Urban Issues

Back to Vlasic


Earlier this year a trend called “normcore” got a lot of press. Normcore is a fashion idea based on wearing boring, undistinguished clothing such as that from the Gap. Jerry Seinfeld is a normcore fashion icon.

While normcore was at least in part a joke, I think it illustrates why trend chasing by uncool cities will never make them cool. So you live in some place which isn’t on everyone’s list of the coolest cities. You read all about what’s happening in places like Brooklyn with micro-roasters, micro-breweries, cupcake shops, and artisanal pickles, and you’re like wow, my city has all that now, too. We’ve arrived.  read more »


Measuring Current Metropolitan Area Growth from 1900


Growth in the current land areas of the 52 major metropolitan areas (over 1 million) provides an effective overview of changes in how the population has been redistributed United States since 1900. These metropolitan areas are composed of nearly 440 counties, as defined by the Office of Management and Budget for 2013. There have been such substantial changes in metropolitan area concepts and definitions that reliable comparisons extending beyond a decade from Census Bureau are impossible. (See Caution: Note 1).  read more »

California's Southern Discomfort


We know this was a harsh recession, followed by, at best, a tepid recovery for the vast majority of Americans. But some people and some regions have surged somewhat ahead, while others have stagnated or worse.  read more »

The New Bohemia: Not Where You Expect


There’s an established image in the collective imagination of the kinds of places artsy types tend to live: the painter in a Paris garret, the actor in a Brooklyn brownstone, the musician in a San Francisco Victorian, or the playwright in a fisherman’s shack on Cape Cod. It’s all very romantic. We currently associate these places with vacation destinations and cutting edge high culture so of course that’s where the avant garde would naturally congregate. But people forget that in their day these were the cheapest least desirable locations available.  read more »

City and Suburb 2010-2013


Three years is a short time, but perhaps enough to give a sense of what is happening to US metropolitan areas. For both reasons of less uncertainty (and less work for me), I look at just the 107 US metro areas with 500,000 or more people in 2013. These regions house 213 million, two-thirds of the population. I look at the populations of core cities and their suburbs, comparing amounts and rates of change, with further comparison by population size and by region.  read more »

Los Angeles: Rail for Others


A few years ago, the satirical publication, The Onion ran an article under the headline "98 Percent of US Commuters Favor Public Transit for Others." The spoof cited a mythical press release by the American Public Transit Association (APTA), in which Lance Holland of Anaheim, California said "Expanding mass transit isn't just a good idea, it's a necessity," Holland said. "My drive to work is unbelievable.  read more »

Aging America: The U.S. Cities Going Gray The Fastest


For years we have been warned about the looming, profound impacts that the aging of the U.S. population will have on the country. Well, the gray wave has arrived. Since 2000, the senior population has increased 29% compared to overall population growth of 12%. The percentage of Americans in the senior set has risen from 12.4% to 14.1%, and their share of the population is projected to climb to 19.3% by 2030. There are two principal causes for this: the baby boom generation is reaching 65 years old, while the U.S.  read more »

Brain Drain Hysteria Breeds Bad Policy

Shia LaBeouf Paper Bag Cleveland Browns Fans.jpg

Desperate times call for desperate measures. The Rust Belt, a region familiar to the air of anxiety, knows this all too well, particularly the “desperate measures” part.

A case in point: During the 1990’s, Pittsburgh, like many of its Rust Belt peers, was in the midst of a fit of brain drain hysteria. Strategic policy was needed. So the powers that be thought of a marketing campaign meant to saturate the minds of the educated “young and the restless” who were thinking about exiting the Steel City.  read more »

New Zealand Seeks to Avoid "Generation Rent"


The political leadership and others in New Zealand are talking about the consequences of its land use policies. Under the "urban containment" land use policy (also called by terms like "smart growth," "growth management," and "livability") in effect in every urban area, house prices have doubled relative to incomes over the last 25 years.  read more »


RIP, NYC's Middle Class: Why Families are Being Pushed Away From the City


Mayor de Blasio has his work cut out for him if he really wants to end New York’s “tale of two cities.” Gotham has become the American capital of a national and even international trend toward greater income inequality and declining social mobility.

There are things the new mayor can do to help, but the early signs aren’t promising that he will be able to reverse 30 years of the hollowing out of the city’s once vibrant middle class.  read more »