Friday, December 26, 2014

The Mythology of Uniqueness

Don't blame individual Rust Belt cities for their economic decline.

Theme: Geographic stereotypes.

Even in 1961, the divergence between the paths of New York and Pittsburgh was clear. Between 1940 and 1960, New York City’s population grew by 4.3 percent. The New York metropolitan area expanded far more robustly. Pittsburgh’s population had shrunk by 11 percent over the same two decades. Mr. Chinitz’s article tried to make sense of the Steel City’s slowdown, even before the full extent of the city’s decline was made manifest.
Mr. Chinitz emphasized the importance of industrial diversity and competition. He noted that “Pittsburgh is much more specialized” than any large metropolitan area except Detroit. Moreover, Pittsburgh’s dominant industry, primary metals, was dominated by a small number of large companies. By contrast, New York was a diverse place whose dominant sector, the garment industry, had long been marked by small, independent operators. As Mr. Chinitz wrote, “The average establishment in the apparel industry, for example, has one-sixth as many employees as the average establishment in primary metals.”

I'm taking an academic approach to this passage. Glaeser, via Benjamin Chinitz, is making a case for regional agency in economic development. If Pittsburgh listened to Chinitz (or Glaeser), then its economy wouldn't suck. Such a perspective denies the influence of structural forces, which would seem to have the upper hand given the ubiquity of Rust Belt malaise. In the social sciences, structure vs. agency is an old debate. I'm a structuralist, contending that global forces matter more than local policies. Glaeser is a fan of agency. The right set of policies would beget a strong Pittsburgh economy, and thus a growing population.

Which is more to blame for dying Rust Belt cities, structure or agency?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Where Innovation Thrives

There is no geography of innovation at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Innovation geography.

Subject Article: "What Still Makes Silicon Valley So Special."

Other Links: 1. "The Urban Tech Revolution."
2. "The Question is Moot."
3. "How Competition Saved New York."
4. "Searching for Silicon Valley in the Rust Belt: The Evolution of Knowledge Networks in Akron and Rochester."
5. "Cultural diversity and entrepreneurship: Evidence from England and Wales."
6. "Diversity Cult."

Postscript: Dense cities are not innately more innovative geographies. New ideas don't necessarily love old buildings. A lot of folklore out there dressed up as academic analysis resulting in lazy and lousy economic development policy.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Why Attracting Young, College-Educated Migrants Hurts Sun Belt Cities

At Pacific Standard magazine, how attracting and retaining college-educated young adults exacerbates economic inequality.

Theme: Economic development and migration.

Subject Article: "Jobs for young Southerners: Thanks for nothing."

Other Links: 1. "Burgh Diaspora."
2. "Migration as a Measure of Economic Health."
3. "We Got More Educated, We Are Better Off... Right? An Analysis of Regional Conversion of Bachelors Degree Attainment into Positive Labor Market Outcomes."
4. "Why It's So Hard for Millennials to Find a Place to Live and Work."
5. "Voting with Your Feet: Aaron Renn's New Donut."

Postscript: Over the past few months, I've been researching Pittsburgh's economic turnaround. What caused it? One important lesson is the difference between consuming human capital and putting human capital to work. Attracting college-educated migrants in and of itself seems to have a negative impact on a region. Jobs don't follow people. But where people follow jobs that require higher education, positive labor market incomes tend to appear. The zero-sum game of amassing the most educated workforce doesn't promote economic development. What does is research and development activities at universities and colleges.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Migration as a Measure of Economic Health

Asheville, North Carolina cursed with attracting young, college-educated migrants at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Economic development and migration.

Subject Article: "Striking out with college grads."

Other Links: 1. "Dallas Losing at the Competition of Cities."
2. "Estimating the social return to higher education:evidence from longitudinal and repeated cross-sectional data."
3. "The Effect of College Location on Migration of College-Educated Labor."
4. "Do Colleges and Universities Increase Their Region's Human Capital?"
5. "We Got More Educated, We Are Better Off...Right?"
6. "An Exploration of Factors Influencing the Conversion of Bachelor’s Degree Attainment into a Better Labor Market."

Postscript: Why this analysis matters:

In 2008, Louisville set out to boost its college-educated workforce — setting the goal for half its working-age adults to hold associate or bachelor's degrees by 2020. ...

... "Louisville is not gaining enough ground toward the bachelor's degree goal," according to the latest progress report, which comes amid rising tuition costs, an improving economy and population growth that pushes the total degrees needed to 59,000.

Although high-school graduation and college-readiness rates are improving, enrollments at local colleges and universities have fallen by 11 percent since 2010, the report found, particularly among adults and African Americans.

Louisville wants to raise the college educational attainment rate of its workforce. The region is going about the task in the wrong way. First, increasing the number of local college graduates does not appear to be an effective way to give the rate a boost. Second, even if the effort was successful, Louisville probably wouldn't see positive labor market outcomes.