A Leaky Economy


Real gross domestic product is growing at an anemic pace. Exports are down, and state and local governments are spending less. The consumer price index is falling in a condition known as deflation. Even national defense spending is down. Despite the bad news, consumer spending and home building are rising. Real disposable personal income is roaring ahead at growth rates of 6.2 percent in the first quarter of 2015 and 3.6 percent at the end of 2014.  read more »


Better Suburbs = Better Cities: Employment and the Importance of the Suburban Economy


Australia’s inner city areas and CBDs are a focus of media and public policy attention, with good reason. But it’s also true that the real engines of employment are outside the inner city areas and that the dominant role of our suburban economy as an economic engine is grossly understated, even ignored. This is not good public policy. It’s not even common sense. 

I have a view that the focus on urban renewal and inner urban economic development has become a policy obsession of late.  read more »

Flexible Economic Opportunism: Beyond Diversification in Urban Revival

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Discouraging employment data have recently dampened optimism about America’s economic recovery. These challenges are nothing new for developed regions long beset by manufacturing decline amidst globalization. Exemplars of this trend, America’s rust belt cities have battled unemployment, decaying infrastructure, and social challenges since economic decline emerged in the 1960s. In response, some now cultivate service, knowledge, and tourism industries.  read more »

Working at Home: In Most Places, the Big Alternative to Cars


Working at home, much of it telecommuting, has replaced transit as the principal commuting alternative to the automobile in the United States outside New York. In the balance of the nation, there are more than 1.25 commuters who work at home for each commuter using transit to travel to work, according to data in the American Community Survey for 2013 (one year). When the other six largest transit metropolitan areas are included (Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, Boston and San Francisco), twice as many people commute by working at home than by transit.  read more »

The Uncelebrated Places Where America's Farm Economy Is Thriving


We consume their products every day but economists give them little attention, and perhaps not enough respect. Yet America’s agriculture sector is not only the country’s oldest economic pillar but still a vital one, accounting for some 3.75 million jobs — not only in the fields, but in factories, laboratories and distribution. That compares to about 4.3 million jobs in the tech sector (which we analyzed last month here).  read more »

21st Century California Careers


California is undergoing profound change.  Most strikingly, people are leaving the Golden State, which was once the preferred destination of migrants worldwide.  California’s domestic migration has been net negative for over 20 years.  That is, for 20 years, more people have been leaving California for other states than have been arriving from other states.  The state’s population is only growing because of a relatively high birthrate, mostly among immigrants.  read more »

Dispersion and Concentration in Metropolitan Employment


The just released County Business Patterns indicates a general trend of continued employment dispersion to the newer suburbs (principally the outer suburbs) and exurbs but also greater concentration in the central business districts of the 52 major metropolitan areas in the United States (over 1 million population in 2013). County Business Patterns is a Census Bureau program that provides largely private-sector employment data by geography throughout the nation.  read more »

A Fix for California Water Policy


Critics of California’s current water policy advocate more infrastructure spending on things like dams, canals, and desalination plants.  Many would also curtail water releases for the benefit of fish and other wildlife.

Certainly, infrastructure spending would be better than wasting money on the governor’s high-speed-train fantasy.  However, California cannot spend enough money on water infrastructure to prevent water shortages.  And, solving California’s water shortage does not require an end to “dumping water” to save fish.  read more »

America’s Cities Mirror Baltimore’s Woes


The rioting that swept Baltimore the past few days, sadly, was no exception, but part of a bigger trend in some of our core cities towards social and economic collapse. Rather than enjoying the much ballyhooed urban “renaissance,” many of these cities are actually in terrible shape, with miserable schools, struggling economies and a large segmented of alienated, mostly minority youths.  read more »

Building a New California

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The Golden State has historically led the United States and the world in technology, quality of life, social innovation, entertainment, and public policy. But in recent decades its lead has ebbed. The reasons for this are various. But there is one area of decay whose story is a parable for California’s other plights—that area is infrastructure.  read more »