Why is America So Anti-City? It Holds Back the Entire Country.

A new book by economist Richard McGahey examines the country’s anti-urban structure and ideology, offering insights on how American cities can thrive.

Cities. They’re the places where most Americans live, work and play, but skeptics say they aren’t the “real America.” They drive economic growth, but rarely reap the full benefits of what they generate. Cities are places of opportunity and innovation but saddled with neglectful, if not downright harmful policies. Thomas Jefferson called cities “pestilential to the morals, the health, and the liberties of man.” Donald Trump, a lifelong New Yorker, referred to Baltimore as a “disgusting, rat and rodent-infested mess,” Atlanta as “in horrible shape and falling apart” and inner cities across the country as “burning and crime infested.”

Why all the hate?

In his new book from Columbia University Press, Unequal Cities: Overcoming Anti-Urban Bias to Reduce Inequality in the United States,” economist Richard McGahey explores the deep roots of America’s anti-city bias and points to persistent federal and state policies that keep our cities from reaching their full potential. McGahey’s book offers a pushback against market-oriented urban economic analysis that has exacerbated inequality so profoundly that cities like Miami and New York are now as unequal – or more so – than countries like Brazil and Zambia. He points to problems in the way we talk about cities and illuminates how their political, economic, and racial challenges get obscured.

The fate of U.S. cities matters to everyone, argues McGahey, no matter where they live or how they vote. In the following interview, he discusses his book with the Institute for New Economic Thinking, explaining why if we want a prosperous future, we need to start thinking differently about cities.


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