Sunday, March 1, 2009

Atlantic Monthly's ideas on the future for American cities

Here are the general patterns that we can see in American cities, regions and the nation:

Creative people, graduates of the more competitive colleges, high technology industries, entertainment industries, finance industries concentrate in coastal California and in the Northeast, particularly in the metropolitan areas. (David Brooks has cited this, and has connected this to the liberalism and the Republican Party's lost of an educated audience for a "sensible center.")

A basic social contract in the broadly conceived Midwest, spanning from Minnesota, following all of the states adjacent to the Great Lakes, on through the Erie Canal belt of central New York State, of industries committed to the region, to the country, to their employees was broken. Manufacturing plants, coal and steel operations closed down, as corporate America shifted jobs to the Sun Belt, the anti-union states from Arizona to the Deep South states of the former Confederacy.

And a general migration of other industries, jobs and people flowed to those states, encouraged by a smattering of conservative journalists breezily boosting this migration.
{Not mentioned in the article cited below, but related to this are the political side-products of these unequal patterns of population settlement and power: power envy, and the competing values that people in the regions place on certain economic sectors. As industry has left the Northeast, there is less interest in sustaining troubled industries than there is in the Midwest. States with lower proportions of farmers in their populations are less enthusiastic about federal crop maintenance programs and price supports than are the farm region areas that are densely situated in states west of the Mississippi River.}
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Now, the Atlantic Monthly (in its March 2009 issue and an associated web-exclusive site) is posing its own prediction of what grand trends will portend from the shake-up engendered by the current meltdown. (Before we look at the magazine's predictions of a Sun Belt's loss and a gain for New York, we can give attention to particular considerations and patterns. There are weather-related challenges in the Sun Belt: life in much of the Southwest has been made bearable with air conditioning. In the new conservationist philosophy and thrift minded climate, power for air condition may be seen as a bane for the environment, and a drain on the pocketbook. Southern Florida and parts of the Gulf Coast are beset by increasingly intense hurricanes. The Southwest and the Southeast have divergent social structures. Incomes are divergent; unionized workplaces are rare, owing to "right-to-work laws." In New Mexico, high tech employees live side by side with a huge percentage of the state struggling by on minimum wages. Taxes are less progressive in both Souths, with a heavy emphasis on sales taxes.)
Next, to the Atlantic Monthly's web-only interactive map of the United States. From the website's introduction to the site:
These interactive maps show historic changes in different U.S. cities, suggesting how well each area might bounce back from the current downturn.
The first map displays innovation, in the for of patents issued between 1975 and 2007. The second map reflects changing income levels between 2001 and 2008. The third follows shift in population between 1980 and 2007.
Use the sidebar at the bottom of each map to view these changes over time. You may click on a city to view more data or compare it with a second city.

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The interactive web-site accompanies Richard Florida's article, "How the Crash Will Reshape America."
"How the Crash Will Reshape America
Urban theorist Richard Florida explains how the current meltdown will forever change our geography.

“No place in the United States is likely to escape a long and deep recession. Nonetheless, as the crisis continues to spread outward from New York, through industrial centers like Detroit, and into the Sun Belt, it will undoubtedly settle much more heavily on some places than on others. Some cities and regions will eventually spring back stronger than before. Others may never come back at all. As the crisis deepens, it will permanently and profoundly alter the country’s economic landscape. I believe it marks the end of a chapter in American economic history, and indeed, the end of a whole way of life."
SEE ALSO, The Atlantic's interview, Feb. 11, 2009, with Florida, "The Great Reset," in which Florida argues that recession is the mother of invention.

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