Regional Exchange Rates: The Cost of Living in US Metropolitan Areas

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International travelers and expatriates have long known that currency exchange rates are not reliable indicators of purchasing power. For example, a traveler to France or Germany will notice that the dollar equivalent in Euros cannot buy as much as at home. Conversely, the traveler to China will note that the dollar equivalent in Yuan will buy more.  read more »

Why Most Americans are Both Liberal and Conservative

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American politics is consumed by a bitter, at times violent, debate about the overall role of government and specific governmental programs.

Pundits often frame this divide in terms of geography (red states versus blue states), ethnicity (Hispanics and blacks versus whites), class (rich versus poor), or age and gender. Those factors matter, but seeing polarization only in terms of group versus group misses an important paradox about Americans: Most of us have both deep conservative instincts and liberal instincts.  read more »

Pimp My Stripmall, Please!

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If anything characterizes the face of Florida’s landscape, it is the proliferation of shopping malls of all types. Generation by generation, as population swelled, country roads widened into highways and each intersection seemed to blossom into four parking lots framed by strip centers decorated with small, freestanding stores and restaurants. These malls represented the prosperity of the American middle class. Now that consumerism has slowed and been rechanneled online, new malls aren't being built and the existing ones are looking a bit dog-eared, with shuttered stores, empty parking lots, and aging facades. Repurposing the American mall is a huge opportunity waiting for the right moment, and represents an opportunity to heal much of Florida’s economic stagnation.  read more »

Shrinking City, Flourishing Region: St. Louis Region

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Throughout the high income world, in this age of cities, many urban centers continue to shrink. This is particularly true in municipalities that have been unable either to expand their boundaries or to combine with another jurisdiction, subsequently running out of new developable land.  read more »

Chicago: The Cost of Clout

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The Chicago Tribune has been running a series on the challenges facing the next mayor. One entry was about the Chicago economy. It described the sad reality of how Chicago’s economy is in the tank, and has been underperforming the nation for the last few years. I’ll highlight the part about challenges building an innovation and tech economy in Chicago:  read more »

Forged in Pittsburgh: The Football Industry & The Steelers

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When will the Labor Department come up with a statistic (GEP or Gross Entertainment Product) to measure to extent to which the economy is dependent on fun? The Pittsburgh Steelers are, at the very least, the emotional heart of Pittsburgh. In season on Sundays, the faithful wear their jerseys to church, and the city takes a reverential pause during the games, as it did during last Sunday’s AFC championship competition. Football wins in Pittsburgh are best understood as divine rapture, delivered by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, despite his pre-season time in purgatory.  read more »

Why Affordable Housing Matters

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Economists, planners and the media often focus on the extremes of real estate — the high-end properties or the foreclosed deserts, particularly in the suburban fringe. Yet to a large extent, they ignore what is arguably the most critical issue: affordability.  read more »

Personal Income in the 2000s: Top and Bottom Ten Metropolitan Areas

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The first decade of the new millennium was particularly hard on the US economy. First, there was the recession that followed the attacks of 9/11. That was followed by the housing bust and the resulting Great Financial Crisis, which was the most severe economic decline since the Great Depression.  read more »

Middle America: Problems and Prospects

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Undoubtedly, America is a middle class nation. But are there problems in the middle? It would certainly seem so: reduced employment, income and wealth (more worryingly, reduced employment, income- and wealth-building opportunities); reduced prospects for generational advancement (kids are supposed to do better than their parents, right?); general feelings of stagnation, “on the wrong track,” pessimism, frustration and anger.

Are these cyclical or structural changes? What are the causes, and what are the cures?  read more »

Irvine, by Design

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Different is not necessarily better or worse. I took notice of this upon moving from the Echo Park district of Los Angeles to Irvine. Some acquaintances and casual observers viewed it as a shift from ground zero of hipster chic to the center of conformity. Neither comes close to capturing the truth about either place.

Irvine is very different from Echo Park—not necessarily better or worse. That’s my point of view as a resident who appreciates aspects of both places.  read more »