America's Urban Dilemma

Megan is skeptical that cities can outlast the crisis. Crime will get worse, she fears, tax revenues will shrink, and middle class families will once again head for the 'burbs. Ta-Nehisi (and many of his commenters) say economics favors big cities, especially Gotham. Case in point: how expensive it (still) is to live in Manhattan. I side with Ta-Nehisi, especially on the question of New York City, for reasons I outlined here.

As an American living in Toronto, I've come to learn this is peculiarly American condition and conversation. Toronto is loaded with families: middle-class, working class, upper-class, immigrant, and Canadian-born; gay and straight; married and so on. Crime, violent crime at least, is relatively low; the public schools stellar by American standards. I live downtown in a largely residential neighborhood loaded with middle-class families, of roughly the same demographic that would live in, say, Bethesda or somewhere like it. Toronto provides a workable model of an "urban family land" - which stands in sharp relief to the barbell demography of American cities which divide into the young (singles and "strollerville" couples) on the one hand and empty-nesters on the other.

This missing middle is less a problem for America's biggest and best cities. Places like New  York and San Francisco have shown they can function without a large contingent of families. But it poses a looming problem for American competitiveness. It means America's leading metro centers remain, by definition, considerably more stretched out. In an era where density and talent clustering are key drivers of innovation and economic prosperity, this may ultimately prove a significant competitive disadvantage for the nation as a whole, even as its biggest cities continue to fare relatively well.

Presented by

Richard Florida is Co-founder and Editor at Large of CityLab.com and Senior Editor at The Atlantic. He is director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto and Global Research Professor at NYU. More

Florida is author of The Rise of the Creative ClassWho's Your City?, and The Great Reset. He's also the founder of the Creative Class Group, and a list of his current clients can be found here

The Best 71-Second Animation You'll Watch Today

A rock monster tries to save a village from destruction.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Best 71-Second Animation You'll Watch Today

A rock monster tries to save a village from destruction.

Video

The Case for Napping at Work

Most Americans don't get enough sleep. More and more employers are trying to help address that.

Video

A Four-Dimensional Tour of Boston

In this groundbreaking video, time moves at multiple speeds within a single frame.

Video

Who Made Pop Music So Repetitive? You Did.

If pop music is too homogenous, that's because listeners want it that way.

Video

Stunning GoPro Footage of a Wildfire

In the field with America’s elite Native American firefighting crew

More in National

From This Author

Just In