Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Cleveburgh as Mega-Regional Pivot Point

Last weekend, avid blog readers and urban aficionados were treated to a brief exchange between Richard Florida and Paul Krugman concerning the importance of mega-regional economic geography. Florida with the crux of the debate:

At the end of the day, mega-regions have large geographically defined markets, and people are more mobile across mega-regions than across nations (Krugman even calls his own mega, Acelaland, after the fast train). My hunch is that people are also much more likely to relocate within megas than across them, say from NY to Boston or to DC, and in fact recent conversations with many journalists, non-fiction writers and editors suggest a shift from NY to DC, Krugman's Times colleague, David Leonhardt being a case in point, though more research needs to be done on this issue of mega-mobility.

Krugman contends that a closer look at geographic labor mobility would not reveal a mega-regional landscape, but a national one. My initial reaction is to rush on over to the Globalization and World Cities Research Network to look at some data. US urban connectivity profiles are primarily domestic (save NYC), but a cursory glance doesn't reveal clear mega-regions.

Since I'm aware of most of the migration studies for Pittsburgh, I can speak to this particular case. Pittsburgh "labor mobility" would support Krugman's position since Washington, DC is the most important relocation partner. And as it happens, DC is also the most important city for Pittsburgh economic connectivity per Peter Taylor's work. But in terms of domestic migration theory, Krugman has an uphill battle. We'd expect intra-regional relocation to be the rule, not the exception. Yet I think careful study would prove Krugman to be closer to the mark. Besides, Florida is no stranger to hopping between mega-regions.

I'm content to let the experts hash it out because my interest in the dialog is decidedly parochial. Enter the research of William Frey and Ruy Teixeira, "The Political Geography of Pennsylvania: Not Another Rust Belt State." As Pittsburgh demographics indicate, "Pennsylvania is becoming a demographic 'bridge' between Midwestern states like Ohio and other Northeastern states like New Jersey, as its new growth is tied to urban coastal regions."

Cleveburgh effectively straddles two mega-regions. Perhaps this is less clear as you get closer to Cleveland in the corridor, but there is no doubt about Pittsburgh's Janus Face. Putting Pittsburgh in the Chicago mega-region makes more of the festival of lights than we should. Cleveburgh is a strategic regional nexus that confounds traditional conceptions of US mega-regions.

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