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U.S. Economic Growth Shows Urban-Rural Divide

The economy is improving in places like Texas, but a closer look indicates that cities are taking off while rural areas are lagging behind.
July 20, 2019, 7am PDT | Camille Fink
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Matthew Rutledge

Job growth is up in Texas, but the effects have been concentrated in the state’s largest cities: Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. "No state — not even California, long held up as the embodiment of America’s widening geographic inequality — has seen a larger post-recession divergence between its elite cities and everywhere else," writes Jim Tankersley.

It is a trend that is playing out across the country, where urban areas are drawing in educated workers and professional industries as poorer, rural areas languish. "Research from the [Economic Innovation Group] found that from 2008 to 2016, the most prosperous ZIP codes in Texas — heavily concentrated in those star metro areas — accounted for more than two-thirds of the state’s net growth in jobs and business establishments," notes Tankersley.

He explores developments in Longview, a town in the eastern part of Texas. Longview has gained only about 1,800 jobs in the last decade, and in recent years it has seen a net loss of businesses. City officials want to offer amenities that will attract young professionalslike parks, trails, and breweries—but they realize the challenges. 

“Ms. [Vicki D.] Jones’s and others’ hope is that Longview can sell a particular type of young worker on a mix of the values they grew up with, with just enough of the big-city amenities to make a smaller town attractive,” says Tankersley.

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Published on Sunday, July 7, 2019 in The New York Times
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