Category Archives: Cities & Towns

Older industrial cities are key to addressing rising regional inequality

Source: Alan Berube and Cecile Murray, Brookings Institution, April 23, 2018

The United States is about to enter its 10th year of economic expansion, dating back to the end of the Great Recession in June 2009. Job growth is robust, the unemployment rate is low, and median household income is at an all-time high.

Yet there remains a strong sense, punctuated by the results of the 2016 presidential election, that many parts of the country have been left behind in the rising tide.

Regional inequality is on the rise
The evidence backs this up. Almost four in five urban areas nationwide had household incomes in 2016 at least 5 percent lower than their levels in 1999. Many of the hardest-hit communities were small to mid-sized areas throughout the Midwest, Northeast, and Southeast still feeling the effects of long-run industrial decline…..

Big or Small Cities? On city size and economic growth

Source: Susanne A. Frick, Andrés Rodríguez‐Pose, Growth and Change: A Journal of Urban and Regional Policy, Volume 49, Issue 1, March 2018

From the abstract:
Policy makers and academics frequently emphasize a positive link between city size and economic growth. The empirical literature on the relationship, however, is scarce and uses rough indicators for the size of a country’s cities, while ignoring factors that are increasingly considered to shape this relationship. In this paper, we employ a panel of 113 countries between 1980 and 2010 to explore whether 1) there are certain city sizes that are growth enhancing and 2) how additional factors highlighted in the literature impact the city size/growth relationship. The results suggest a nonlinear relationship which is dependent on the country’s size. In contrast to the prevailing view that large cities are growth‐inducing, for a majority of countries relatively small cities of up to 3 million inhabitants are more conducive to economic growth. A large share of the urban population in cities of more than 10 million inhabitants is only growth promoting in countries with an urban population of 28.5 million and more. In addition, the relationship is highly context‐dependent: a high share of industries that benefit from agglomeration economies, a well‐developed urban infrastructure, and an adequate level of governance effectiveness allow countries to take advantage of agglomeration benefits from larger cities.

Detroit’s bond redemption a credit positive step toward addressing rising fixed costs

Source: David Levett, Rachel Cortez, Alexandra S. Parker, Moody’s, Issuer Comment, March 21, 2018
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The retirement of $52 million of principal and $2 million of interest on its financial recovery bonds is the latest example of the city’s effort to strengthen its financial position as it prepares for a $140 million increase in pension contributions in fiscal 2024.

10 Most Expensive U.S. Cities to Live In

Source: Dan Burrows, Kiplinger, March 19, 2018

The most expensive U.S. cities are usually expensive for a reason. Residents pay higher living costs in exchange for favorable geography, climate, culture or economic prosperity — or all of the above. Of course, that doesn’t make the most expensive cities the “best” cities to live in, at least not for everyone, says Jennie Allison of the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness, a nonprofit research and policy group. …. To determine just how much the most expensive U.S. cities cost, we turned to the latest data from the Council for Community and Economic Research. Its Cost of Living Index measures prices in 269 urban areas for housing, groceries, utilities, transportation, health care, and miscellaneous goods and services such as getting your hair done or going to a movie. Take a closer look at the 10 most expensive U.S. cities.

Domestic Migration and Fewer Births Reshaping America

Source: Kenneth M. Johnson, Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire, National Fact Sheet #38, Spring 2018

From the summary:
New Census Bureau data released on March 22, 2018, demonstrate the continuing influence of domestic migration on U.S. demographic trends. Migration patterns are reverting to those common before the recession. Suburban counties of large metropolitan areas, smaller metropolitan areas, and rural counties proximate to metropolitan areas all gained more domestic migrants in the last year. In contrast, domestic migration losses grew in the core counties of metropolitan areas of 1 million or more and remained substantial in rural counties that are not adjacent to an urban area.

Key findings:
– Domestic migration losses from large urban cores rose sharply.
– Domestic migration gains are accelerating in other metro areas.
– Population growth has resumed in rural areas.
– More people are dying, but births remain low.

State capitals not immune from fiscal trouble, though ‘next Hartford’ unlikely

Source: Chris Salcedo, Naomi Richman, Alexandra S. Parker, Leonard Jones, Moody’s, Sector In-Depth, February 28, 2018
(subscription required)

The recent financial struggles of Hartford, Connecticut show that a city’s status as a state capital is not a buffer against credit distress. A sizable government sector provides stability, but it is not a reliable growth driver.

How Does Chicago Make $200 Million A Year On Parking Tickets? By Bankrupting Thousands of Drivers.

Source: Melissa Sanchez and Sandhya Kambhampati, Mother Jones & ProPublica Illinois, February 27, 2018

Ticket debt hits poor, black neighborhoods the hardest. ….

For Chicago’s working poor, and particularly for African Americans, a single unpaid parking or automated traffic camera ticket can quickly spiral out of control and threaten their livelihoods. Bankruptcy offers a temporary reprieve, giving these motorists the chance to resume driving without fear of getting pulled over or losing their vehicles to the city pound.

The problem has gotten worse over the past decade, ProPublica Illinois found in an analysis of bankruptcies filed in the Northern District of Illinois, which includes Chicago and its suburbs. In 2007, an estimated 1,000 Chapter 13 bankruptcies included debts to the city, usually for unpaid tickets, with the median amount claimed around $1,500 per case. By last year, the number of cases surpassed 10,000, with the typical debt to the city around $3,900. Though the numbers of tickets issued did not rise during that time, the city increased the costs of fines, expanded its traffic camera program, and sought more license suspensions.

The result: more debt due to tickets…..