Urban Issues

Concentrated Wealth or Democracy, but Not Both

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In many uncomfortable ways, American politics now resemble those that arose late in the Roman Republic. As wealth and land ownership concentrated in few hands, a state built on the discipline of soldiers who tended their own farms became ever more dominated by fractious oligarchs. As property consolidated into huge slave-owning estates, more citizens became landless and ever more dependent on the patronage of the rich generals and landowners who increasingly seized control of politics.  read more »

Replicating Bourbon Street

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Editor’s note: following is an excerpt from Tulane University geographer Richard Campanella’s new book, “Bourbon Street: A History” (LSU Press, 2014), which traces New Orleans’ most famous and infamous space from its obscure colonial origins to its widespread reknown today. This chapter, titled “Replicating Bourbon Street: Spatial and Linguistic Diffusion” and drawn from a section called “Bourbon Street as a Social Artifact,” recounts how this brand has spread worldwide and become part of the language—to both the benefit and chagrin of New Orleans.  read more »

America's New Brainpower Cities

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Brainpower rankings usually identify the usual suspects: college towns like Boston, Washington, D.C.,  and the San Francisco Bay area. And to be sure, these places generally have the highest per capita education levels. However, it’s worthwhile to look at the metro areas that are gaining college graduates most rapidly; this is an indicator of momentum that is likely to carry over into the future.  read more »

Leadership and the Challenge of Making a City Visible

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Cities of varying sizes struggle with two related, but seemingly opposing, global and local forces. At one level, every city would like to benefit from the global flow of capital and the emerging landscapes of prosperity seen in “other” places. At another level, to be a recipient of such attention, a city has to offer something more than cheaper real estate and tax benefits.  read more »

Special Report: 2013 Metropolitan Area Population Estimates

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The 2013 annual metropolitan area population estimates by the US Census Bureau indicate a continuing and persistent dominance of population growth and domestic migration by the South. Between 2010 and 2013, 51 percent of the population increase in the 52 major metropolitan areas (over 1 million population) was in the South. The West accounted for 30 percent of the increase, followed by the Northeast at 11 percent and eight percent in the North Central (Midwest).

Components of Population Change: Major Metropolitan Areas  read more »

Sunday Night Dinner in Indianapolis

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Urban culture varies radically from city to city. Yet to a great extent the culture of the usual suspects type of places tends to get portrayed as normative. In New York, for example, with its tiny apartments, the social life is often in public, in many cases literally on the streets of the city, which pulse with energy. As the ne plus ultra of cities, the street life of New York is often seen as what every place should aspire to.  read more »

New Central Business District Employment and Transit Commuting Data

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Photographs of downtown skylines are often the "signature" of major metropolitan areas, as my former Amtrak Reform Council colleague and then Mayor of Milwaukee (later President and CEO of the Congress of New Urbanism) John Norquist has rightly said. The cluster of high rise office towers in the central business district (CBD) is often so spectacular – certainly compared with an edge city development or suburban strip center – as to give the impression of virtual dominance. I have often asked audiences to guess how much of a metropolitan area's employment is in the CBD. Answers of 50 percent to 80 percent are not unusual.  read more »

Era of the Migrant Moguls

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Southern California, once the center of one of the world's most vibrant business communities, has seen its economic leadership become largely rudderless. Business interests have been losing power for decades, as organized labor, ethnic politicians, green activists, intrusive planners, crony developers and local NIMBYs have slowly supplanted the leaders of major corporations and industries, whose postures have become, at best, defensive.  read more »

Where Inequality Is Worst In The United States

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Perhaps no issue looms over American politics more than worsening  inequality and the stunting of the road to upward mobility. However, inequality varies widely across America.  read more »

The Great Skills Gap Myth

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One of the great memes out there in trying to diagnose persistently high unemployment and anemic job growth during what is still, I argue, the Great Recession is the so-called “skills gap”. The idea here is that the fact that there are millions of unfilled job openings at the same time millions of people can’t find work can be chalked up to a lack of a skills match between unemployed workers an open positions.  read more »