Boomtowns No Longer Attract Waves of New Workers

The latest Upshot by Emily Badger looks at why American cities with the greatest economic opportunity no longer attract the population increases of yore
December 11, 2017, 5am PST | snewberg | @JoeUrbanist
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The San Francisco harbor at Yerba Buena Cove in 1850 or 1851.
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

North Dakota was the exception. Riding an oil boom earlier this decade, some counties in North Dakota correspondingly had significant population and household growth. Otherwise, since 2000, metro areas in the United States with the most prosperity don't have the most growth.

In the latest Upshot in the New York Times, Emily Badger reports that, historically, boomtowns had correspondingly high growth rates. Chicago in the late 1800s, Detroit between 1910 and 1930, Los Angeles in the 1920s, and Houston after 1950 all experienced a swelling population as economic development took off.

Why is this? Many coastal cities, for example, have land use restrictions and actual land shortages that inhibit growth. One solution is to reduce the barriers to the creation of more housing in the most prosperous and expensive cities, which is both a political and economic challenge. Badger concludes that the federal government does not have the power to do this, but local cities and suburbs do.

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Published on Wednesday, December 6, 2017 in The New York Times
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