Place matters more than ever before in the modern American economy. According to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, over half of total U.S. GDP is produced by only 20 metropolitan areas. The New York metropolitan area alone–comprising only 6 percent of the nation’s population–accounts for over 10 percent of the nation’s output in any given year.. America may remain the land of opportunity, but it is in a way that has become increasingly concentrated in fewer and fewer locations.
The contemporary success of cities has an ominous flip side. Once vibrant regions across the U.S. are struggling with population decline, the collapse of industries, and shrinking tax bases. Meanwhile, cities themselves have failed to properly absorb newcomers in search of opportunity, driving up rents and exacerbating local inequality. Policymakers often treat these two kinds of inequality—inter-regional and intra-regional—as separate. But what if they are two sides of the same coin?
It’s within this context that the Niskanen Center’s Poverty and Welfare Policy program is excited to announce the Struggling Regions Initiative. With generous support from the Rockefeller Foundation, we intend to push the frontier of research into the issues facing struggling regions with the goal of developing new ideas for broadly shared economic growth.
Research areas include:
- The failure of “firm-specific” tax incentives to spur genuine economic development;
- The inequities between rich-state / poor-state public finances;
- The role of public investment in infrastructure and R&D;
- The promise and peril of Opportunity Zones;
- Modernization strategies for the Small Business Administration;
- And the coordination gap between economic development authorities across the country.
The Niskanen Center’s Poverty and Welfare program was established on the premise that free and dynamic markets work best when complemented with robust forms of social insurance. With this new project, our program expands its purview from the big and universal to the targeted and particular, based on the theory that regionally concentrated distress is fundamentally a problem of arrested economic development. From the best response to deindustrialization to the inclusive development of cities, our project takes a holistic view of place-based policy and evaluates the good, bad, and ugly of the tools available.
To learn more about the Struggling Regions Initiative visit www.StrugglingRegions.com.