The Midsized Metros
The Brookings Institute thinks we should focus more attention on them:
These ideas aim to strike a middle ground between what urbanist Jason Segedy calls the U-Haul School of Urban Policy—that government policy should focus primarily on enabling people to relocate to places with greater economic opportunity—and the notion that public spending can and should prop up highly economically distressed small towns all across the American landscape.
To be more explicit, I think there’s an emerging consensus developing at Brookings Metro (and perhaps elsewhere) that efforts to create geographically broader-based economic prosperity should focus particular attention on midsized metro areas, those with at least 250,000, but fewer than 1 million, residents. These places are distinctive in their own right, while they provide a valuable window into the issues facing the United States as a whole. Here are five reasons to pay attention to midsized metro areas:
First off, it’s worth observing that midsized metro areas overall exemplify many of the downsides of the divergence trend in the U.S. economy. As capital, growth, and talent have increasingly gravitated toward the nation’s large, superstar cities, the overall rate of job growth in midsized metro areas has lagged that in large (more than 1 million residents) metro areas by almost 4 percentage points this decade (Figure 1). This trend is pronounced with respect to high-tech jobs, which regions covet because they produce such significant spillover effects, as economist Enrico Moretti has found. The share of U.S. high-tech jobs located in midsized metro areas dropped from 15 percent to 13 percent between 2010 and 2017. Indeed, the first preference Amazon expressed in its request for proposals to host HQ2 was “metropolitan areas with more than one million people” (and eventually they selected America’s first- and sixth-largest metro areas). That’s a clear signal that midsized metro areas face growing competitive challenges.
The focus is always on urban vs rural while a majority of the country doesn’t really live in either as we popularly conceive them. We talk about the suburbs but probably not enough given their share of the population. But we also don’t talk about smaller cities and mid-sized metros enough. Around seventy million people live in them and they don’t get as much attention collectively as New York City or Los Angeles. It’s hard for them to because unlike those cities they are not a collective. Which is one of the problems with this piece. It lists their diversity as a reason we should pay attention to them, but it makes it hard for them to really be a “them.” Especially when the premise of the article is that they are collectively struggling but there is a pretty big east and west divide on the fate of small and mid-sized cities. While Toledo is struggling to hold on, Boise is having difficulty keeping up with its growth.
Be that as it may, we forget that there is a world between New York and Mayberry.