Economic Clustering

August 21, 2020 • Volume 30, Issue 29
Will “superstar cities” continue to dominate?
By Alan Greenblatt


Major U.S. coastal cities have enjoyed most of the nation's economic gains since the last recession, thanks to the rise of technology and their highly educated workforces. This clustering has caused widespread issues. The number of jobs and businesses in much of the nation has stagnated or declined since the 2007-08 financial crash, particularly in rural areas. The richest cities faced challenges as well, including high housing costs, homelessness and congestion, while racial and economic disparities worsened. But the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting recession could shift the economic landscape. Some experts predict that people and companies will flee crowded, expensive cities, as remote work allows businesses to shift high-paying jobs elsewhere. As yet, however, major cities have not suffered serious economic declines. Even as people relocate, they are likely to move to a new set of “winners,” leaving most rural areas and old industrial centers to continue their struggle. All this has policymakers debating whether the federal government should target research and development dollars to less competitive areas.

Residential housing is being erected in Crystal City, Va., for the upcoming Amazon facility. (Getty Images/The Washington Post/Matt McClain)
Residential housing goes up in Crystal City, Va., for employees at Amazon's new facility in the Washington suburb. After 238 cities bid to host the tech giant's second headquarters, Amazon initially chose two “superstar” cities that already have an outsized share of economic activity. (Getty Images/The Washington Post/Matt McClain)
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Urban Planning
Jun. 03, 2022  The Future of the City
Jun. 04, 2021  Rebuilding America's Infrastructure
Aug. 21, 2020  Economic Clustering
Nov. 01, 2019  Caregiving Crunch
Jul. 27, 2012  Smart Cities
Apr. 09, 2010  Earthquake Threat
Apr. 2009  Rapid Urbanization
Jun. 23, 2006  Downtown Renaissance Updated
May 28, 2004  Smart Growth
Oct. 03, 1997  Urban Sprawl in the West
Mar. 21, 1997  Civic Renewal
Oct. 13, 1995  Revitalizing the Cities
Jun. 09, 1989  Not in My Back Yard!
Apr. 28, 1989  Do Enterprise Zones Work?
Nov. 22, 1985  Supercities: Problems of Urban Growth
Jul. 23, 1982  Reagan and the Cities
Nov. 18, 1977  Saving America's Cities
Oct. 31, 1975  Neighborhood Control
Nov. 21, 1973  Future of the City
Feb. 07, 1973  Restrictions on Urban Growth
May 20, 1970  Urbanization of the Earth
Nov. 06, 1968  New Towns
Oct. 04, 1967  Private Enterprise in City Rebuilding
Feb. 10, 1965  Megalopolis: Promise and Problems
Mar. 04, 1964  City Beautiful
Aug. 21, 1963  Urban Renewal Under Fire
Jan. 21, 1959  Metropolitan Areas and the Federal Government
Jul. 30, 1958  Persistence of Slums
Dec. 09, 1953  Outspreading Cities
Nov. 22, 1952  Slum Clearance: 1932–1952
Jan. 14, 1937  Zoning of Urban and Rural Areas
Congress Actions
Economic Analyses, Forecasts, and Statistics
Economic Development
Financial Institutions
General Employment and Labor
Infectious Diseases
Low Income and Public Housing
Manufacturing and Industrial Production
Protest Movements
Regional Planning and Urbanization
State, Local, and Intergovernmental Relations
Work and the Family