Should-Read: Originally dense populations had to be located in productive agricultural regions and on water trade routes. Then with the coming of the railroad and manufacturing we added raw material locations and transport routes to the mix. Now? Weather, local recreational amenities, density and amenities created by past cycles, and opportunity—opportunity for immigrations, both immigrants to the place and immigrants to the human capital-based economy—are where it is at. And the Trumpist Midwest looks as hosed as does Appalachians expecting the coal mining jobs to somehow come back: Noah Smith: A Road Map for Reviving the Midwest: “John Austin believes that there are ‘two Rust Belts’…

…languishing [regions] that have failed to find a strategy… [and] two… types of success stories—arge, economically diversified metropolises, and college towns… [plus] smaller cities that have found success through industrial policy… Kalamazoo… biotech; Warsaw, Indiana… medical-device manufacturing… Jasper, Indiana… advanced manufacturing. Austin also sees social, racial and political divergence between the successful towns and the lagging ones. Declining Midwestern areas are often white enclaves… once destinations for white flight… [now with] fewer immigrants, more stagnant economies and higher levels of support for the angry, nostalgia-tinged campaign of… Trump. But more ethnically diverse regions have flourished economically….

Two of Austin’s main suggestions for the Rust Belt include directing more resources to universities and being more welcoming to immigrants…. Education and immigration are important for Texas, Florida and California, too. But they hold special relevance for the upper Midwest, simply because there are so many other forces working against the region… the weather… economic geography… at a structural disadvantage relative to the West Coast…. Finally, existing development patterns…. Sprawling Sun Belt suburbs are cheaper and more attractive for families, while except for Chicago, the upper Midwest lacks the kind of fun, exciting metropolises that draw young talented people to the coasts…. Higher education and immigration look like the only realistic lifelines for the region….

Unfortunately, this ray of hope itself is clouded by threats from government policy and reactionary social attitudes…. Midwestern states… have been cutting back on… public universities… the region’s history of segregation…. States of the Great Lakes… can… harness the modernizing forces of universities and immigration… or… give in to… nativism… hostility to higher education, and… more decades of bitter, grinding decline…

AUTHORS:

Brad DeLong
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