitive youth athletic programs, and solid rates of new housing development. Located halfway between Columbus, and Cleveland, Mansfield seemed to be the perfect alternative to the volatility of large post- war cities and the conformity found within their growing suburbs. Seeing themselves as a smaller, better paid version of a quintessential metropolis, such facts of prosperity and success were important for Mansfielders in un- derstanding themselves and their small city.
Four decades later, residents struggled to reconcile the image of Mansfield as it once was with what it had become in the new millennium. By 2008, Man- sfield was among the poorer cities in Ohio with high rates of unemployment,
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spiking numbers of housing foreclosures, a shrinking city government budget, public schools in academic emergency, and an aging population.3 Like many cities in the industrial midwest, Mansfield has struggled to regain its footing since the 1980s and 1990s when factory after factory downsized or closed and thousands of unionized workers were left underemployed and often without any work. Mansfield’s recent history hews to the standard story told of deindus- trialization which emphasizes the devastating effects of capital withdrawal, de- clining community wealth, and a decaying built environment. And rightfully so; communities throughout the industrial northeast and midwest have been completely decimated socially and economically by the widespread closure of factories and continue to be further challenged by the imploding auto industry. Yet such a rendering of the post-Fordist economy, particularly as experienced by small cities within the United States and Canada, elides several key de- velopments. New industries have been sprouting in deindustrializing North America even as manufacturing has stagnated and declined in prominence, employment numbers, and revenue returns. Corporate investments—espe- cially in the health care industry—and federal and state assistance programs have been moving into the midwest and northeast, helping to construct a new economy in the rust belt.4
Instead of working on factory production lines, many local Mansfield- ers now labor as medical assistants and technicians. But this reconfigured economy has also brought with it new workers: workers who are mostly college educated, white collared, and foreign born or “imported” from other parts of the United States. Prior to the 1990s, Mansfield was almost 90 percent white and 10 percent African American with miniscule numbers of Native Americans, Latinos, or Asian-descent residents. By 2008, the Census estimated that 73 percent of Mansfielders self-identified as white, 23 percent as African American or black, 1.7 percent as Hispanic or Latino, and 0.6 percent as Asian.5 Two percent of all residents (no matter race or ethnicity) were foreign born; most were naturalized citizens.6
The influx of highly educated and well paid “outsiders” during the last two decades has reconstituted class disparities in new multiracial and multicul- tural ways. As a result, simultaneous trends of economic development and divestment, along with the increasingly marked visibility of race, ethnicity, and class, have indelibly imprinted city life with unresolved tensions. As all Mansfielders strive to understand themselves and their changing city, visions of, and for, the small city compete with one another. Mansfield’s situation resonates with hundreds of small cities in North America and underscores the often paradoxical and contentious processes of deindustrialization and neoliberal capitalism.7 The small city of Mansfield suggests a perspective that
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The post In 1966, the Mansfield City Directory boasted that this small north cen- tral Ohio city had the second highest average family income in the state.1 Though smaller than the state capital, Columbus, and the major industrial cities of Cleveland, Cincinnati, Akron, Canton, Toledo, and Youngstown, Mansfielders enjoyed all the benefits of big city living. appeared first on NURSING HOMEWORKS.