Most cities are growing (but people are still being left behind)

Thu, 2019-04-04 21:41 -- Kevin Ebi

By most measures cities are thriving. A new report from the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program finds that of the 100 largest cities in the U.S., almost all of them have growing economies.

But while their economies might be red hot, the benefits aren’t being felt city wide. In fact, many cities actually did worse on poverty and racial inclusion measures.

We’ll cover some of the highlights of the report below, but we at the Smart Cities Council are seeing signs of hope. Inclusion was one of our key judging criteria in this year’s Smart Cities Readiness Challenge and we were blown away by the incredible visions shared by the applicants.

Several are investing to create educational opportunities for those who are often left behind. Others are working to improve health care for people in vulnerable neighborhoods. Join us in San Diego for Smart Cities Week, April 15-17, to celebrate, learn from and be inspired by this inclusive leaders. — Kevin Ebi

Nearly all the major metropolitan areas in the U.S. are posting dramatic growth, according to the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. Of the top 100, 94 had job growth; 95 improved productivity.

But for all the impressive economic growth, just 24 made progress on measures of inclusion.

“Very few places are truly firing on all cylinders when it comes to inclusive economic growth,” said Alan Berube, the report’s lead author and a Brookings senior fellow.

Tech drives prosperity
The areas with the strongest increases in prosperity are areas where tech dominates. California’s San Jose/Silicon Valley area topped that list, followed by San Francisco. North Carolina’s Research Triangle was also well represented with Winston-Salem placing third and Durham-Chapel Hill coming in fourth. Seattle placed fifth.

Newer tech hubs are also producing substantial growth measured either by the size of their economies or overall prosperity or both. Boise, Idaho; Provo, Utah; and Austin were strong leaders. Areas were the main industry is manufacturing or energy tended to place near the bottom of the list.

Employment is often tied to inclusion
Metro areas with a strong job market also tended to do better than average on inclusion measures, although jobs don’t necessarily lead to inclusive communities. Charlotte, North Carolina, and Los Angeles were the only two metro areas that delivered across the board improvements in growth, prosperity and inclusion, while also reducing race and ethnic disparities.

Entrepreneurism can also help create opportunities, but it’s been lagging for years in most places. Surveys have found that potential entrepreneurs are held back by a lack of funding or fear of failure, but the Federal Reserve has suggested that efforts aimed at bringing more disadvantaged people into the workforce may make a bigger difference.