Cities are central to economic growth. The Commission on Growth and Development emphasized the strong relationship between urbanization and economic growth as central to understanding why some countries grow and others do not.
Of course, though urbanization tends to be related to economic growth at the national level, urban areas rise and decline in prominence and economic vitality. Some manage to maintain their status by adapting to the changing desires of their customers; others seem wedded to past glories. In Triumph of the City, a just published book, Edward Glaeser explains how cities make “us richer, smarter, greener, healthier, and happier.” But some cities, such as Detroit and New Orleans, seem headed in a downward spiral. Why? Can they pull out of this seeming endless abyss? Ever the optimist, Glaeser, in today’s Economix column, illustrates what went wrong in Detroit and what some community leaders are doing to turn Detroit around. His answer, detailed in variety of a papers, is become a “skilled city”; that is, one that educates, attracts, and retains skilled people and offers them numerous opportunities to interact, to be innovative, and to start new enterprises.