New Geography Top Stories of 2009


As we bring to a close our first full calendar year at, we thought readers may be interested in which articles out of more than 350 published enjoyed the widest readership. It’s been a solid year of growth for the site; visits to the site over the past six months have more than tripled over last year and subscribers have increased by a factor of six. The list of popular articles is based both on.readership online and via RSS.

15. Joel Kotkin’s piece, Numbers Don't Support Migration Exodus to "Cool Cities", makes the case that places considered “cool” by many in media and economic development circles are actually losing net migrants to other U.S. regions. In almost every case, he argues, your local resources are better spent focused on skills upgrades for your local residents or hard and soft infrastructure upgrades for industries already successful in your region. This article originally appeared on

14. The British Labour Party is no example for American Progressives. Legatum Institute Senior Fellow Ryan Streeter’s piece just in time for the 4th of July, View from the UK: The Progressive’s Dilemma, dissects Britain’s high social spending, increasing debt load. Streeter contends that the UK is danger of mortgaging its future.

13. Breaking down Obama’s first year and looking forward. In two equally popular pieces from this fall, Joel Kotkin outlines a five point plan to improve Obama’s presidency (Obama Still Can Save His Presidency which originally appeared in In the second piece he takes encouragement from signs that the President may be retuning his policy back towards America – “a big, amazingly diverse country with an expanding population” – and away from the “Scandinavian Consensus” model (Is Obama Separating from His Scandinavian Muse?) . This article originally appeared on

12. State of the economy June 2009. Susanne Trimbath says it may be a while before the average citizen will actually see tangible improvements in the economy. As is often the case, Susanne’s predictions have turned out so far to be all too accurate.

11. Questioning the stimulus plan. In February’sStimulus Plan Caters to the Privileged Public Sector, Joel Kotkin calls the stimulus plan “a massive bailout and expansion of the public-sector workforce as well as quasi-government workers in fields like health and education” yet “as little as 5% of the money is going toward making the country more productive in the longer run – toward such things as new roads, bridges, improved rail and significant new electrical generation.” This article originally appeared in

10. Is California’s economic malaise leaking into Oregon? After years of strong migration flows of former Californians heading to Oregon, Joel Kotkin and California Lutheran University economist Bill Watkins point out that the state’s oppressive tax policies and red tape may be leaking into Oregon as well in California Disease: Oregon at Risk of Economic Malady. The article originally appeared in The Portland Oregonian.

9. Tracking housing decline. Wendell Cox broke down the comparative national housing market in two widely read pieces. In the first he points out that the downturn can be broken into two phases, one mirroring the explosive growth in many overvalued markets, and another second phase were markets are declining across the board: Housing Downturn Moves Into Phase II. In the second, Wendell uses his median multiple calculation for the 49 largest metropolitan regions to show that prices in many place still have much farther to fall to reach historic norms: Housing Downturn Update: We May Have Reached Bottom, But Not Everywhere.

8. Public debt is looming. Susanne Trimbath lists public debt levels of the most highly leveraged sovereign nations and explains why this debt and the credit default swaps purchased against it could create a looming public catastrophe: The Next Global Financial Crisis: Public Debt.

7. Washington, DC is flourishing in the recession. NYU Professor and urban commentator Mitchell Moss explains how Washington is the one city benefiting from the government stimulus. He argues this is stimulating the DC economy, from increased lobbyist activity to web designers benefiting from the government’s new interest in digital communications: Washington, DC: The Real Winner in this Recession.

6. Californa’s Decline. Three equally widely read pieces track the drastic shift in California from economic vibrancy to stagnancy: Kotkin’s “Death of the California Dream which ran first in Newsweek and The Decline of Los Angeles from February on The third piece by economist Bill Watkins examines California’s domestic migration net losses using an old coal mining metaphor: In California, the Canary is Dead.

5. Housing Affordability Rankings. The most read housing piece this year was Wendell Cox’s release of his annual housing affordability rankings based on median multiple calculations (ratio of median housing price to median household income in a given market). “Housing Prices Will Continue to Fall, Especially in California” lists median multiple calculations for each metropolitan region in the U.S. of more than 1,000,000 population.

4. Detroit as a model for urban renewal. In a widely linked piece across the blogosphere, Aaron Renn points out that the decline in Detroit could be a platform for residents to get creative with urban re-development. This piece is full of stunning imagery of formerly dense neighborhoods now full of greenspace that sent me on a two hour Google Earth binge exploring the area. Detroit: Urban Laboratory and the New American Frontier.

3. ”Alternative” Geography. New Geography publisher Delore Zimmerman’s run down of odd and quirky maps that redefine borders of the U.S. proved very popular on social bookmarking sites. “Borderline Reality”: “Sometimes maps can inspire and motivate us by helping to more fully understand the geography of our economic and demographic challenges and opportunities. Perhaps most importantly thematic maps tell a story about places.”

2. Portland isn’t a model for every community. Easily our most widely discussed, shared, and linked piece this year was Aaron Renn’s “The White City.” The piece sparked a fair amount of criticism with some looking to poke holes in the racial breakdowns and others taking the piece as an affront to liberal politics instead of an examination of urban planning policy. Many of the most vehement critics failed to address the central point of the piece: Portland is a unique place with a unique disposition and composition, yet it is held up by many community leaders in other regions as the ultimate in public policy. Instead of holding up Portland as a model, cities and regions need to do a better job of looking at themselves and defining policy based upon local community identity. Be who you are.

1. Best Cities Rankings. Overall, our most read content at New Geography this year was the Best Cities Rankings, released in April with Forbes. Our rankings are purposefully focused just on a combination of measures of one metric, employment change. We leave out all of the more qualitative measures thinking that all contribute to the output of a shifting employment landscape.

Where are the Best Cities for Job Growth? (Summary Piece)
2009 How We Pick the Best Cities for Job Growth
All Cities Rankings - 2009 New Geography Best Cities for Job Growth

It’s been a good year at New Geography, one of steady growth and, we believe, increased influence. We welcome your comments, participation, and submissions. Thanks for reading.