Shift in US toward more inequality across cities

The differences in per capita incomes across US cities have grown in recent decades:

Until the early 1980s, a long-running feature of American history was the gradual convergence of income across regions. The trend goes back to at least the 1840s, but grew particularly strong during the middle decades of the 20th century. This was, in part, a result of the South catching up with the North in its economic development. As late as 1940, per-capita income in Mississippi, for example, was still less than one-quarter that of Connecticut. Over the next 40 years, Mississippians saw their incomes rise much faster than did residents of Connecticut, until by 1980 the gap in income had shrunk to 58 percent…

Yet starting in the early 1980s, the long trend toward regional equality abruptly switched. Since then, geography has come roaring back as a determinant of economic fortune, as a few elite cities have surged ahead of the rest of the country in their wealth and income. In 1980, the per-capita income of Washington, D.C., was 29 percent above the average for Americans as a whole; by 2013 it had risen to 68 percent above. In the San Francisco Bay area, the rise was from 50 percent above to 88 percent. Meanwhile, per-capita income in New York City soared from 80 percent above the national average in 1980 to 172 percent above in 2013.

The article has a long discussion of the various reasons behind this. But, I think the conclusion is correct:

Growing inequality between and among regions and metro areas is obvious. But it is almost completely absent from the current political conversation.

Inequality may be a broad issue for the entire country to address but what is happening in different places is unique. This may make it difficult to address variations within a presidential race where the candidates are supposed to represent everyone. Imagine a Republican or Democrat trying to appeal to a particular metropolitan region: “my platform is built around what Detroit needs!” or “the success I’ve helped create in Burlington, Vermont is what we should bring to the entire country!” (This does highlight the unique role mayors or former mayors could play in national elections. They are likely to think more at the city or metropolitan level but it is really hard for such experience to translate into national electoral success.) But, city-level issues certainly could be addressed by Congress or by states.

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