It's time to get serious about helping America's struggling regions
By Samuel Hammond and Michael Myers
Despite our internet age, where a person lives and works matters more than ever before in the modern American economy. Between 2007 and 2017, 80 percent of U.S. counties experienced declines in their working-age demographic. The New York metropolitan area now accounts for over 10 percent of the nation's output, yet only 6 percent of its population. America is still the land of opportunity, but in a way that has become increasingly concentrated in a shrinking number of locations.
The contemporary success of cities has an ominous flip side. Once-thriving regions across the United States are struggling with the collapse of industries and shrinking tax bases. Cities, on the other hand, have failed to properly absorb newcomers in search of opportunity, driving up rents and exacerbating local inequality. Policymakers often treat these two kinds of inequality — inter-regional and intra-regional — as separate. But what if they are two sides of the same coin?
It’s time to get serious about the regional nature of inequality, and push the frontier of research into the issues facing struggling communities, both rural and urban.
There’s clearly an appetite for fresh thinking in economic development policy. Consider the battle over Amazon’s HQ2, which pitted more than 230 cities and development authorities against one another, each offering more outlandish inducements than the last. In the end, Amazon settled on an affluent part of Northern Virginia, bringing the promise of major investments to one of the richest zip codes in the country. …