Harvard economist Ed Glaeser says something dark is going on within a chunk of U.S. geography stretching north from Louisiana to Michigan. The "Eastern Heartland," as he calls it, is an "epicenter of troubled America, an epicenter of hopelessness."
Why it matters: Some of the nation's most stubborn social problems are concentrated in the 12-state Eastern Heartland, and Glaeser argues there needs to be a new approach to attacking them.
What they're saying: In a new paper, Glaeser and two co-authors — former Obama administration chief economist Larry Summers and Harvard Ph.D. candidate Benjamin Austin — say that the government should recontemplate public assistance. Rather than attempting to revive blighted places by sending checks to people, public assistance should be determined by places.
- Just as the government singles out certain areas with insurance against natural disasters, they say, it ought to stimulate demand for workers in places like the Eastern Heartland that are "semi-permanent" problem regions of the country.
The geography: The states have a concentration of "non-employment, disability, opioid-related deaths and rising mortality," the authors write. These are: Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia.
Look at this fact: In 2016, 51% of 25 to 54-year-old males in Flint, Mich., were unemployed.
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