National Insights

Worth a read: "How small towns came to resent cities"

By Constantine A. Valhouli  |  June 19, 2017 3:09 PM

Barn in northwestern Wisconsin. Photograph courtesy of Richard Clapp#136148/FlickrVision

Check out this thoughtful piece by Katherine J. Cramer, "The great American fallout: how small towns came to resent cities," in The Guardian. A few interesting takeaways:

Some declining small towns are having trouble even supporting gas stations and grocery stores. "It has been a struggle for the past few years keeping this shop open with the poor economy and a small town where everyone drives 25 miles to work [and] shop. [As] our little village kept getting smaller and so did the profit margin in the shop.” This suggests that the problems like food deserts and banking deserts that have been associated with poorer neighborhoods in urban cores will be increasingly seen in the less affluent suburbs and exurbs, too.

The growing resentment among the poorer exurbs for the more affluent cities. This is perhaps to be expected, given the fact that not only are the jobs increasingly concentrated in cities - but there is now higher barriers to entry in the form of both education and retraining, as much higher housing costs in the cities. It is going to be increasingly difficult for rural residents to move to cities to make that transition.

Diverging real estate values for cities and suburbs/exurbs. The NeighborhoodX city teams have been analyzing the real estate markets of major cities at the neighborhood level. And over the years, it has become clear that the prices seem to be rising faster in the cities than in the surrounding suburbs. This has a limiting effect on people's ability to move to the cities - especially for families, who need more space.

This bifurcation of real estate prices is becoming a major theme of our recent research. The human side of this pricing gap was thoughtfully covered in Katherine Cramer's article.