NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 20, 2005

Cities are buying into the notion that building urban lofts, art centers and arenas is the key to attracting successful newcomers. But becoming "hip" does not solve the real problems cities face, says historian Joel Kotkin (New America Foundation).

Furthermore, the media has overestimated the rebirth of urban centers, claiming that they are gaining population, are home to successful people, and are attracting the best jobs. The reality is quite the opposite, says Kotkin. Many major cities are losing residents.

  • In the 1990s, about five people moved out of a city for every three people that moved in.
  • Highly educated people may move to the city in their 20s, but they tend to return to their hometowns or suburbs in their 30s; in fact, 16 of the top 20 counties with the highest percentage of college-educated people are suburbs.
  • Cities are not necessarily where the great jobs are; since 2000, most of the growth in the business and financial services sectors has been in the suburbs, where firms are attracted to open space, less crime and more educated workers.

In fact, since 2000, many firms are leaving areas such as Boston and San Francisco in favor of more conservative areas such as Boise, Phoenix and Salt Lake City. Furthermore, more suburban areas are providing performing arts centers, coffeehouses and the like for the "hip" crowd so they have less need to live in city.

If cities want an economic edge, says Kotkin, they must gain the political will to focus on real urban problems: lost jobs, poor schools and crumbling infrastructure.

Source: Joel Kotkin, "The Urban Puzzle," Dallas Morning News, June 12, 2005.


Browse more articles on Environment Issues