MLewyn's blog

Reviewing A Review of "The End of the Suburbs"

In the Wall Street Journal, Joel Kotkin pans Leigh Gallagher's "The End of the Suburbs."  Generally, I don't consider a fight about whether cities or suburbs are winning the future to be of much interest; in reality, there are growing cities and growing suburbs, just as there are declining cities and declining suburbs.  However, Kotkin does raise a number of points which I think are worthy of discussion.

Is Sprawl An Example of Libertarian Paternalism?

One widely-publicized attempt to find a middle ground between laissez-fair and overregulation is  "libertarian paternalism": the idea that (in the words of New York Times columnist David Brooks), "Government doesn’t tell you what to do, but it gently biases the context so that you find it easier to do things" favored by government.  For example, a state governnment could design forms making organ donation the "default option" for driver's license applicants, so one would have

The Cross-Bronx Expressway really hurt (but not in the way you might think)

A few months ago, I finished reading Robert Caro's The Power Broker, a biography of highway/park-builder Robert Moses.  Caro asserts that Moses's Cross-Bronx Expressway ruined Bronx neighborhoods near East Tremont Avenue; many houses and apartments were destroyed to build the expressway, and the negative effects of all that deserted land blighted nearby blocks.  

Cities Can't Do Much Alone

I am about halfway through the Metropolitan Revolution (by Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley) and I can't help wondering: how much good can a city do?  Of course, quite a bit- but only with a friendly (or at least non-hostile) state government.  There are many, many things a state government can do to sabotage a city.  For example, a state can:

Is Wal-Mart The Atomic Bomb of Retail?

I was reading a conversation on the PRO-URB listserv about whether to oppose an intown Wal-Mart in Washington, and someone asserted that Wal-Mart was different from all other stores because it was a potential monopolist.  Evidently, some people believe that Wal-Mart (unlike Costco or Target) is so good at its work that it destroys all other retail.

Don't Take Yearly Census Estimates Too Seriously

Every year, the Census comes out with estimates of county population.  Because the 2011-12 estimates showed big gains for most urban counties, urbanists were happy to declare victory, and to claim that these estimates showed a movement of population back to cities.  In other years, Census estimates showed that older cities were declining, and defenders of the sprawl status quo similarly crowed about those statistics.

Responding to Kotkin's Attack on Density

In Forbes online, Joel Kotkin came out with a ringing attack on those who dare to challenge sprawl, asking "How Can We Be So Dense"?  I thought this was worth responding to, and so here are a few of his points (with my responses).

I.  Social mobility and sprawl

Kotkin: "More recently density advocates span a much-discussed study of geographic variations in upward mobility as sugg

Sorry Ms. Dunham: Millenials Like New York

Yesterday, I posted about the relationship between millenials and cities, showing that in some cities, population growth is indeed due to growth in the millenial (20-34) population, while in others, millenials are leaving the city just like everyone else.  But of course, citywide data is often a bit misleading, because most cities have some very suburban neighborhoods.

Yes, The Millenials Really Are Returning To (Some) Cities

It is becoming almost a cliche that millenials (that is, people in their 20s) are flocking to cities.  But does data bear this out?

I looked at Census data on two cities that had lost population throughout the late 20th century but gained people in the 2000s: Philadelphia and Washington, DC. (Why them?  Because I didn't think population-gaining cities were as interesting, since people of all age groups are moving to those places).

Going The Wrong Way In Atlanta

Yesterday's New York Times contained an article about the latest attempt to reform Atlanta's public schools: an eleven-story high school costing about four times as much as the average Southern high school.  The city plans to move North Atlanta High, one of the city's more racially diverse high schools, from its existing site in quasi-suburban Buckhead to a larger building at the edge of town.