Arnold Kling  

Euro-America

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Joel Kotkin's catch-phrase for summarizing America's older cities is Euro-America


Like many of their European counterparts, many, if not most, major American urban centers are at best demographically stagnant or even losing population, which is also the case in Paris, Milan, Rome, and Amsterdam. Indeed, since 2000 San Francisco, Boston, Minneapolis, Chicago, and Philadelphia have all lost population, while growth rates have dropped precipitously in many other cities.

Another similarity can be seen in economic performance...San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, and many other American cities have been losing jobs since 2000; New York has fewer private-sector positions today than it did in 1969.


Kotkin contrasts Euro-America with "aspirational cities" that are more market-oriented. He includes "places like Reno, Boise, Orlando, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Salt Lake City."

For Discussion. Does it make sense for elite colleges and universities to be part of Euro-America but not a part of aspirational cities?


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TRACKBACKS (3 to date)
TrackBack URL: http://econlog.econlib.org/mt/mt-tb.cgi/201
The author at Hispanic Pundit in a related article titled Euro-America writes:
    Joel Kotkin writes about cities in the United States that closely mirror Europe's economic structure and what effects that has had on the economy: Like many of their European counterparts, many, if not most, major American urban centers are at best... [Tracked on February 19, 2005 3:40 AM]
COMMENTS (16 to date)
Randy writes:

I don't see that it matters where the elite colleges and universities are located if the students they produce are relocating to the aspirational cities. Then again, the above makes the assumption that the drivers of the aspirational cities come from the elite colleges and universities, which may or may not be the case. If it is not the case, then perhaps the so-called elite colleges and universities are not as elite as they would like to believe.

Joshua Sharf writes:

As we in the aspirational cities say, "may God bless and keep the universities - far away from us."

In all seriousness, it seems to me that the ideas that these universities generate are at least in part responsible for the decline of those cities.

Despite the Net, geography still matters, too. Having an expert at a university just a local phone call away is very tempting for both governments and reporters.

Now, if we could produce more economics departments like GMU...

Mark Horn writes:
Despite the Net, geography still matters, too. Having an expert at a university just a local phone call away is very tempting for both governments and reporters.
But with VoIP, the Net is making every phone call in the US a local call.
Mark Horn writes:

As someone who lives in Charlotte, I was surprised to see us on the list of aspirational cities. There are a lot of reasons for this, but I think that the paper fails to take into account how the region as a whole treats people as opposed to the specific city. And I bring this up because I see a pattern in Charlotte, where by people from Boston, New York, etc move to Charlotte, and then move to the suburbs where taxes are lower and (in many cases) public schools are better. So, my question would be how much an impact that the surrounding suburbs have on making the region aspirational as opposed to the city.

As far as elite colleges and universities, I would say that we in this area don't really care that much. We have Duke just up the road in Durham. I don't know if that constitutes Euro-America, but it's proximity means that Charlotte has no need for an elite univerisity, even though UNCC would aspire to be one.

Boonton writes:

Hmmm yet another sociological theory whereby people like the author (or who the author thinks is like him) are given a positive name while those he has negative sterotypes of are given a negative name and this is all dressed up as a scientific theory.

Does he account for the fact that many of these so-called 'aspirational cities' appear to be net tax users while many of the stagnant cities appear to be net taxpayers?

JT writes:

Don't ignore how large non-profit sectors, which don't pay municipal taxes, hinder these cities. The crisis in municipal finances is one of those burgeoning national issues that has been percolating for years. I was just reading separate articles about Pittsburgh and Trenton, NJ pointing out the massive problems both municipalities were encountering because of the large proportion of non-profit and government jobs the cities hosted. You see it again and again: towns and cities built around government (Springfield, IL; Hartford, CT) or colleges (New Haven, CT) becoming economic disaster areas. Some don't but many do. I think that's a more profitable line of inquiry than some possible link between academic ideology and urban economics.

Scott writes:

I live in a suburb of Minneapolis. I don't know how the population of the city of Minneapolis has changed exactly recently, but if it has dropped, it's not by much. The whole metro area is growing at a good rate. It's deceptive to point at declining population in the city itself (if it has actually declined significantly, which I doubt).

jaed writes:

San Francisco, for one, has lost jobs since 2000 mostly because it gained jobs at a great rate during the dotcom boom. You notice the comparison is to five years ago and there's no mention of an ongoing trendline. (This isn't to say the basic thesis might not have some truth in it, but I think the details need some work.)

Maybe the presence of prestigious universities is a lagging indicator.

dsquared writes:

Would anyone like to bet whether the "Euro-American" cities are big net payers of federal taxes, or whether the "aspirational, market-oriented" ones are big net recipients?

In related news, "trees do not grow to the sky" is hardly evidence for some terrible social problem. New York and Chicago have been around for hundreds of years as big cities. If they had been growing as fast as Las Vegas or Orlando for all that time, they would occupy the entire landmass of the USA.

Jon writes:

If these "non aspirational" cities were so horrible, land prices would be plummetting. The fact is these cities have high per-capita income and higher land prices then the "aspirational" cities. The chief attraction of the "aspirational" cities is the lower wages and low land prices they offer!

Most laughable is the authors point that these "elite" "Euro-American" cities have had that attitude since the American Revolution.

Time has had plenty of opportunity to prove this authors thesis that these "Euro-American" cities are inferior. I guess this author will keep waiting.

Randy writes:

I travel to many of the "elite" cities frequently on business. They are truly great places to visit. But I'm always glad to be leaving. And the question on my mind is always the same - how can people live like that? To each his own I guess.

Lawrance George Lux writes:

The answer is Yes, to answer Anrnold's question. Euro-America must mean the development of an infrastructure(think Tax base) to support a non-immediate production activity like higher Education. The question should be: How many parasitic Six-figure salaries can a City support?

Be sure to remember I am not calling Education and it's benefits parasitic, or Students, Faculty, and Administration likewise. It is a simple statement that Education is a long-term investment which does not contribute to the sponsoring Community in the short-term lgl

Edge writes:

Where does Houston in the mid-80s fit in this grid?

What about San Francisco and Boston in the late 90's?

Why are wages and real estate prices still much higher in these downtrodden euro slums than in aspiring cities?

ZZ writes:

A lot of people here seem to be pointing to Blue States/Euro-America's higher tax payments as some sort of sign of virtue, but has it always been the case? Also isn't it partly the result of past protectionism? Afterall, northern states wanted a variety of trade barriers that protected industries from foreign competition while many of the current red states didn't because it meant that they would pay higher prices for finished goods. Moreover, northern states certainly benefited from past government largesse, especially during WWII and post-war period. And let's not forget the long term effects of the Civil War on the south. And northern states and western coast states have benefitted greatly from the investments of retirment funds from Americans all across America, particularly New York which gets to skim quite a bit of money from Americans' retirement accounts.

Jonathan Brown writes:

Indeed, there are a lot of colleges and universities in what Kotkin calls Euro-America but especially in the independent sector there are also some interesting developing institutions in the aspirational areas.

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