Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Displacing Poverty

Place-centric thinking is the reason for persistent poverty at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: People develop, not places.

Subject Article: "3 Ways Local Leaders Can Connect Cities for Growth."

Other Links: 1. "The Impact of College Education on Geographic Mobility: Evidence from the Vietnam Generation."
2. "In Climbing Income Ladder, Location Matters."
3. "The Immigration Act of 1965: Intended and unintended consequences of the 20th Century."
4. "Want a New Life? Wait Here for a While."
5. "Inskeep Explores Growing Pains Of An 'Instant City.'"
6. "About: 'Arrival City.'"
7. "The Persistent Geography of Disadvantage."
8. "London Brain Drain."
9. "Immigration Kills."

Postscript: To borrow Michel Foucault's concept of episteme, the rupture in migration patterns appears to have occurred in the 1960s and is linked to the Immigration Act of 1965. One geographic legacy of that shift affecting New York City today:

The total number of older immigrants in New York is also increasing rapidly. Over the last decade, as the native-born senior population decreased by 9 percent, the number of older Asian immigrants grew 68 percent, older Caribbeans 62 percent and older Latinos 58 percent. Overall, the number of foreign-born seniors jumped 30 percent in that time, going from 356,000 in 2000 to 463,000 ten years later.

“The aging segment of the Asian population is the fastest-growing part,” notes Howard Shih, a demographer at the Asian American Federation in New York. “The wave that came in the 1960s, when the Immigration Act removed race-based quotas, has been here for over 40 years and is now getting to retirement age.”

My working hypothesis, the dramatic shift in immigration policy informed the inversion of who migrated domestically. I'm pulling this idea from the book, "Stepping Out of The Brain Drain." Other countries followed the lead of the United States, sparking a war for talent. The United Nations condemned this brain drain from the Global South. The book reframes this narrative in light of more recent understanding of international talent flows (e.g. brain circulation). Prior to 1965, the term "brain drain" didn't make sense. The highly-skilled immigrants agglomerated in the few US locations for the innovation economy, creating a draw for domestic talent to pull up stakes and move to where the jobs are. International brain drain became domestic brain drain. The Industrial Belt began transforming into the Rust Belt.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Immigration Kills

Migrants, not cities, strike fear into the hearts of tyrants at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Geographic mobility and social anxiety.

Subject Article: "Urban Apartheid in Vietnam."

Other Links: 1. "Footprints of the Ancestors."
2. "Bananas thrown at black Italian minister during speech."
3. "Mobility Paradox."
4. "Suddenly, all politics is municipal."
5. "Creatives grow better in the South West."
6. "Friedrich Ratzel and the Origins of Lebensraum."
8. "On Los Angeles as an 'Arrival City.'"

Postscript: An academic article, "Cities, Redistribution, and Authoritarian Regime Survival" inspired my post about the intrinsic fear of migrants. As a rule, place comes before people. That bias plays out in research and policy, creating blind spots. A place-centric Matthew Yglesias misunderstanding anti-immigrant sentiment:

A related intuition I have that I'd be interested in reading relevant research on is that when you take the basic dynamic of population migration out of the "immigration" context, suddenly people understand it more clearly. When people hear about a town that's attracting many new residents, they say it's "booming" not that the newcomers are poaching a fixed supply of jobs. Nobody in Texas seems to have proposed trying to close the state to migrants from the Northeast and Midwest; rather, they see the state's attraction to migrants as one of its strengths. The "foreign-ness" of newcomers from other countries distracts people from fundamental dynamics that they understand in other contexts. 

Uh, what planet does Yglesias live on? All the nobodies in Texas:

Californians are loathed by “original” Austinites. They move here, flooding the bars and buying the houses, making everything more expensive and turning the cool less cool. Lock up your daughters and hide the silver, because these West Coast jerks are here to take over.

One word for you, Mr. Yglesias. Carpetbaggers.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Texans Didn’t Make Houston Great

Texans aren't worth a damn unless they leave the state at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: The magic of cities is migration.

Subject Article: "Brain Drain Series: 'I Don’t Want To Move Back Without Something Lined Up.'"

Other Links: 1. "Inbreeding Homophily."
2. "Migrant Networks and the Spread of Misinformation."
3. "Ohioans have invaded the Lowcountry... and some folks wish they would leave."
4. "Birthplace Diversity and Economic Prosperity."
5. "Demographic Dynamism and Metropolitan Change: Comparing Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Washington, DC."
6. "Bowling Alone Urbanism."

Postscript: The poverty of place-based economic development:

One problem emphasized by Edel (1980) is that place-targeting of public programs (such as entitlement zones) is an inaccurate way to target people in need: “[I]nitially ineligible people become beneficiaries by their place of residence, while some intended beneficiaries are excluded for the same reason’’ (178). In high-growth areas, in particular, newcomers often arrive to take advantage of the placetargeted benefits, displacing the original residents for whom the programs were intended. For example, a study in Atlanta found that the benefits of employment programs intended for local black young adults were often intercepted by the high volume of new migrants, many of them also black (Sawicki and Moody 1997).

I contend that urban redevelopment initiatives fail because they are place-centric in approach. Some neighborhoods characterized as distressed are actually quite successful if a researcher traces the experiences of the people who have lived there. That is to say, a neighborhood isn't improving but the lives of residents are. People develop, not places.

Non sequitur alert, “What attracts people most, it would appear, is other people.”

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Detroit Saved

Chicago, not Detroit, is dying at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Migration mesofacts and urbanist boondoggles.

Subject Article: "Can Insular Detroit Become a Chicago or a Pittsburgh?"

Other Links: 1. "Despite Bankruptcy, Momentum in Motown Builds for Streetcar."
2. "Detroit Postmortem."
3. "The Rise of New Immigrant Gateways."
4. "Why the Smartest People in the Midwest All Move To Chicago."
5. "Immigration and In-Migration."
6. "Telestrian: A Better Way to Find, Look At, Analyze, and View Data About Cities, Counties, States, and Regions."
7. "Joseph Rose vs. the Portland Streetcar: Walking wins in showdown of city's poky commuting modes ."

Postscript: The comparisons of other cities such as Chicago and Pittsburgh to Detroit are sloppy. The spate of articles that have come out about Detroit's bankruptcy obfuscate more than they illuminate. Hold up your pet point of view and Detroit proves you have been right all along. Something is wrong in Detroit. Figuring out the reasons for the problems won't be easy. I know I'm not sure how Detroit got to the sorry place it is today. I'm also not sure what makes Pittsburgh tick. But I do have some theories. Then I read the following this morning:

But in recent years, Pittsburgh has been revitalized. According to a 2012 Brookings Institute report, Pittsburgh is one of only three American cities that have bounced back from the Great Recession.

The reasons for this turnaround are clear. Since the steel industry left in the 1980s, causing a mass exodus of people (680,000 lived in Pittsburgh in 1950 compared with 330,000 in 2000) city leaders have made a series of strategic decisions to attract new business.

They offered subsidies to health care and technology firms to come to the city. This bolstered the already-strong University of Pittsburgh hospital system. Tech companies like Google, attracted by high-skilled workers graduating from Carnegie Mellon, soon followed.

Emphasis added. The reasons for this turnaround are clear? That lame rhetorical flourish says all that needs to be said about The Fiscal Times.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Pittsburgh Booming

Stoking the fires of Pittsburgh mythos at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Divergence between Pittsburgh and the Rust Belt.

Subject Article: "In Climbing Income Ladder, Location Matters."

Other Links: 1. "A Tale of Two Rust-Belt Cities."
2. "Bankrupt is as bankrupt files."
3. "Semi-famous actress dumps on the 'Burgh."
4. "U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Pittsburgh Area Employment, Hours, and Earnings."
5. "Universities Are the Key Ingredient to 21st-Century Urban Success"
6. "Check of Portland’s vitals shows signs of life."
7. "Recovery And Outmigration."
8. "Growth and Great Lakes Cities."

Postscript: The demographic group for the study:

To analyze this question, we first compiled statistics from millions of anonymous earnings records to measure intergenerational mobility by area. The core sample of children used to calculate these local intergenerational mobility measures consists of children who were born in 1980 or 1981 and are U.S. citizens as of 2013. We used family measures of (pre-tax) income (summing across married spouses) both for parents and children (when adults). We measure children’s household income in 2010-2011, when they are approximately 30 years old. We measure their parents’ household income between 1996 and 2000.

As noted, Pittsburgh shows well in the results. The years of birth are pre-exodus Pittsburgh. Odds are pretty good that these kids made a long-distance move after the regional economy cratered. After all, upward mobility and geographic mobility are positively correlated.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Detroit Postmortem

Urban failure Detroit is a suburban success story at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Demographic mesofacts.

Subject Article: "Detroit Failed Because It Didn't Do What Cities Do."

Other Links: 1. "Bankrupt Detroit has chance to reboot."
2. "Detroit just filed for bankruptcy. Here’s how it got there."
3. "Don’t Pass on the Salt."
4. "Metropolitan Detroit’s Diverse Population: A Closer Look."
5. "Metro Detroit’s Foreign-Born Populations."
6. "The Magic of Cities."
7. "Inbreeding Homophily."

Postscript: Via Aaron Renn, Alec MacGillis at New Republic makes a similar observation about Detroit:

But there’s a good case to be made that the city’s troubles were rooted partly in the prosperity that the auto industry produced. There’s the oft-cited point that the success of the Big 3 left Detroit insufficiently diversified across other industries. Less mentioned, though, is what the city’s prosperity may have done for its demographics. When crime and racial tension began rising in big American cities in the 1960s, it was easier for white Detroiters to head for the suburbs because they had the good jobs to pay for new homes out there—not to mention that many of their jobs already were out there, at the auto plants ringing the city. In cities without this base of well-paying factory jobs, the white working class was less likely to leave in droves—Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh, among others, still have substantial populations of white working class residents.

I'm curious about the change in number of jobs in the City of Detroit through the years. Like in Cleveland, did more and more of the work migrate out to the suburbs along with the residents? The focus on population does a great disservice to Detroit's problem, causing more misunderstanding than illumination. There are fewer kids per household, a worldwide demographic trend. What will more immigrants do for Detroit? Many of them would prefer to live in the suburbs, where Detroit's "arrival city" is now located.

What the bankruptcy and dramatic demographic pattern have done is reveal, in plain sight, what is going on in every city. Poor urban neighborhoods are disconnected from regional prosperity. The migration to the burbs was so complete, so successful, that only poverty remained.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Fresno’s Detroit Problem

Turnaround for Rust Belt California is off the map at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Geographic stereotypes and migration.

Subject Article: "Commentary: Go Inland, Young Californians."

Other Links: 1. "The Trouble With Ann Arbor."
2. "Pittsburgh And Migration Mesofacts."
3. "The Cities with the Best and Worst Unemployment Rates."
4. "City Of Fresno Going Bankrupt?"
5. "Demographic Deception."
6. "Michael Bloomberg’s Zero-Sum Worldview."

Postscript: California's decline is oversold and sensational. The same goes for the rise of Texas. Bear or bull, perception matters and reinforces the trend line. California is on a downward slide. Texas is ascendant. Still, the demographics don't match the headlines:

“We think of Austin’s in-migration stream as coming to us exclusively from places like California when, in fact, most of it is indeed coming from other parts of the state,” City of Austin demographer Ryan Robinson told the Austin Post. “My sense has always been that Austin gets a lot of two-step migrants. First, they move from New York to Houston or California to Dallas; then realize that where they really want to be is in Austin.”

There's a lot churn within the Texas Triangle. Dallas seems to have the best national draw. Houston the best pull on foreign born talent. Concerning outmigration patterns, just this week I heard a shriek about brain drain from the University of Texas at Dallas. Texas is dying. As for Californication (exodus Golden State), that's be going on for decades. The California that was an aspirational geography is no more.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Hitler’s Baby Pictures

The familiar faces of evil at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Globalization and distance trust technologies.

Subject Article: "The Trayvon Martin Killing and the Myth of Black-on-Black Crime."

Other Links: 1. "Benefits of Bowling Alone."
2. "The Journalism of Ideas."
3. "The downside of diversity: A Harvard political scientist finds that diversity hurts civic life. What happens when a liberal scholar unearths an inconvenient truth?"
4. "Inbreeding Homophily."
5. "Clevelanders Ask How Abducted Women Were Held Without Notice."

Postscripts: Distance trust technologies concern the exceptions to the face-to-face rule. How can coercion travel across space? A big step in that direction was the standardization of measurements. A pound of flour yielded different amounts depending on the town. Inter-regional commerce was difficult. National and international standards helped to reduce the amount of social capital necessary to catalyze transactions between peoples who don't know each other. A much later innovation, the shipping container, operates under the same principle:

In 1961, before the container was in international use, ocean freight costs alone accounted for 12 percent of the value of U.S. exports and 10 percent of the value of U.S. imports. "These costs are more significant in many cases than governmental trade barriers," the staff of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress advised, noting that the average U.S. import tariff was 7 percent. And ocean freight, dear as it was, represented only a fraction of the total cost of moving goods from one country to another. A pharmaceutical company would have paid approximately $2,400 to ship a truck-load of medicines from the U.S. Midwest to an interior city in Europe in 1960. This might have included payments to a dozen different vendors: a local trucker in Chicago, the railroad that carried the truck trailer on a flatcar to New York or Baltimore, a local trucker in the port city, a port warehouse, a steamship company, a warehouse and a trucking company in Europe, an insurer, a European customs service, and the freight forwarder who put all the pieces of this complicated journey together. Half the total outlay went for port costs.

This process was so expensive that in many cases selling internationally was not worthwhile. "For some commodities, the freight may be as much as 25 per cent of the cost of the product," two engineers concluded after a careful study of data from 1959. Shipping steel pipe from New York to Brazil cost an average of $57 per ton in 1962, or 13 percent of the average cost of the pipe being exported--a figure that did not include the cost of getting the pipe from the steel mill to the dock. Shipping refrigerators from London to Capetown cost the equivalent of 68 U.S. cents per cubic foot, adding $20 to the wholesale price of a midsize unit. No wonder that, relative to the size of the economy, U.S. international trade was smaller in 1960 than it had been in 1950, or even in the Depression year of 1930. The cost of conducting trade had gotten so high that in many cases trading made no sense.

By far the biggest expense in this process was shifting the cargo from land transport to ship at the port of departure and moving it back to truck or train at the other end of the ocean voyage. As one expert explained, "a four thousand mile voyage for a shipment might consume 50 percent of its costs in covering just the two ten-mile movements through two ports." These were the costs that the container affected first, as the elimination of piece-by-piece freight handling brought lower expenses for longshore labor, insurance, pier rental, and the like. Containers were quickly adopted for land transportation, and the reduction in loading time and transshipment cost lowered rates for goods that moved entirely by land.

In effect, international trade was a black market. Port cities were places of intense social capital. Crime was rampant. State surveillance was impossible. The shipping container changed all that. Bowling alone isn't a crisis. It is why murder rates are plummeting in the biggest US cities.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Inbreeding Homophily

Arguing that too much social capital, not globalization, killed Rust Belt cities at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: The benefits of bowling alone.

Subject Article: "The Recession That Always Was: For some Millennials, the new economy looks a lot like the old one."

Other Links: 1. "Migrant Networks and the Spread of Misinformation."
2. "One Path to Better Jobs: More Density in Cities."
3. "Social Capital And Geographic Mobility."
4. "American Decline."
5. "Mobility Paradox."
6. "Middle Class Boom."
7. "Why the Garden Club Couldn’t Save Youngstown: Civic Infrastructure and Mobilization in Economic Crises."

Postscript: Reading books such as "Nothin' but Blue Skies" and "Caught in the Middle: America's Heartland in the Age of Globalism", you could be forgiven for thinking globalization caused the Rust Belt. That's conventional wisdom. However, I contend that globalization has avoided the Rust Belt. The absence of global connectivity doomed the region to economic isolation. People stopped coming to Pittsburgh, stifling knowledge transfer and amassing impenetrable amounts of social capital. Parochial attitudes are bunkers of defense against the intrusion of globalization. Splendid isolation meant you had to go elsewhere for economic development.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Mapping Knowledge

The exception is more important than the rule of knowledge distance decay at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Geography of knowledge transfer.

Subject Article: "Study details the quirky geography of knowledge-sharing: Research indicates how man-made boundaries limit patent citations."

Other Links: 1. "Geographic Constraints on Knowledge Spillovers: Political Borders vs. Spatial Proximity."
2. "It's a Flat World, After All."
3. "New light on the German pork butchers in Britain (1850 – 1950)."
4. "Migration, Transfer and Appropriation: German Pork Butchers in Britain."
5. "Prediction Markets at Google."

Postscript: Cities aren't knowledge production engines because of density. Migration drives the metro revolution. If new ideas didn't migrate into a city, then density won't make one lick of a difference. The big blind spot in the field of urbanism is the geography of knowledge transfer. The push for greater densities is a fetish based on a misunderstanding. The magic is migration.

Monday, July 08, 2013

U.S. Regional Immigration

Weighing in on immigration reform at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Immigration and demographic decline.

Subject Article: "The case for regional immigration."

Other Links: 1. "Strangers to the Constitution: Immigrants, Borders, and Fundamental Law."
2. "Laws Harsh As Tigers: Chinese Immigrants and the Shaping of Modern Immigration Law."
3. "Urban Nationalism."
4. "Foreign Born, Educational Attainment, and Entrepreneurship."
5. "How best to save a neighborhood? The case for rehabilitation: Jeffrey Johnson."
6. "Comment by immigration lawyer Richard Herman."
7. "The Shaker Heights Collection."
8. "Can Anyone Save Slavic Village?"

Postscript: I would tie regional immigration policy to J-1 visas, which is already administered sub-nationally. A successful completion of degree program results in a diploma and a green card. Target research universities in distressed cities, which will make those institutions more attractive to foreign born talent. The influx will directly benefit eds and meds. It will strengthen that node in the international networks of knowledge, as well as catalyzing innovation. The economic impact will far outweigh the population numbers game, which makes sense in today's demographic reality of dramatically decreasing birth rates just about everywhere.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Tech Talent Recruiting Geography

With the Innovation Economy in decline, the Talent Economy is rising at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Economic geography of talent production.

Subject Article: "Inside LA’s ongoing talent conundrum."

Other Links: 1. "The Brain Gain: The Rise of San Antonio’s Talent Economy."
2. "Inskeep Explores Growing Pains Of An 'Instant City'."
3. "The Great Migration, 1910 to 1970."
4. "Migration Economies and Portland."
5. "America’s great divergence."
6. "The World Is Spiky: Globalization has changed the economic playing field, but hasn’t leveled it."
7. "Michigan Cool Cities Success."
8. "Fleeing Los Angeles for Harrisburg."
9. "Silicon Valley’s New Jersey Problem."
10. "Innovation Economy Is Dying."
11. "Once BlackBerry Focused, a Campus Widens Its View."
12. "Google's growth in city puts Pittsburgh in top tier of regional sites."
13. "End of Creative Class Migration."
14. "Economic Geography Of Talent Production."

Postscript: A link that didn't make the cut that probably should have:

When it comes to recruiting and managing talent, [Steven Woods] is like the general manager of a baseball team, scouting and meeting with potential recruits and discussing possible roles they might play in the company. He speaks about a certain former intern who will be joining the company from the University of British Columbia as though he had just found a new all-star shortstop.

He's not just competing with RIM and Microsoft for talent, but also against other Google locations around the world, some in much warmer climates like Silicon Valley. Still, Google saw the value in setting up operations down the street from RIM.

"Google had this great insight, which of course sounds obvious -- but as Canadians we often know it's not obvious -- that people don't all want to move to California,'' Woods says.

Google, much like other technology giants before it, sees the University of Waterloo and the surrounding region as one of its top three recruitment centres for undergraduates, alongside the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

Emphasis added. For Google, the top three in no particular order are Kitchener-Waterloo, Boston, and Pittsburgh. It's an impressive talent production triangle that will be the epicenter of the emerging global economy.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Silicon Valley’s New Jersey Problem

Challenging Vivek Wadhwa at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Economic convergence of innovation.

Subject Article: "Silicon Valley Can’t Be Copied."

Other Links: 1. "Zero-Sum Creative Class."
2. "Keep Albany Weird."
3. "The Rise and Sprawl of San Diego’s Tech Hotspots."

Postscript: The article about San Diego's tech scene is a worthwhile read. Most places are chasing only the Millennial generation. The approach in San Diego is more holistic and, therefore, more challenging to the hegemony of Silicon Valley. As for why Silicon Valley and not Boston or New Jersey, I blame social capital. Too much, not too little, social capital undermined the expansion of the Innovation Economy in New Jersey. I think the same affliction now grips Silicon Valley. A good example is the geography of venture capital. The golden apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Venture capital is restricted by the distance decay of trust, a.k.a. the "twenty minute" rule. The resulting parochial culture took a bizarre turn with Sean Parker's wedding among old growth Redwoods. The cry for immigration reform rings hollow.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Fleeing Los Angeles for Harrisburg

A closer look at the Big City exodus at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Economic convergence and changing talent migration patterns in the United States.

Subject Article: "Bright Kids, Small City."

Other Links: 1. "Talent Geopolitics: Ironic Migration."
2. "Europe’s Economic Crisis Prompting Huge South-To-North Migration Within EU"
3. "Artists vs. Blight."
5. "Girls Watch: A Spartan Existence"

Postscript: I struggled with this post. It kept morphing into incoherence. I understand why people leave Los Angeles or New York. New is why talent wouldn't bother to move there in the first place. The half-baked idea hit me towards the end. The allure of Big City is mythological. The reality is a shock. Making a go of it is extremely difficult. The raw experience is filtering back to the talent feeder communities, impeding outmigration. That said, I could see leaving Harrisburg for Philly or Pittsburgh instead of pricey New York. I think that's where we are headed.