People Rather than Places, Ends Rather than Means: LSE Economists on Urban Containment

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“People rather than places” should be the focus of urban policy, according to Urban Economics and Urban Policy: Challenging Conventional Policy Wisdom. (paperback, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2015 $39.95). The book is among the most effective critiques of contemporary urban planning thought,  characterized by such approaches as urban containment, compact city, and densification. The authors are Paul C. Cheshire, Max and Nathan and Henry G. Overman, all economists at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Cheshire has a long list of publications analyzing urban planning policy. The authors characterize the central thesis of urban planning’s misdirected priorities stating that:

"… that the ultimate objective of urban policy is to improve outcomes for people rather than places; for individuals and families rather than buildings."

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The New Masters of the Universe

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Every age produces its own brand of oligarchs – feudal lords, banking gnomes, captains of industry. Our age has its own incipient ruling class, the tech oligarchs.  read more »

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The Cities Doing The Most To Address The U.S. Housing Shortage

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America is suffering from the severest undersupply of housing since the end of the Second World War. Although population growth has slowed significantly since the 1950s and 1960s, production has slowed down even more so. It’s not surprising that homebuilding declined after the housing bubble burst in 2008, but from 2011 to 2015 it continued to fall, dropping almost a quarter.  read more »

The Fall of Rahm Emanuel

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Rahm Emanuel, a man of obvious talent, drive, and leadership capacity, should have been an ideal person to run a big city like Chicago. Unfortunately, because of his stubborn unwillingness to admit and compensate for his flaws, that was not to be.  After barely limping across the finish line in his re-election bid and tamping down the fallout from Moody’s downgrading the city’s debt to junk status, Emanuel has now been rocked by a truly huge scandal.  read more »

Our Anemic Suburbs: Every Urban Area Needs its Outskirts — and New York City’s Are in Trouble

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New York City has prospered since the great recession of 2008, buoyed by an endless supply of free money from Washington that's elevated the stock and real estate markets. But the broader metro region has struggled, in an ominous sign of tougher times to come.

Little acknowledged in the discussion of New York's "tale of two cities" is something beyond the control of Mayor de Blasio: the fading of the city's once-thriving suburbs, even as the city grows more populous and more expensive.  read more »

Florida's Interstate-Adjacent Fantasy

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As 2015 wanes, many swimming in Florida’s new wave of growth are still being carried by a swift current. Everywhere one gazes, new apartments can be seen that accommodate some of the million-plus new residents who have moved here in the last five years. With over 140,000 people migrating to Florida from other states during 2014, and over 100,000 people moving to Florida from other countries, Florida’s GDP is predicted to have grown 3.2% in 2015, the highest in the country and well ahead of the national average. The tide has definitely come in.

For natives and long-term residents, it feels like everyone up north woke up one Tuesday morning and said, “Hey honey, let’s quit our jobs, move to Florida, and get an apartment overlooking the interstate.” From Tampa to Daytona, mid-rise wood frame structures loom over semi-trucks and cars that whizz by, a new voyeur culture in the making.  read more »

Can GOP Fatten Up Around the Middle?

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At a recent breakfast in Washington, D.C., a rising young Republican senator explained the divisions in his party in a particularly succinct manner: a conflict between the donor base and the GOP rank-in-file.

“The donor class,” this senator told me, “really cares about one thing: lower taxes. Most in the party don’t see this as the most crucial issue.”  read more »

Black Friday: Scenes From A Mall

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It’s Black Friday and I thought I’d do something out of character for me, but entirely in keeping with the season. I went to a shopping mall. For those of you not used to the customs of the United States, the day after Thanksgiving is the official start of the Christmas present purchasing period. Most people have off from work, kids don’t have school, so everyone hits the malls.  read more »

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2010-2012: More Modest Dispersion Within Metropolitan Areas

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American cities seemed to be re-centralizing in the years immediately following the Great Recession, but new American Community Survey data indicates that, contrary to conventional wisdom, Americans continue to disperse though at a much reduced rate. The Census Bureau has just released the five year American Community Survey (2010-2014) small area data used by the City Sector Model to report on population trends within functional sectors of metropolitan areas.  read more »

Losing the Narrative of Their Lives

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study released a few weeks ago, conducted by Anne Case and Angus Deaton, documented a significant increase in the death rate among the white working class in the US, much of it due to suicide and substance abuse. In one interview about the report, Deaton suggests that the reason for the increase is the increasing economic insecurity this group faces. As he told Vox’s Julia Bellus, they have “lost the narratives of their lives.” Not surprisingly, op-eds flew right and left about this report, from Rod Dreher in The American Conservative and R.R. Reno in First Things to Paul Krugman in the New York Times and Harold Meyerson in the Washington Post. This study is the latest contribution to an expanding public discussion about changes in white working-class culture, which Jack Metzgar has traced in a series of posts here about books by Andrew CherlinRobert Putnam, and others.  read more »