Why This New Yorker Returned to the Midwest


New Urbanism Editor Lewis McCrary's Note: Before the pandemic changed the urban landscape of American life, the last two decades have seen a familiar dynamic: the coastal cities have recorded dramatic increases of wealth as highly-educated workers concentrate in a few major metro areas, including New York, San Francisco, and Washington. At the same time, much of Heartland America has seen comparatively slower growth, but some places are economically resilient and affordable, such as Columbus, Des Moines, Kansas City, and Indianapolis. So are some people ready to leave a prosperous coastal city and seek a better deal in the Midwest?

Aaron Renn, a longtime analyst of urban trends, did just that—he recently left New York City for the Hoosier state. Renn made the move to Indianapolis a few months ago, only a short time before the coronavirus storm. This week New Urbs editor Lewis McCrary asked Renn why he made the move, what portends for the Midwestern economy these days, and what he is working on in Indianapolis. A contributing editor at City Journal and author of The Urban State of Mind, Renn also recently launched Heartland Intelligence, a newsletter that aims to understand the regional economy.

Why did you leave New York City and move to Indianapolis?

It was a difficult decision because I love both cities and so does my wife. They are both great though in different ways obviously. When a fellowship ended in NYC I had to make a decision about what to do next. When I had moved to New York I was single but by this point I was married with a two-year-old. My wife and I are both from Indiana and our parents are here. As with many others who’ve made the same kind of move at the same time, it was a good time to be closer to family and where we can have more space.

Of course in light of the coronavirus, moving to Indy looks like a smart move at present. It’s much better staying at home when that home is a single-family house with a front porch and a backyard.

If I had unlimited funds, I’d probably keep a place in both cities. So yes, more money would have allowed us to stay in New York in a sense. But as importantly even with more money I’d still want us to be in Indianapolis as well. Indy is better today than at any time in it’s past and only continuing to go up. It’s great to be a part of not just what it is but what it is becoming.

Read the rest of this piece at The American Conservative.

Aaron M. Renn is a contributing editor at City Journal, and an economic development columnist for Governing magazine. He focuses on ways to help America’s cities thrive in an ever more complex, competitive, globalized, and diverse twenty-first century. During Renn’s 15-year career in management and technology consulting, he was a partner at Accenture and held several technology strategy roles and directed multimillion-dollar global technology implementations.

Photo credit: Miyin2 via Wikimedia under CC 4.0 License.