Friday, July 07, 2006

Second City Success

Thanks to tannybrown for bringing this article to my attention. Cities in the second tier of the urban hierarchy are leading the way in growth, while major cities such as New York are witnessing a leveling off of population. Might that bode well for Pittsburgh?

The short, and obvious, answer is "no". I hypothesize that one of the factors that promotes rapid growth is a relatively undeveloped political landscape. Cities will tend to boom in regions that offer little opposition to development. I imagine something akin to a wild west or other frontier environment.

I think that just about anyone would tell you that Pittsburgh offers the exact opposite of the anarchic situation I describe. Pittsburgh is an intimidating place to an outsider. There is little chance of cracking the well-established power structure. The path of least resistance is a city in the Sun Belt, which is where most of the people are going.


Jim Russell said...

Climate is definitely a factor, but there are other variables. Another consideration is chain migration. A local pioneer makes the move to Florida, and once established, encourages others to move there because of the trusted contact.

Real estate prices, schools, and taxes are other important factors. Fundamentally, we are talking about jobs and opportunity. The lure of sunny days is not sufficient to push someone to leave home. In fact, leaving home tends to be a very costly endeavor. I think Pittsburgh adds to that cost, concerning attracting migrants. But we are not going to flip a switch and make the Burgh less parochial.

Jim Russell said...

Why is it odd? Where would you expect to find these jobs and opportunities?

Migration theory is clear on the cirumstances. Economic push-pull factors explain most migration patterns.

As industry became less tied to proximity of certain resources, other factors like climate and political gegoraphy come to the fore.

Jim Russell said...

Clearly sun isn't the main attraction. Seattle and Portland are doing well, and have done well over the past 20 years. And places such as Alabama and Mississippi are still hurting.

I suggest looking at places with particularly bad sprawl problems. The worse the sprawl, the better the opportunity for an entrepreneur.

Look where the sprawl is around Pittsburgh. There, the region is doing well.

So, factors I think are key for attracting migrants: low zoning thresholds, low taxes, room for new transportation infrastructure, cheap real estate, and volatile local politics.

In other words, low barriers to start ups and new ideas.

John Morris said...

I think that in the future there will be lot more push and pull btween older cities and sprawl areas.

A lot of recent history is built on major factors that are changing. Sprawl and the growth of it is based largely on the "free highway system" and other "free infrastructure". As America gets a bit more broke the cost of this free stuff will become a larger factor. I don't see gasoline getting cheaper and then one has issues like the aging of America.

I think that this will create a counter incentive for people to take a second look at urban areas.

One interesting thing that might happen is the emergence of high density, high growth cities that are more like Hong Kong.

Jim Russell said...

Why do you think older cities, instead of newer ones, will be involved in the push-pull with sprawl areas? Will older cities have an advantage over younger cities in the migration from sprawl areas to dense urban areas?

As the price of transportation increases, I imagine telecommuting will become much more attractive. Densely populated areas could take advantage of subsidized wi-fi hotspots.

Business would go where the resources needed are cheapest. People would take over the CBD, turning it into a work/residential space, with the associated services.