Should-Read: Noah Smith: There’s Something the Matter With Ohio Too

Should-Read: Noah Smith: There’s Something the Matter With Ohio Too: “Like Kansas, the state seems to be making economic and cultural choices that are holding it back…

…Virginia… Tyler Cowen wrote an excellent piece about how the state is a multicultural success story. Economically thriving… a large number of immigrants from all over the world. Those who attack that success are putting themselves on the wrong side of history. Virginia, of course, benefits from being close to Washington. Other states, such as New York, California, Texas and Illinois, have succeeded economically because of the wealth of huge, diverse cities like New York City, Chicago and Houston. And many sparsely populated states such as North Dakota are prospering mainly because of large endowments of natural resources. Meanwhile, states with none of these natural advantages, such as North Carolina and Minnesota, are making progress by leveraging higher education and technology clusters.

But a few states continue to flounder…. Exhibit #1 is Ohio…. The state has created jobs at a slower pace than the nation as a whole. Worse, Ohioans are getting paid less for the work they do…. The Buckeye State is… suffering a long, grinding slide into the lower ranks of U.S. states… at the center of the national opioid epidemic.

Why is this happening?… First, Ohio is part of the Rust Belt…. As University of California-Berkeley economist Enrico Moretti has shown, places that rely on old-line manufacturing have suffered economically and socially in recent decades, while centers of the knowledge-based economy—big cities, tech hubs and college towns—have thrived. Ohio Governor John Kasich… declaring his intent to remake the state as part of the “Knowledge Belt”… hard to do without getting more actual knowledge…. Ohio ranks 37th in terms of the percent of residents with bachelor’s degrees, and 30th in terms of advanced degrees. The state has no flagship public university system to rival the University of Michigan, University of Illinois or University of Wisconsin systems. The state provides comparatively little funding for poor residents to attend college…. Nor is Ohio getting sufficient talent from overseas….

In terms of diversity, too, Ohio stands out for resisting recent demographic trends…. A state that has difficulty accepting diversity limits its chances of becoming more prosperous…. If the state doesn’t do more to appeal to immigrants, fails to adapt to diversity, and allows higher education to lag, the state will never climb out of the doldrums it sank into during the days of the Rust Belt….

There are, however, some glimmers of hope…. Columbus, a relatively diverse city that is home to Ohio State University, is bucking statewide trends with booming employment, increasing population and rising wages. Ohio… can wallow in angry visions of the past, or it can try to follow the Columbus model and lift itself into the ranks of American success stories. The choice should be obvious.


Brad DeLong
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