LESSONS FROM THE CENSUS. VI.
UNITED STATES COMMISSIONER OF LABOR.
WE have seen that the population of cities is rapidly gaining in proportion to the increase of population in the whole country, and also that this growth in cities is largely suburban in its character. The suburban growth is fed from without and from within. As business is extended, and the room and area formerly occupied by people are taken for great mercantile houses and for manufacturing, the population of such areas is sent out to the suburbs of necessity, while many seek suburban residences as a matter of choice. From without the suburban population is augmented by the rush to cities from the country. Owing to the improvement in methods of agriculture, by which production from the earth becomes in some sense a manufacture, a less number of persons is required for agricultural purposes than of old. The question is often asked why, if population increases, there is not an increasing necessity of supplying food products; and if there is such a necessity, why can great numbers be spared from the rural districts to engage in the business undertakings of the cities? Improved methods of production offer an answer to this question, the result being that the labor of the country not being in so great demand, even to supply the vast increase required in food products, seeks remunerative employment in centers of population. As the contraction of labor through invention goes on, the expansion of labor through invention grows to a greater extent; and it is probably true that through inventions, or through great industries which have come into being in recent years, a larger number of people are employed relatively than are deprived of employment through improved methods. The great industries associated with electrics, railroad enterprises, the building of new kinds of machinery, and the absorbing in various ways of laborers in occupations not known until within a few years, enables manufacturing centers to furnish gainful work to those coming from the country, where, relatively speaking, they are not needed. These people take up their residence in the suburbs, though they may find their occupations in the crowded areas of the cities themselves. The question of rapid transit in cities, therefore, becomes one not only of great interest in the study of the movement of population at the present time, but one of prime necessity for the consideration of municipal governments. It is something more than a question of economics or of business convenience; it is a social and an ethical question as well.