Thursday, July 23, 2015

Exploiting Puerto Rico's Fuzzy Sovereignty

With the homeland as neither nation nor state, Puerto Ricans twist in the wind of political whimsy.

Theme: Human rights geography

Subject Article: "The problem with Puerto Rico's debt."

Other Links: 1. "Murder at Sea: Captured on Video, but Killers Go Free."
2. "American Experience: The Pill."
3. "The Insular Cases: Constitutional experts assess the status of territories acquired in the Spanish–American War."

Postscript: "Reconsidering the Insular Cases: The Past and Future of the American Empire."

Over a century has passed since the United States Supreme Court decided a series of cases, known as the “Insular Cases,” that limited the applicability of constitutional rights in Puerto Rico and other overseas territories and allowed the United States to hold them indefinitely as subordinated possessions without the promise of representation or statehood. Essays in this volume, which originated in a Harvard Law School conference, reconsider the Insular Cases. Leading legal authorities examine the history and legacy of the cases, which are tinged with outdated notions of race and empire, and explore possible solutions for the dilemmas they created. Reconsidering the Insular Cases is particularly timely in light of the latest referendum in Puerto Rico expressing widespread dissatisfaction with its current form of governance, and litigation by American Samoans challenging their unequal citizenship status. This book gives voice to a neglected aspect of U.S. history and constitutional law and provides a rich context for rethinking notions of sovereignty, citizenship, race, and place, as well as the roles of law and politics in shaping them.

Thinking about the Insular Cases in a generic sense, citizenship in any space at any scale is not a binary. In terms of territory or turf, citizenship is experience on a continuum. In a neighborhood, newcomers do not enjoy the full benefits of citizenship that the most tenured residents enjoy. Newcomers are expected to conform and labor to fit in, prove they belong. For example, Spike Lee's rant about the gentrification of Brooklyn:

Then comes the motherfuckin’ Christopher Columbus Syndrome. You can’t discover this! We been here. You just can’t come and bogart. There were brothers playing motherfuckin’ African drums in Mount Morris Park for 40 years and now they can’t do it anymore because the new inhabitants said the drums are loud. My father’s a great jazz musician. He bought a house in nineteen-motherfuckin’-sixty-eight, and the motherfuckin’ people moved in last year and called the cops on my father. He’s not — he doesn’t even play electric bass! It’s acoustic! We bought the motherfuckin’ house in nineteen-sixty-motherfuckin’-eight and now you call the cops? In 2013? Get the fuck outta here!

Nah. You can’t do that. You can’t just come in the neighborhood and start bogarting and say, like you’re motherfuckin’ Columbus and kill off the Native Americans. Or what they do in Brazil, what they did to the indigenous people. You have to come with respect. There’s a code. There’s people.

In this passage, Spike Lee is anti-newcomer. He isn't anti-gentrification. He invokes tenure as the measure for the right to define cultural space. Hey Spike Lee, get the fuck outta here with your xenophobic bullshit.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Atlanta's Talent Attraction Problem

From 2000–2013, Atlanta has fallen further behind other large metros in growing its population of college-educated young adults.

Theme: Higher education and economic development

Subject Article: "Best and Worst Cities for Educating Blacks: Instead of educating their own, some cities are importing college graduates."

Other Links: 1. "The Talent Migration Paradox."
2. "Debunking Texas Exceptionalism."
3. "Globalization and Atlanta's Gated Urban Core."
4. "Trolling for millennials with the Atlanta Streetcar."

Postscript: "We're now at a point in Georgia where you can't sustain those high attainment rates just by importing more people," says McGuire. "The challenges in Georgia, and in metro Atlanta for sure, have a lot more to do with doing a better job with the kids who are here than simply counting on lots of middle class families to move here and solve the demands of employers that way."

Friday, July 17, 2015

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Re-Location Is an Entrepreneurial Act

Correction: A reader of the post at Pacific Standard sent to me an email message pointing out an error I made. I reversed the characteristics of System 1 and System 2 thinking. System 1 is "fast" and System 2 is "slow".

Out of necessity, old habits die easily for migrants.

Theme: Innovation and migration

Subject Article: "Easing the Pain of Relocation."

Other Links: 1. "The Economic Case for Welcoming Immigrant Entrepreneurs."
2. "German Pork Butchers in Britain."
3. "Voting With Your Feet."
4. "The White Flight Myth."

Postscript: The psychology of migrants and the geography of migration are closely linked. While most migration appears to be economically rational, the precise location decisions are irrational. I live in Northern Virginia, a tight real estate market. I take advantage of the irrational location decision of well-educated mothers, who are willing to pay a large premium to reside in the neighborhoods associated with the "best" schools. I get more house in a better location thanks to the perception of school quality, which I know from graduate level data analysis courses in the social science to be off the mark in terms of outcomes. The movement between regions looks (and is) rational. But dig deeper into the destination region and stereotypes trump careful analysis.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Economic Growth in an Era of Demographic Decline

A shrinking population isn't the end of economic expansion.

Theme: Ironic economic indicators

Subject Article: "Obamacare’s Big Gamble on Hospital Productivity."

Other Links: 1. "Japan’s population slide set to accelerate."
2. "The Depopulation Bomb."
3. "Advanced industries drive down prices, making income more valuable."
4. "Era of Dying Places."

Postscript: Economist Tyler Cowen musing about China's demographic decline problem:

The Chinese employment rate has been increasing steadily, as has Chinese productivity.  In other words, improvements in both labor quantity and labor quality can help offset the aging problem.

Worth noting that Cowen isn't as optimistic about the same demographic pressures welling up in already wealthy countries. I disagree. But that's a larger debate for another time.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Political Geography of Market Urbanism

The later the economic boom, the greater the municipal area.

Theme: Demography and economic development

Subject Article: "Pittsburgh’s population challenges stand out."

Other Links: 1. "Jurrassic Park Houston, defending Texas exceptionalism, passing Chicago, Market Urbanism, and more."
2. "How soon will Houston pass Chicago? The question isn't whether we'll be the nation's third-largest city. It's when."
3. "Debunking Texas Exceptionalism."

Postscript: Real estate market economist Jed Kolko responded to my criticism of conflating population change with domestic migration by pointing out that population change strongly correlated (positively) with domestic migration. There I sat with a straw man argument on my lap. Or so it seemed. Data in aggregate often obscure more than they illuminate. For example, one of the largest domestic migration flows in the entire country is from Texas to California. That's a gaping hole in the assertion that restrictive zoning on building repels migrants. Demographics aside, greenfield development is a different animal from infill. Greenfields are cheaper and politically less encumbered. Economically, the Sun Belt is playing catch up with the Rust Belt (much like developing countries are chasing developed countries). This game of convergence is far from fulfilled. In fact, in recent decades, the wealthiest Rust Belt states have started pulling away again from the Sun Belt. So Sun Belt cheerleaders continue to hang their hats on population growth without fulling understanding the demographics. The Sun Belt is not exceptional. Most of it remains well behind the rest of the country.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Debunking Texas Exceptionalism

Winning the demographic lottery is nothing to crow about.

Theme: Ironic demography

Subject Article: "How soon will Houston pass Chicago?"

Other Links: 1. "Low Taxes And Economic Opportunity In Texas Lead To Youth Population Boom."
2. "An Urban Agenda for the Right."
3. "Shrinking City Chicago."
4. "The Texas Migration Miracle."
5. "Gentrification."
6. "Keeping a Strong Texas Economy."

Postscript: Out of one side of my mouth, I lampoon Texas Exceptionalism. Out of the other, I celebrate Houston's demographic exceptionalism:

“After 1982, the Anglo population of Harris County stopped growing,” said Klineberg. “And all the growth, of the most rapidly growing city in America, has been from the influx of African Americans, Latinos and Asians. And this biracial southern city dominated by white men has become, in the last 30 years, the single most ethnically diverse major metropolitan area in the entire country.”

Houston is special because of immigration, not domestic migration. State and urban policies do little to influence international migration. The touting of pro-business legislation and overall deregulation as the reason for the population boom is at least 75% nonsense (i.e. the part of population growth attributed to natural increase and immigration). As for zoning, or lack thereof, it takes a backseat to greenfield sprawl in terms of keeping housing costs affordable. The Sun Belt is nothing more than Rust Belt sprawl.