Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Richard Florida thinks that Rustbelt Cities can come back

He says so here.

His basic argument is that all it would take is high-speed intercity transport and revitalized downtowns to do this job. I am skeptical.

I should begin by saying I like the Midwest a lot--I grew up in a small city in Western Wisconsin, and spent most of my professional life in Madison. I have always rather liked cities like Cleveland, Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Duluth. I think Pittsburgh is absolutely lovely (you read that right) and is a terrific university town.

But these places (along with Detroit, Buffalo, Syracuse, etc.) have a history of concentrated manufacturing employment, which in turn created labor markets where workers had few incentives to become well eductated (for the classic article on this, see Benjamin Chinitz, Contrasts in Agglomeration: Pittsburgh and New York, AER (1961). All these places are, moreover, cold. Two of the most important predictors of population growth since World War II have been education levels of the population, and climate.

Cities in the Midwest with higher educational attainment levels, such as Minneapolis, Chicago and Columbus, have done better. I doubt downtown condos and high speed rail will turn Scranton into Floreance.


Uncle Billy said...

Let's do triage. There was an article in the L.A. Times talking about how the "grand" plan for downtown didn't work out.

People just don't want to pay $600,000 for closets, drive 20 miles to the supermarket, be locked into a concrete and steel prison during the day, and have to look at all those "unkempt homeless people." (some put the number of homeless downtown now at 15,000)

A rigged contest took place to plan the area around city hall, but that seemed to have hit the skids.

Our sprawling megalopolis seems to reflect 10,000 planners in search of a concensus. Help!

What will you be doing in California when you come? Anything planning related?

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