Saturday, December 12, 2015

Growth poles

Today's WSJ includes "Burgeoning Cities Turn Into Digital Labs." (slightly different title in online version). It is about big cities and big data.  It is also Manhattan-centric -- as most U.S. media coverage of cities tends to be. Everyone knows that most of the U.S. (most U.S. cities) are very different.

The author mentions that "cities generally are more efficient than suburbs." What does that mean? In the U.S., suburban areas continue to outgrow, outdraw, the suburbs. Here is the latest from Wendell Cox. "More efficient" is also slippery unless carefully defined. Finally "city and "suburbs" -- no matter how defined -- are parts of an integrated metropolitan whole. They complement and depend on each other. Supply chains easily criss-cross imaginary boundaries.

It's about growth. Where do labor and capital go? Where do they see desirable opportunities and complementarities -- at acceptable prices? Where do the highly skilled/highly educated go?  Everyone knows, for example, that many go to Manhattan and many go to Silicon Valley.  There are many other such magnets in the U.S. but stick to the iconic two: population density varies by at least a factor of 10.

Manhattan is lovely but not at all representative. Ask yourself which one of them is more likely to be copied?  It's very hard to duplicate either one but we will not have another Manhattan; we will have many low density growth poles.