Smart growth strategies a key to economic opportunity

Income mobility map
A map of income mobility. Mixed-income neighborhoods turn out to be a key indicator of a family’s ability to rise out of poverty. Via New York Times.

A new study from Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley underscores why smart growth strategies are a key part of economically strong regions.

The Equality of Opportunity Project examined economic mobility—the likelihood a family will rise from the bottom of the income ladder toward the top. Schools, civic engagement and two-parent households are all correlated with economic mobility, but the study also considered factors that previous studies of economic mobility could not, including a region’s geography. The study found that where a family lives also impacts their potential to rise up the income ladder.


SGA Asks: What can cities like Detroit do to rebuild their local economy?

Each week Smart Growth America poses a question to our readers to encourage discussion about smart growth ideas in neighborhoods across America. You can engage in the dialogue by commenting on our Facebook page or through Twitter with @SmartGrowthUSA. If you’re not already a fan or a follower, sign up to participate.

The 2010 US Census data released this week revealed that Detroit, among other cities, lost more residents than initially thought. This week, SGA asks: What can cities like Detroit do to rebuild their local economy?

The New York Times’ Room for Debate debates this issue in depth, with eight experts weighing in on revitalization opportunities presented by increasingly vacant cities across America. Among the points they raise:

  • What if the government used a fraction of the billions it spends to subsidize home-building on ‘unbuilding’ projects instead?
  • The record of top-down schemes to revive cities by remaking neighborhoods is littered with disastrous unintended consequences.
  • The key to restoring a shrinking city’s health is to cut costs of doing business and ensure access to quality education.
  • Build vegetable gardens and parks, but also consider tax incentives.
  • We need to get over our tendency to throw out damaged goods; instead we need to retrofit them.

Which of the authors do you agree with? Disagree with? What role can abandoned property revitalization play in reviving a city?