The American urban renaissance has been far from equal, and it's helping drive our politics off the rails.
- The new and best-paying jobs are clustered in cities like San Francisco, New York and Seattle.
- A widening chasm separates these cities from struggling post-industrial ones like Cleveland, Detroit and Newark.
- And distressed areas are fading as their populations age and young workers head to coastal cities.
The top 25 metro areas (out of a total of 384) accounted for more than half of the U.S.' $19.5 trillion GDP in 2017, according to an Axios analysis of data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Why it matters: This winner-take-all dynamic has led to stark inequalities and rising tensions — both inside and outside city limits.
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 of 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 NYT 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 the city is mired in ongoing court battles that may go to the state's Supreme Court, the SF 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 now growing twice as fast as nearby cities, the WSJ reports, as millennials look for alternatives.
As some places pull ahead, the widening urban-rural gap helps drive today's political polarization.
- “Because of this geographic divide, American elections have come to be seen as high-stakes sectional battles pitting the interests and identities of cities and inner suburbs against those of exurbs and the rural periphery,” Stanford University professor Jonathan Rodden writes in "Why Cities Lose."
Struggling areas outside urban cores were key to President Trump's 2016 victory, and Trump has criticized some of the most successful U.S. cities — where voters largely rejected him — as decaying hubs of crime, homelessness and filth.
- “This is the liberal establishment. This is what I’m fighting,” Trump recently told Fox News' Tucker Carlson. “It’s a terrible thing that’s taking place.”
The tech industry, confronting its own winner-take-all backlash, is often the scapegoat for gentrification and out-of-control costs of living in superstar cities — particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle.
- There is a correlation between the concentration of tech startups and higher levels of wage inequality, urban expert Richard Florida points out in "The New Urban Crisis."
- Yet he also found that, while urban tech workers put pressure on real estate, the industry is also a huge driver of jobs and tax revenues.
Yes, but: Only a handful of places have reaped the benefits of the tech boom. Even Amazon's HQ2 went to top-tier locales, despite more than 200 applicants from all corners of the country.
The bottom line: Economic opportunity for most Americans increasingly hinges on one factor: where you live.
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