Economic Metabolism

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Source: New York Times

Countries where people eat faster have higher rates of economic growth. Floyd Norris discusses the findings of recent OECD research:

The fastest eaters were in North America; the United States, Canada and Mexico were the only three nations to report fewer than 75 minutes a day devoted to eating and drinking.

As the accompanying chart shows, the 10 countries where people spend less than 100 minutes eating and drinking each day have, as a group, consistently shown higher economic growth than those that took more than 100 minutes to savor their daily repasts ...

The relationship persists within regions. All four of the Western European countries whose people eat relatively rapidly -- Britain, Finland, Norway and Sweden -- showed average economic growth of 2 percent or better over the eight years. Of the five Western European nations whose people ate more slowly, only Spain grew that rapidly. The others -- Germany, France, Italy and Belgium -- showed compound growth rates of 1.5 percent or less. Similarly, New Zealand, with slow eaters, grew at an average rate of 2.8 percent a year, while the faster eaters in Australia produced a 3.1 percent growth rate. South Korea, with faster eaters, grew at an average rate of 3.8 percent. Japan, which favors a more leisurely approach to dining, grew just 0.8 percent a year.

Makes sense, actually. A pioneering study by researchers affiliated with the Santa Fe Institute research team documents the role of "urban metabolism" in shaping city innovation and growth. As I wrote in The Atlantic:

The rate at which living things convert food into energy-their metabolic rate-tends to slow as organisms increase in size. But when the Santa Fe team examined trends in innovation, patent activity, wages, and GDP they found that successful cities, unlike biological organisms, actually get faster as they grow. In order to grow bigger and overcome diseconomies of scale like congestion and rising housing and business costs, cities must become more efficient, innovative, and productive. The researchers dubbed the extraordinarily rapid metabolic rate that successful cities are able to achieve "super-linear" scaling. "By almost any measure," they wrote, "the larger a city's population, the greater the innovation and wealth creation per person."

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Richard Florida is Senior Editor at The Atlantic and Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto. See his most recent writing at The Atlantic Cities. More

Florida is author of The Rise of the Creative Class, Who's Your City?, and The Great Reset. He is founder of the Creative Class Group.

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