Monday, July 28, 2008

Rockin' The Suburbs

The WSJ interviews Harvard economist Edward Glaeser on the State of the City (sub req):

WSJ: What about looking to European cities, where more people walk and rely on mass transit, as a model for the U.S.?

MR. GLAESER: There's been a segment of urban developers who have been enthusiastic about the model in Europe for quite some time [because] it's much more environmentally sensitive. But there are bad aspects as well.

While there certainly seem to be some smart things done in Europe, it's a mistake to think they've got it right and we've got it wrong. There are many good things that came out of giving Americans the opportunity to live in big houses on the edge of urban areas.

If you think about the lifestyle of ordinary Americans living on the fringe of Houston or Dallas, for example, compared to what their lifestyle would be in an older European city -- living in a walk-up apartment there compared to a 2,500-square-foot house here they bought for $130,000 with a 24-minute commute -- it's extraordinary in the low-cost areas of this country what a $60,000 family income gets you.

There's a reason Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Phoenix are our four fastest-growing areas. They offer an astonishingly high standard of living for ordinary Americans.

New York City is a great place to be really rich and not a terrible place to be really poor, but it's a pretty hard place to live on $60,000 a year. You don't experience anywhere near the basic standard of living you would in Houston on the same income.

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