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Job Growth: City Cores Versus 'Burbs.
Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 969 -- Job Growth In Exurbs More Than City Cores-
Senator Vitter of Louisiana asked a question yesterday that deserves examination:
Why do Democrats get 3 times as many Obama stimulus grants as Republicans?
One key fact: Democratic districts, typically in city cores, have received $356,109,553 from Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER), a portion of the 2009 stimulus bill, compared to just $132,272,695 for Republican districts.
So what's the deal?
It's one of two things. 1) It's just blatant political machine cronyism and favoritism. 2) It's because these Democrat districts need the stimulus more, because they are more depressed, because they're run by Democrats.
Now, it's probably a combination of the two, but it highlights the fact that we spend inordinate levels of tax dollars subsidizing failure and punishing success. We've spent far too much trying to shape the country into these one-size-fits-all units designed and run by Washington, D.C. We don't learn applicable lessons from success and failure nearly enough, and we allow out-of-touch elites to fashion top-down programs designed to solve last decade's problems.
Far too many of us take it as an of article of faith that smart people planning and micromanaging our lives will make the world a better place-- that these oracles of urban orthodoxy know best.
There is another way.
Between 2000 and 2010, no city in America added more jobs than "no zoning" Houston, Texas:
Adding 202,202 jobs in total, Houston actually shed jobs in the inner core and close-in suburbs, but it more than made up for those losses with growth in the far-flung exurbs, such as The Woodlands, which has a 2.9% unemployment rate, in Montgomery County.
For years now, I've seen certain Texas Democrats attempt to take credit for robust economic growth in Texas cities. When I worked for Governor Rick Perry and would post the latest daily or hourly brag about Texas cities on the campaign Twitter account, a certain D activist-- like clockwork-- would modify a retweet with a "thanks Democrat mayors!" or "...all run by Democrats" slapped on the front of it.
It's actually the conservative suburbs that have been adding people, jobs, and economic growth. The urban cores certainly can offer a metropolitan area an identity (with a sports team or entertainment district, perhaps) or branding (Austin=SXSW or ACL), and yes, big metro areas always just take on the identity of the largest city therein, but it's just not the case that the big cities themselves have been driving Texas engine of commerce. Certainly, if we care about reality and facts and numbers, the mayors and left-wing city councils of Texas' cities have absolutely no claim on Texas' success story. Indeed, they're probably responsible for holding back what could be even more impressive growth.
When people refer to "Houston" having the fastest growth or being number one for the most one-way, inbound U-HAUL shipments, they're almost definitely talking about the greater Houston metropolitan area, which includes Houston city limits, plus all of those booming exurbs populated and run by conservatives who have consciously clustered themselves in places where they can be left alone by the long taxing and regulatory appendages of Bloomberg-style over-governance.
Indeed, the story of Houston has played itself out similarly all across the country in the rare handful of cities with net job growth since 2000 (El Paso, Oklahoma City, McAllen, Charlotte, Phoenix, Baton Rouge, Omaha). For the most part, the inner cores of even these successful metropolitan areas have continued to shed jobs (although there is recent evidence of that stabilizing in some towns), while the outer rings of those same cities have added tons of people and jobs. The net effect is more jobs.
Take Austin, even, another city-- with a thriving inner core-- known for its robust economy and impressive job growth. Between 2000 and 2010, Austin added 85,309 jobs. Not spectacular in the grand scheme, but compared to the rest of the country, Austin is a veritable job Shangri-La.
Of those 85,309 jobs, only 6,108 were created in the inner core of Austin. That's only about 7% within the 3-mile core of Austin. Meanwhile, 87% of those new jobs (74,394) were created more than 10 miles out from downtown. We're talking about Round Rock and Lakeway and Cedar Park here. The 'burbs, in other words. Often in other counties, entirely. And that's not surprising, given the Austin city council's odd penchant for enacting arbitrary anti-business ordinances, like banning grocery bags.
Or, let's take San Antonio, which added just shy of 80,000 jobs between 2000-2010. In the liberal inner core of San Antonio, now run by the Castro brothers, more than 22,000 jobs were lost. It's in the conservative far-flung exurbs of San Antonio where 85,403 jobs were added.
Now, let's acknowledge that suburbs and exurbs are only suburbs and exurbs because there is a big city magnet there. Austin has the enormous flagship university of the most influential state in America. Houston has a medical center that would be among the largest American cities by itself. San Antonio has The Alamo. These kinds of things are found almost exclusively in large metropolitan areas and are not insignificant features in this discussion. But with that being said, Houston's famed M.D. Anderson Cancer Center has now opened a "sprawling" campus in the aforementioned The Woodlands. Yes, some cities do have a certain inertia that allows them to do a lot of stupid things and remain successful for a time, but living on the legacy of once-prosperous eras can only take a place so far, for so long. Ultimately, bad policy and poor governance will create refugees who seek asylum in places with more freedom and opportunity.
And dispelling the idea that a successful small town must necessarily be attached to a large metro, Midland, Texas, with America's second-highest per-capita income and 3.2% unemployment rate, has no big city in any direction for more than 250 miles.
While it's easy to believe that everyone must be drawn to the lifestyle that the inner core of the big city offers-- after all, nearly all television sitcoms take place in oversized apartments, cool restaurants, inviting bars, and cozy coffee shops in the inner core of New York City or some other large, hip metropolitan area-- the data just beg to differ. People are choosing flyover country ("Flyoverstan") over the elite coasts. And within flyover country, people are drawn not to the places that resemble Manhattan but rather to the small town feel of the outskirts of metropolitan areas found mostly in conservative states.
The suburbs of Houston, in other words.
The Brookings Institute, meanwhile, concludes that outer-ring job growth, like Houston's, is a bad thing and even affixes the derogatory label of "sprawl" to describe it:
If the next period of economic expansion reinforces low-density, diffuse growth in metropolitan America, it will be that much harder for metro areas to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth over the long term.
It will be harder for metro areas to achieve sustainable growth if they have a lot of growth in the suburbs and exurbs? Really? Based on what? Personal aesthetic/cultural preference?
America's foremost demographer Joel Kotkin might beg to differ with Brookings' conclusion that dense city cores are inherently superior to suburbs or exurbs:
...over the past decade, most “cool cities” have not been enjoying particularly strong employment or population growth; in the last decade, the populations of cities like Charlotte, Houston, Atlanta, and Nashville grew by 20 percent or more, at least four times as rapidly as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Chicago. This trend toward less dense, more affordable cities is as evident in the most recent census numbers than a decade.
So far, we've looked at data from three successful Texas cities, plus a handful of other job-positive cities from around the country. But what about the failures between 2000-2010?
Detroit: Negative 475,591 jobs, while holding its proportion of inner-core jobs steady.
The story goes on and on a lot like that.
Chicago may be an extremely fun place to visit for a few summer months, it is also the very inverse of Houston in so many ways, and the job and economic data bear that out. It's just unfortunate that the failed Chicago way is now the American way, under this President.
Barack Obama holds himself up as a problem-solving, technocratic pragmatist, saying "let’s do what works" so often the words by now may be burned into his teleprompter screen. Well, if we really want to do what works, there's a clear blueprint in Texas for what works, and a cautionary tale of what not to do in places like Chicago.
One key difference, though, between Texans and Chicagoans is that Texans (notwithstanding some in the Bush Departments of Education and Treasury) generally don't care what awful things other cities are doing as long as responsible, successful people (i.e., Texans) are not being forced to bail them out, whereas the Chicagoans in the White House want to reshape the entire nation in the image of Chicago.
Indeed, ReasonTV just posted a great video about the modern urban religion known as "Smart Growth" and the forces behind it:
The best takeaway from this video is that we really don't precisely know what's going to happen in the future, so why not let thousands or even millions of individuals and families make choices that work for them, rather than ceding such enormous power to a handful of bureaucrats who may or may not have any idea what they're talking about?
The smartest growth is the growth that is driven by countless individual decisions made by free people.
Previous Trivia Tidbit: Texas Cities Versus California Cities (House Price Growth Edition).
Posted by Will Franklin · 19 April 2013 10:09 AM