Out of Control Policy Blog

Cities and Suburbs Not At Odds

Peter Gordon helpfully points out what looks to be an interesting article by Jordan Rappaport of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City that is sure to make some smart growthers -- who constantly complain that suburbs drain the life from central cities -- a bit squeemish. Here's a summary:

    For more than 50 years, suburbs throughout the United States have prospered, while many of the large cities they surround have stagnated. Hence, many people perceive that cities and suburbs tend to grow at each other's expense–and thus compete for residents and jobs.

    While there is some truth in this perception, it misses the fact that a metro area's cities and suburbs also depend on each other for economic growth. Cities and their suburbs share a multitude of resources, such as airports, highways, mass transit, cultural amenities, entertainment venues, air quality, potential employers, and many more. These shared resources may be even more important than the differences between cities and suburbs in determining where people live and jobs locate.

    Rappaport examines the main forces that have influenced the growth of cities and suburbs over the past century. He finds that, while cities and suburbs do sometimes grow at each other's expense, more often they grow or decline together. Thus, while it may make sense for cities and their suburbs to compete along some dimensions, there are also strong incentives for the two to cooperate to make their metro areas attractive and productive places to live and work.

Download the full PDF version (181k) here.

Leonard Gilroy is Director of Government Reform


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