I read Eduardo Porter’s article in the New York Times, “Why Big Cities Thrive, and Smaller Ones Are Being Left Behind” with considerable skepticism:
To prove his point, Mr. Muro compared the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the country, those with populations above 550,000, with the 182 smallest, which have populations ranging from 80,000 to about 215,000. On average, the big ones got out of the recession faster than the small ones.
To get a sense of the future, he selected big and small metropolitan areas only in the 10 states most subjected to economic disruption — as defined by the penetration of automation and job displacement as a result of foreign trade — to tease out the effects of these transformative forces.
The difference in performance widened: Private employment grew almost twice as fast in large metropolitan areas as it did in small ones from the trough of the recession, in 2009, to 2015. Income grew 50 percent faster. And the labor participation rate — the share of the working-age population in the labor force — shrank only half as much.
“Economic transitions work against smaller America,” Mr. Muro told me. “This is a period demanding excruciating transitions.”
How, then, does he explain Pittsburg, Cleveland, Detroit, and Chicago? They are or at least were “big”. All are experiencing the same things he attributes to “small” cities.
IMO he’s looking at the wrong factors. Over the period of the last 15 years New York City has received repeated massive subsidies. The subsidies have taken the form of direct grants, regulations, and propping up its local industries (mostly banking and finance) and have been valued in the trillions of dollars. How would New York have fared if Citibank had been allowed to fail?
The industrial Midwest on the other hand has received an ongoing onslaught in the form of the managed trade agreements negotiated over the period of the last 40 years that have picked winners and losers. New York and Los Angeles have been winners. Chicago has been a loser.
That tells us nothing about the benefits of large or small, coastal or central, or much of anything else other than the value of political clout.