Saturday, February 7, 2009

Pittsburgh versus Phoenix, Football and Growth

Although Pittsburgh had the better football team (at least this year), Edward Glaeser picks Phoenix as the long term growth winner:

The Super Bowl was a reversal of fortune because Phoenix is one of the country’s biggest boom cities and Pittsburgh continues to lose population. Since the last census, Phoenix’s population has grown by 927,551, more than any metropolitan area except Atlanta and Dallas. Over that time, the Pittsburgh area has lost more than 75,000 people, more than any city other than Katrina-beset New Orleans.


The great boom areas of the 21st century — Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Phoenix — are expanding because of a combination of warmth and willingness to build. While geography made Pittsburgh’s rise inevitable, Phoenix has few innate natural advantages, other than sunshine. Instead, it has mile after mile of desert, which it is covering with thousands of attractive, affordable homes.

Warm temperatures don’t count for everything, for example, Denver and Boise, for example, both have strong long term growth trends and are not particularly warm places. When you account for a few other natural amenities like mountains and water you get a better picture of which areas grow and which don’t. David McGranahan of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has studied the effect of natural amenities on growth for many years. I’ve previously posted on his work here.