The National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University®

Research Objectives

The National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University® enriches the public understanding of suburban life in the United States and beyond, while promoting new and creative responses to problems and opportunities as they emerge over time. It focuses its work on projects related to suburban diversity, social and economic justice, education, sustainability, government and politics, recovered histories, and arts and culture. We seek to bridge these fields in research, policy, and practice. To this end, the Center conducts original research; facilitates scholarly exchange; provides venues for conversation between scholars and practitioners in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors; and applies the insights gained to the solution of suburban problems.

      1. Diversity and the changing suburbs

        NCSS builds upon recent research to describe and analyze growing suburban heterogeneity. For many years, the suburbs were frequently represented as homogenous bedroom communities for the white middle class. But today's suburbs include diverse groups of residents and workers bound together in complex relationships of interdependency and exclusion, competition and cooperation – U.S. suburbs, for example, have begun to serve as entry points for international migration. The NCSS therefore researches not just racial, ethnic, and religious diversity among individuals and families, but also economic, social, and political diversity among suburbs generally, in the U.S. and across the world.

      2. Social and economic justice

        The NCSS supports efforts to understand the causes of, and solutions for, unequal access to resources and social and political power, both within the suburbs and across metropolitan regions. In an era of growing suburban diversity, inequality between and within suburbs has become as important a problem as the comparably more-studied disparities between suburb and city. Although moving to the suburbs often has been associated with upward mobility and economic security, many suburbanites lack access to basic needs such as housing, health care, public transit, and social services. At the local level, the Center is particularly committed to seeking remedies for disparities in education and student outcomes on Long Island, particularly as they affect poor, minority, and disabled students.

      3. Sustainability

        The NCSS responds to the imperative of integrating environmental stewardship with measures that maintain the long-term vitality of diverse suburban communities. Suburbs have emerged as a focal point for discussions of social and environmental sustainability. Past and present patterns of suburban development often have jeopardized ecological systems, human health, and future economic growth. This objective thus encompasses a broad range of projects, from redesigning suburban transportation systems, to reimagining suburban homeownership, to remediating and supporting suburbs that have borne the heaviest environmental burdens.

      4. Government and politics

        The NCSS is committed to providing rigorous and objective reporting on suburban politics, and engages with varied stakeholders in the pursuit of governmental efficiency, effectiveness, and fairness. Suburbs are noteworthy both for the fragmentation of their local governments, and for their decisive importance in state and national elections. The NCSS's Long Island environs, which include bellwether swing districts and highly fragmented jurisdictions, have much to teach us about the rest of the country, just as other suburbs have much to teach Long Islanders. This objective includes developing strategies to deal with tax policies and their impact on the delivery of services.

      5. Recovered histories

        The NCSS recognizes the historical diversity of suburban communities, and supports efforts to recover untold suburban histories. Recently, historians have placed renewed emphasis on suburbs that are often forgotten in mainstream narratives of North American suburban history. The NCSS facilitates exchange between historians at a national level, and works with local faculty, the Hofstra Library, and area historians and historical societies to document the experiences of long-time Long Island residents and institutions.

      6. Cultural representation and the arts

        The NCSS contributes research on suburban cultural producers and representations of suburban life – on Long Island, in the U.S., and internationally. In the postwar U.S., cultural representations have shaped popular conceptions of the suburbs. These conceptions, in turn, have shaped our understandings of gender, race, class, and nation, the contents of our malleable "suburban dreams," and even the policies that govern urban and suburban development. "Myths of wealth and wellness," for example, may have contributed to the suburbs receiving an unequal share of federal and state resources to confront new suburban problems. Suburbs are also a critical and neglected site of cultural production itself, and the NCSS documents the work of arts organizations in suburbia.