Saturday, December 18, 2004

Smart Growth is Very Hard Work

Today's LA Times front page includes "True Love of Country in England ... City dwellers are moving to villages in record numbers. Rural economies benefit, but some say at too high a cost to locals."

The accompanying story includes data on 1981-2002 population growth with "rural" increasing by 13.7% vs 2.9% for urban.

The Great Dispersion (David Brooks' term) can be expected to show up in all of the developed countries. Evidence to this effect has been accumulating.

Preferences trump policies. Europeans and Canadians have land use and planning policies that U.S. planners dream about (high-priced gasoline, tough land use regs, more elaborate transit, etc.). But it makes no difference.

I commented on "Micropolis" and associated population trends last week. U.S. private sector job growth in the 1990s was 1.3% per year in the largest metros (above 5 million pop.), above 2% in the mid-sized and smaller metros, 2% in the micropolitan (exurban) counties and just less than 2% in the rural counties beyond exurbia. Manufacturing jobs declined everywhere since 1970 except micropolitan and rural counties.

The most interesting data are from abroad -- where "Smart Growth" has been prescribed for many years.