My latest Manhattan Institute study was just released, discussing the particular difficulties facing America’s most distressed cities. Post-industrial metro areas with less than one million people that have experience significant decline are in a different category than other places. In addition to demographic and employment challenges, they tend to have low end economies, low levels of educational attainment, and very few elite caliber assets such as an R1 research university around which to rebuild.
I suggest that speculative economic development projects and subsidies are unlikely to work at reviving these places because the market is fundamentally against them. Rather, they should focus on building the preconditions of success by fixing their finances, reforming their governance, and rebuilding public services. This will require significant state, and perhaps some federal, assistance for them to achieve.
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