Rust Belt Chic And The Keys To Reviving The Great Lakes


Over four decades, the Great Lakes states have been the sad sack of American geography. This perception has been reinforced by Detroit’s bankruptcy filing and the descent of Chicago, the region’s poster child for gentrification, toward insolvency.  read more »

Root Causes of Detroit’s Decline Should Not Go Ignored


Recently Detroit, under orders from a state-appointed emergency manager, became the largest U.S. city to go bankrupt. This stirred predictable media speculation about why the city, which at 1.8 million was once America’s 5th-largest, declined in the first place. Much of the coverage simply listed Detroit’s longtime problems rather than explaining their causes.  read more »

What Detroit Has Really Taught America


Nothing. Seriously. Not a damn thing.

Oh, the occasion is being used to opine on our state of affairs, but nothing is structurally taking shape in America to prevent the next Detroit from occurring. In fact, Detroit is occurring every day inside most of us. We are all getting bankrupt in so many little ways.  read more »

Humiliating Detroit

Detroit Sign.jpg

As I’ve noted before, Detroit is all too frequently just a blank screen onto which people project their own personal bogeymen. So liberals see in Detroit racism gone wild, America’s comeuppance for its love affair with the automobile, and corporate greed. Conservatives see the ultimate end result of unions and where liberalism will take the US as a whole if it isn’t stopped.

There’s a bit of truth in all of these.  read more »


Detroit, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?


Thou wouldst fain destroy the temple! If thou be Jesus, Son of the Father, now from the Cross descend thou, that we behold it and believe on thee when we behold it. If thou art King over Israel, save thyself then!

God, My Father, why has thou forsaken me? All those who were my friends, all have now forsaken me. And he that hate me do now prevail against me, and he whom I cherished, he hath betrayed me.

Lyric excerpts from the Fifth and Fourth and Words, respectively, of the Seven Last Words of Christ orchestral work by Joseph Haydn.

I’m pissed.  read more »

What Detroit’s Bankruptcy Teaches America


As has long been expected, the city of Detroit has officially filed for bankruptcy.  While many will point to the sui generis nature of the city as a one-industry town with extreme racial polarization and other unique problems, Detroit’s bankruptcy in fact offers several lessons for other states and municipalities across America.  read more »

Observations on Urbanization: 1920-2010


Ninety years have made a world of difference in the United States. Between 1920 and 2010, the nation's population nearly tripled. But that was not the most important development. Two other trends played a huge role in shaping the United States we know today. The first trend was increasing urbanization, a virtually universal trend, but one which occurred earlier in the high income countries, while the other was a rapidly falling average household size. 

National Trends  read more »

Visions of the Rust Belt Future (Part 1)


“Men often applaud an imitation and hiss the real thing”--Aesop

There are interesting developments being played out in the Rust Belt. Some cities, like Detroit, seem to be embarking whole hog down the creative class path. Others, like Pittsburgh, have their own thing going on, a thing Economic Geographer Jim Russell has delineated as the “Rust Belt Chic” model of economic development, with no modest amount of success. How a given Rust Belt city reinvests will have a large say in its future.  read more »

Genealogy Of Rust Belt Chic


Some people don't like the term "Rust Belt". Others absolutely hate the word "chic". Please don't call the shifting mesofacts of dying Great Lakes cities "Rust Belt Chic". Given the reaction, a lot of it negative, I decided to blog about how I came up with Rust Belt Chic. Way back in 2006, Shittsburgh was associated with a kind of urban chic. The South Side Slopes celebrated in the New York Times:  read more »

Why Inmigration Really Matters, Particularly to the Rust Belt


Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s recent comment about immigration has drawn some local ire. At his annual remarks on the state of the city, the Mayor—in response to a question of how Cleveland can end its population decline by attracting immigrants—stated: “I believe in taking care of your own”.

To be fair, the Mayor contextualized the statement by inferring that the best attraction strategy is to build a city that works for those who reside in it. In some respects I agree. In fact America attracts immigrants not because of “attraction strategies”, but because it offers the prospects of a better quality of life. So, if a city can nail that down, well, that is a hell of a pull.  read more »