For all the talk of American cities undergoing a renaissance, economic success has been concentrated in a few standout metropolises while the rest struggle, Kim Hart writes for the debut issue of our new weekly newsletter, Axios Cities.
- What's new: The top 25 metro areas (out of a total of 384) accounted for more than half of the U.S.'s $19.5 trillion GDP in 2017, according to an Axios analysis of Bureau of Economic Analysis data.
- What's next: Technology is being injected into urban life at every street corner — sensors, cameras, wireless antennas and data-guzzling apps galore. That could create new hurdles to equitable access to basic services.
Why it matters: This winner-take-all dynamic has led to inequalities and rising tensions that are helping to drive politics off the rails:
- The newest and best-paying jobs are clustered in cities like San Francisco, New York and Seattle.
- A widening chasm separates them and struggling post-industrial ones like Cleveland, Detroit and Newark.
- Distressed areas are fading as their populations age and young workers head to coastal cities.
The big picture: Modern cities wield more power on the global stage than ever before, simultaneously serving as tech testbeds, policy pioneers and economic experiments. But cities also sit at the crux of some deepening divides:
- Cities vs. small towns: In Texas, almost all the net growth in jobs from the "Texas Miracle" went to four metros — Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio — while the state's poorer, smaller towns saw no growth or losses, the N.Y. Times reports.
- Cities vs. companies: San Francisco voters approved two ballot measures raising taxes on businesses to bring in as much as $500 million in tax revenue, but they're mired in ongoing court battles that may go to the state's Supreme Court, the S.F. Chronicle reports.
- Rich vs. poor: Escalating housing prices are creating urban fault lines between those who can afford a home of any size and those priced out. The median home value is more than $1 million in more than 200 U.S. cities.
- Cities vs. suburbs: Some Sunbelt suburbs are growing twice as fast as nearby cities, the Wall Street Journal reports, as millennials look for alternatives.
The widening urban-rural gap helps drive today's political polarization:
- Democrats hold majorities in dense city centers, while Republicans pick up more votes at the edge of urban cores, increasing into the suburbs and reaching majority status in surrounding rural areas.
Struggling areas were key to President Trump's 2016 victory, and he has criticized some of the most successful U.S. cities — where voters largely rejected him — as decaying hubs for crime, homelessness and filth.