A Case for Giving Midsized Metro Areas More Attention

As major cities draw in wealth and population, midsized metros may be getting less attention than they deserve. After all, many of their economic, demographic, and political challenges resemble those of the nation as a whole.
February 11, 2019, 10am PST | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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For Brookings, Alan Berube makes the case that policymakers and urbanists should devote greater attention to America's midsize metros: places with between 250,000 and 1 million residents.

He discusses research seeking "a middle ground between what urbanist Jason Segedy calls the U-Haul School of Urban Policy—that government policy should focus primarily on enabling people to relocate to places with greater economic opportunity—and the notion that public spending can and should prop up highly economically distressed small towns all across the American landscape." That middle ground may well involve a pivot to places like Des Moines and Cedar Rapids.

Berube explores several reasons why a focus on midsized metros makes sense. For one thing, their scale can make them good testing grounds for policy solutions. "[Midsized metros] arguably retain the requisite scale to offer a distinctive economy and quality of life to their businesses and residents. Moreover, their size may also facilitate the sort of pragmatic, cross-sector problem solving that often bedevils larger metro areas."

Compared to both large cities and rural places, their demographics and politics also track better with those of the nation as a whole. So do some of their economic challenges. Midsized metros are an "especially important feature of the Heartland," Berube notes, and their ability to "successfully navigate racial and ethnic transitions, and to continue to evolve their economies from production to services, may [...] be critical harbingers for our nation's abilities to do so overall."

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Published on Thursday, January 10, 2019 in Brookings
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