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How the Crash Will Reshape America

posted Feb 13, 2009, 1:57 PM by John Kavanagh   [ updated Feb 13, 2009, 2:12 PM ]
The March 2009 issue of The Atlantic has a stimulating article on the USA in the aftermath of this great recession.

How the Crash Will Reshape America
by Richard Florida

Buffalo's place in the region gets called out as part of a promising trend of mega-regions:

Worldwide, people are crowding into a discrete number of mega-regions, systems of multiple cities and their surrounding suburban rings like the Boston–New York–Washington Corridor. In North America, these mega-regions include SunBelt centers like the Char-Lanta Corridor, Northern and Southern California, the Texas Triangle of Houston–San Antonio–Dallas, and Southern Florida’s Tampa-Orlando-Miami area; the Pacific Northwest’s Cascadia, stretching from Portland through Seattle to Vancouver; and both Greater Chicago and Tor-Buff-Chester in the old Rust Belt. Internationally, these mega-regions include Greater London, Greater Tokyo, Europe’s Am-Brus-Twerp, China’s Shanghai-Beijing Corridor, and India’s Bangalore-Mumbai area. Economic output is ever-more concentrated in these places as well. The world’s 40 largest mega-regions, which are home to some 18 percent of the world’s population, produce two-thirds of global economic output and nearly 9 in 10 new patented innovations.

Here Buffalo is again, in a less promising context:


Along with the rise of mega-regions, a second phenomenon is also reshaping the economic geography of the United States and the world. The ability of different cities and regions to attract highly educated people—or human capital—has diverged, according to research by the Harvard economists Edward Glaeser and Christopher Berry, among others. Thirty years ago, educational attainment was spread relatively uniformly throughout the country, but that’s no longer the case. Cities like Seattle, San Francisco, Austin, Raleigh, and Boston now have two or three times the concentration of college graduates of Akron or Buffalo. Among people with postgraduate degrees, the disparities are wider still. The geographic sorting of people by ability and educational attainment, on this scale, is unprecedented.

Short, but sweet:

Talent-rich ecosystems are not easy to replicate, and to realize their full economic value, talented and ambitious people increasingly need to live within them.

Will Buffalo stand to benefit after the jobs are shed?

The Rust Belt in particular looks likely to shed vast numbers of jobs, and some of its cities and towns, from Cleveland to St. Louis to Buffalo to Detroit, will have a hard time recovering. Since 1950, the manufacturing sector has shrunk from 32 percent of nonfarm employment to just 10 percent. This decline is the result of long-term trends—increasing foreign competition and, especially, the relentless replacement of people with machines—that look unlikely to abate. But the job losses themselves have proceeded not steadily, but rather in sharp bursts, as recessions have killed off older plants and resulted in mass layoffs that are never fully reversed during subsequent upswings.

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