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The city is the future

Ryan Hahn's picture

Tim Harford opines on the future of cities in his book The Logic of Life:

It's true that modern communications technology is allowing some forms of work that once had to be done in the city to be done in the countryside. But as we've seen, it also allows the most efficient suppliers-be they New York advertisers, London financiers, Milanese designers, or Bangalore's software engineers-to reach anywhere in the world. It makes cities more manageable, unlocking their diversity as a source of friendship and of business, and encourages global travel that links one city to another. Throw in the increasing importance of the service sector and the fact that services are more varied and high-quality in cities, and the rational conclustion is inescapable: Cities are likely to enter a new golden age.

While I think that in the long-run Harford is right, the financial crisis looks set to cause at least a brief reversal in the rise of cities. As an example, massive numbers of rural-to-urban migrants in China have lost their jobs and look set to return (or have already returned) to the countryside. As part of its response, the Chinese government has been directing subsidies to the agricultural sector. While this might help reduce unemployment in urban centers, a reversal of rural-to-urban migration suggests an overall reduction in productivity levels and missed out economies-of-scale.   


Submitted by He Mu on
See McKinsey's latest report, which was launched on Monday and presented by a M. Director here at the Bank on Tuesday: "Preparing for China's Urban Billion" The scale and pace of China's urbanization promises to continue at an unprecedented rate. If current trends hold, China's urban population will expand from 572 million in 2005 to 926 million in 2025 and hit the one billion mark by 2030. In 20 years, China's cities will have added 350 million people—more than the entire population of the United States today. By 2025, China will have 219 cities with more than one million inhabitants—compared with 35 in Europe today—and 24 cities with more than five million people.

Submitted by Ryan Hahn on
To He Mu: Thanks for pointing to this report. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but there is one line in the summary that I find telling: "If current trends hold..." We already know that trends of the recent past have been thrown way off track by the financial crisis (and the huge deterioration in international trade). Perhaps this will be a blip on the screen, but if the McKinsey Report doesn't at least mention this, it's a big oversight.

Submitted by Kimbo on
Bailout 2008, a poem by David Jeffrey Like a bloodied warrior, laying broken and torn. Like a dying soldier, hopeless and forlorn. But the blood, it be green, the color of money. And the soldier is an economy, and it is anything but funny. Broken are it’s people and shattered are their dreams. Thanks to the ultra rich and their full proof schemes. It is a tragedy with more pain to come. Finance will be Hell, and their wills will be done.

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