The first step in our analysis was to devise a method to determine which metropolitan areas were doing better on generating new employment, improving earnings per worker, reducing poverty, and reducing income inequality. Using data from the 1980s and 1990s, we developed indices of growth and equity that could show long-term trends at a regional scale. The map below show the results of these studies, with those regions most consistently experiencing high growth and improvements in social equity highlighted in green and those showing opposite trends highlighted in red.
Using this quantitative analysis, along with reviews of written materials, web resources and interviews, we selected 7 regions for more in-depth case studies, attempting to represent diverse geographies and political lessons. Our final case study regions included four that were consistently above median performers on both growth and equity (at least for the time period considered): Kansas City, Jacksonville, Nashville, and Columbus. We also identify three other cases – Sacramento, Denver, and Cleveland – that we explore because they slipped back, bounced back, or were stuck back over the twenty-year period, and we wanted to investigate these trajectories by way of comparison.
A series of factors emerge in our statistical and qualitative work as important for contributing to growth with equity: the stabilizing effect of the public sector, the generally positive impact of deconcentrating poverty, the growth-enhancing but equity-reducing impacts of having a large immigrant population, a shared understanding of the region among diverse constituents, and the important role of an influential minority middle class, which we argue contributes to both a political economy interest in prosperity and a continuing attention to fairness.
Specific details from our case study regions can be found using the links below.