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Study: Density Can Impede Growth

Size and growth go hand in hand, until they don't, according to a new analysis. Density might be the reason that synergy eventually shortcircuits.
March 18, 2019, 8am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Richard Florida shares insights about a new study by Jordan Rappaport of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City examining the size and density of metropolitan areas for lessons in growth.

On one hand, size (in terms of population and employment) is a huge advantage. Bigger places inexorably grow bigger. And this is especially true for relatively large cities (up to 500,000 people) with plenty of space to grow. For these places, their initially large populations beget faster growth over time.

But, on the other hand, density cuts the other way and can slow growth for very large places. This would seem to be at odds with urban theories from Jane Jacobs and others, that view density and clustering as an essential spur to innovation. But Rappaport finds that density generates diseconomies like traffic congestion or expensive housing costs, which limit growth.

To produce these findings, Rappaport examined job and population data for "more than 2,000 American communities, including more than 350 metropolitan areas, 554 micropolitan areas, and 1,300 “non-core” counties," explains Florida. Florida supplements the article with infographics pulled to further illustrate the points made in the study.

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Published on Friday, March 15, 2019 in CityLab
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