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Are America’s Inner Cities Competitive? Evidence from the 2000s


In the years since Michael Porter’s paper about the potential competitiveness of inner cities there has been growing evidence of a residential resurgence in urban neighborhoods. Yet, there is less evidence on the competitiveness of inner cities for employment. We document the trends in net employment growth and find that inner cities gained over 1.8 million jobs between 2002 and 2011 at a rate comparable to suburban areas. We also find a significant number of inner cities are competitive over this period—increasing their share of metropolitan employment in 144 out of 281 MSAs. We also describe the pattern of job growth within the inner city, finding that tracts that grew faster tended to be closer to downtown, with access to transit, and adjacent to areas with higher population growth. However, tracts with higher poverty rates experienced less job growth, indicating that barriers still exist in the inner city.

Keywords: Urban Labor Markets, City and Suburban Employment

JEL classification: R12, O18


Suggested citation: Hartley, Daniel A., Nikhil Kaza, and T. William Lester, 2015. “Are America’s Inner Cities Competitive? Evidence from the 2000s,” Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Working Paper no. 15-03R.

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