11/15/13 - we almost all live on 3% of the land

In today's selection -- 243 million of the 320 million Americans live in the 3 percent of our country's land that constitutes its cities. People in cities are more productive, innovative and happier than their income and IQ counterparts outside of cities:

"Two hundred forty-three million Americans crowd together in the 3 percent of the country that is urban. Thirty-six million people live in and around Tokyo, the most productive metropolitan area in the world. Twelve million people reside in central Mumbai, and Shanghai is almost as large. On a planet with vast amounts of space (all of humanity could fit in Texas -- each of us with a personal townhouse), we choose cities. Although it has become cheaper to travel long distances, or to telecommute from the Ozarks to Azerbaijan, more and more people are clustering closer and closer together in large metropolitan areas. Five million more people every month live in the cities of the developing world, and in 2011, more than half the world's population is urban.

"Cities, the dense agglomerations that dot the globe, have been engines of innovation since Plato and Socrates bickered in an Athenian marketplace. The streets of Florence gave us the Renaissance, and the streets of Birmingham gave us the Industrial Revolution. The great prosperity of contemporary London and Bangalore and Tokyo comes from their ability to produce new thinking. Wandering these cities -- whether down cobblestone sidewalks or grid-cutting cross streets, around roundabouts or under freeways -- is to study nothing less than human progress. ...

"Cities are the absence of physical space between people and companies. They are proximity, density, closeness. They enable us to work and play together, and their success depends on the demand for physical connection. ...

"Within the United States, workers in metropolitan areas with big cities earn 30 percent more than workers who aren't in metropolitan areas. These high wages are offset by higher costs of living, but that doesn't change the fact that high wages reflect high productivity. The only reason why companies put up with the high labor and land costs of being in a city is that the city creates productivity advantages that offset those costs. Americans who live in metropolitan areas with more than a million residents are, on average, more than 50 percent more productive than Americans who live in smaller metropolitan areas. These relationships are the same even when we take into account the education, experience, and industry of workers. They're even the same if we take individual workers' IQs into account. The income gap between urban and rural areas is just as large in other rich countries, and even stronger in poorer nations. ...

"There is a myth that even if cities enhance prosperity, they still make people miserable. But people report being happier in those countries that are more urban. In those countries where more than half of the population is urban, 30 percent of people say that they are very happy and 17 percent say that they are not very or not at all happy. In nations where more than half of the population is rural, 25 percent of people report being very happy and 22 percent report unhappiness. Across countries, reported life satisfaction rises with the share of the population that lives in cities, even when controlling for the countries' income and education.

"So cities like Mumbai and Kolkata and Bangalore boost not only India's economy, but its mood. And certainly they are not un-Indian, any more than New York is un-American. These cities are, in so many ways, the places where their nation's genius is most fully expressed."


Edward Glaeser


Triumph of the City


Penguin Press


Copyright 2011 by Edward Glaeser


1, 6-8
barns and noble booksellers
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

All delanceyplace profits are donated to charity and support children’s literacy projects.


Sign in or create an account to comment