Economic Engines

When Height's Not Right for Urban Planning

Kitsilano, a lovely old neighborhood in Vancouver, British Columbia, looks much the same as it did a century ago when it was designed around a streetcar line. It still has enormous homes perched on lawns with alleys in the back, all within sight of downtown’s shimmering skyscrapers.

But unlike in 1930, when the neighborhood was home to a population of about 28,000, a lot more people live in Kitsilano now. By 2011, about 41,000 were living there. With family sizes smaller, the number of residences has increased by an even larger percentage. But just where are these new people and their homes if Kitsilano looks largely unchanged? READ MORE

Why Moving Isn't All Bad

There are two reigning views of internal migration in America. For the educated middle class, it’s seen as a good thing. Moving out means moving up. Indeed, most of us see our own moves as representing an opportunity to get ahead in life. It’s the same for immigrants from other countries, who move here searching for a better life.

But when it comes to lower-income Americans, particularly blacks and Hispanics, migration is almost always seen as a bad thing. The overwhelming narrative is one of displacement instead of opportunity. READ MORE

An Old Idea for the New App-Based Economy

Propelled by the idea of “the Uber of everything,” many people are predicting that ever-proliferating “network companies” will radically change the older ways of doing business in all sorts of new fields.

Something like that certainly seems to be happening. Just as Uber and Lyft are taking on traditional taxi companies, Airbnb, TaskRabbit and dozens of other app-centered companies are taking on local companies in their industries. “When you can connect and share assets, people and ideas, everything changes, not just how you rent a car,” writes Robin Chase, co-founder of Zipcar, in her new book Peers Inc. This new world, she adds, “redefines our understanding of assets -- proprietary versus in-common, private versus public, commercial use versus personal use -- and requires a rethinking of regulations, insurance and governance.” READ MORE

What Is the Real American Dream?

‘How we see the present depends a lot on how we see the past.” This observation from Dane Stangler, the nonprofit Kauffman Foundation’s vice president for research and policy, was one of his summary points at a recent discussion on how to boost declining rates of entrepreneurship in America and, more broadly, the engine of broad-based socioeconomic mobility and job creation.

The key question, as Stangler suggests, is this: What is the baseline we should be comparing today to? Many people look back with nostalgia at a golden postwar era from 1945 to 1965, when the modern American middle class was built, and suggest that those kinds of economic conditions are what we should be trying to reproduce. READ MORE

Of Eyesores and Assets

If you look at a map of Terrassa, a medium-sized city about 20 miles from Barcelona in the Catalonia region of Spain, you’ll see a jagged green gash, about two miles long, running down the middle of the city. Until recently, this was a dark, imposing ravine that, despite cliffs studded with a historic castle, an ancient church and 19th-century brick mill buildings, was a place where few locals -- much less outsiders -- ventured. “It was a dirty, dangerous place where people were scared to walk,” a local taxi driver told me.

Today the ravine is a verdant canyon filled with walkways, bridges, small restaurants, playgrounds, lawns, trees and a pool at one end that you could practically float an aircraft carrier in. Parc de Vallparadis is clearly a well-loved and well-used space. Even on a late summer afternoon in the middle of a heat wave, it was filled with people. “My husband and I go there all the time,” said my taxi driver. “It’s the lungs of the city.” READ MORE