Some American cities may never recover. First, there was the coronavirus pandemic, then the lockdowns, and now the protests and riots. Joel Kotkin writes about “The Twilight of Great American Cities” and wonders if we can reverse this downward trend. James Altucher is more pessimistic and declares that “New York City is Dead Forever.”
The pandemic has exposed the danger of densely packed urban life. City dwellers find themselves in constant contact with people in crowded, unventilated places like subways, small apartments, elevators, and offices. According to the New York Times, some “420,000 people left New York City between March 1 to May 1. This nearly equals the city’s total population increase from 1950 to 2019.”
More and more people are telecommuting and don’t anticipate returning to their pre-pandemic lives. A Stanford economist predicts that once the pandemic ends the online workforce will have increased from six percent to closer to 20 percent. A University of Chicago study suggests that could grow to as much as one-third of the workforce.
Rising disorder in the cities, along with a shocking rise in homicides (in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York) are forcing many to reconsider where they live. The head of Site Selectors Guild reports that few companies want to locate in a big city and are choosing suburbs, smaller cities, or rural areas.
Politics is another reason cited for leaving cities. The “progressive rule” in cities like Seattle is why Amazon is moving to the suburbs and other locations. When cities want to significantly raise taxes and yet lessen police protection, companies and even small businesses will try to move.
In the next few years, many of these cities will be a shadow of their former selves.