Disrupting the Big City Monopoly on Opportunity
job opportunities are out there, but those opportunities are coming at an ever-increasing cost.
Once upon the recent past, there existed a sense of American opportunity, which suggested anyone could move out to the big city and make their mark on the world.
But as increasingly more people migrate to America’s urban centers, and the corresponding cost of living continuously rises, the dreams of big city living are becoming less practical for average people.
Look to New York City as a perfect example, where the basic cost of living has risen twice that of average incomes. Yet, between 2009–2019, NYC “added 907,600 jobs, a 24.3% growth rate, compared to the state’s job growth of 14.5% and the country’s rate of 15.3%.”
Absolutely, job opportunities are out there, but those opportunities are coming at an ever-increasing cost.
Picture this, you grow up somewhere in the 96.5% of America that isn’t a city. Once you enter the workforce, the vast majority of your job opportunities — namely the best, most prestigious job opportunities — will exist in the biggest cities.
You may have to move across the country, you may not know anyone living in NYC, Chicago, or LA, but your best opportunities are likely there waiting for you.
For some this opportunity is too great to pass up, for many it’s a risk they cannot afford.
What we have is an economic landscape that offers big city rewards and advantages for those who can risk it, and small-town depreciation for those left behind.
Job growth in non-metro areas is in decline while the largest cities boom. As a result, the largest cities are kings of growth with a monopoly on opportunity.
Unsurprisingly, people continue to flee the non-metro areas.
Beyond the economic impact, dense city populations have inevitable environmental complications. Generally speaking, increasing population densities leads to increased traffic and air pollution density.
Primarily, greater population density means better access to hospitals and better healthcare systems, but there are other public health considerations.
For example, a recent study links air pollution and population density with childhood obesity. As well, there does not appear to be a link between urban density and Coronavirus infection rates, and yet the worst areas in the U.S. for COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 people (NYC, NJ, CT, MA, RI, DC, NY) are all areas topping the list of population density.
So is there anything that should be done? Should we continue to leave the metro population migration alone? We obviously should not physically restrict the freedom for others to move and travel where they please, but maybe a better incentive structure is needed.
In place of property taxes, States should enact density-based taxation on businesses and individuals, which would encourage moving away from densely populated urban centers.
Encouraging businesses to spread the opportunity around the whole of the country will hopefully generate greater job markets in lower income, lower cost of living, non-metro areas.
This — and the lesser property taxes — may incentivize Americans to leave the detrimental massive city, and find greater opportunities for lower the cost. We cannot allow big cities to hoard the prosperous job opportunities.
Some of this may happen naturally as living within city limits becomes astonishingly more expensive and remote work becomes a greater possibility within the job market, but we should continue to discuss creative policy solutions attempting to spread growth.
It’s important the American job market continues to grow, but that growth cannot be exclusive to certain regions and certain people.
Originally published on medium.