Region Forward Blog

The Morning Measure: Does city size matter?

Nov 30, 2010


A couple of interesting articles have popped up recently both centered on the idea that the size of a city is important to its success and the nature of its economy. The first titled “The Rise of the Efficient City” is written by suburban-enthusiast Joel Kotkin who argues that mid-sized cities like Austin and Raleigh are better positioned to thrive in the 21st century than are megacities like New York or Chicago. Kotkin argues that the U.S. and the world are embracing mid-sized cities even as megacities dominate discussions of the future of cities.

Richard Florida author of several books on how and why cities succeed also looks at cities through the paradigm of size this time with a focus on jobs. Florida using some data on city size and employment notes that on average the prevalence of certain types of jobs differs for small cities mid-sized cities and large cities.

Florida points out that “cities of different sizes draw on different types of skills.” Smaller and mid-sized cities have a greater percentage of manufacturing and physical labor whereas the service and knowledge sectors are more prevalent in larger cities.

With the service and knowledge sectors – which as Florida notes are highly concentrated in larger cities – projected to grow much faster than manufacturing and physical labor in the next century the two ideas seem to be at odds with one another. Which argument do you think holds more weight?

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