Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The splendor of cities

David Brooks has a piece in the Times discussing what makes cities great. A few quotes stand out to me and I wonder how they might relate to Ann Arbor.
"... cities thrive because they host quality conversations, not because they have new buildings and convention centers."
"... even cold cities like Chicago can thrive if they attract college grads. As the number of college graduates in a metropolitan area increases by 10 percent, individuals’ earnings increase by 7.7. This applies even to the high school grads in the city because their productivity rises, too."
"When you clump together different sorts of skilled people and force them to rub against one another, they create friction and instability, which leads to tension and creativity..."

OOPS! That last one makes me think about undergrad. I would say that fostering conversation is a much more difficult task for cities to tackle than developments. But, fortunately Ann Arbor doesn't seem to be want for community conversations. In terms of keeping college graduates, I think we do a better job than the rest of Michigan, but I think there is room for improvement.

Hat tip to Vivienne Armentrout for bringing the Times article to my attention.


  1. Deeeeefinitely don't miss the Radiolab episode on cities. A) It's fantastic and there's a lot of very interesting details included, and B) it presents the fact that increasing a city's population results in an increase in productivity without asserting it's due to some class-based distinction as Brooks posits.

  2. Phil, I loved that episode! I liked the correlation between walking speed on the streets and size of city--I want to see if AA fits the model.

  3. Regarding convention centers and developments. I think cities undertake these projects because they are much easier goals than "creating an environment in which meaningful conversations can take place." I think they do these projects with the goal of creating a positive environment.

    I'll have to listen to that Radiolab episode.