« Freakonomics Radio

22. Why Cities Rock

2011-02-16 | 🔗

Could it be that cities are "our greatest invention" -- that, despite a reputation as black-soot-spewing engines of doom, they in fact make us richer, smarter, happier and (believe it!) greener?

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Thanks to Pennsylvania, lottery, scratch ass, pennsylvanians or scratching their way to fine and with new every month, big top rises and second chance, drawings, excitements, always in order so try, Pennsylvania, lottery, scratch, offer your ticket to fund and get yours. Did I keep on scratch? It must be eighteen or older. Please pay responsibly benefits older pennsylvanians every day, if you like to listen to for economic radio without ads the police. Do that is sticker premium, five dollars a month, and you can get a free month trial by going to stick your premium dot com and use a promo code freak. You also get access to all our bonus. Episodes and you'll be supporting our show to that sticker premium. Dot, com, promo code, freak thanks, so Ed, Glaser, recent research indicates that humans or really least something close to humans have been living on this planet. For perhaps six million years In your view, what is our greatest invention?
the city is our greatest invention because it plays to something that is so fundamental inhumanity plays to our ability to learn from one another and that ability has evolved over six million years and has made Us Bobby I'm happy from american public media in w and my see this is for economics, radio, here's, your Stevens today we're doing something a little different on our podcast. Usually we talked to a good number of we have them together, mix in some magic radio dust. But this time were giving the floor to one guess:
I wanted to share the conversation we had because it just might make you think differently about how you live and where you live, the guest is ed. Glaser he's a Harvard economist whose research covers everything from above city and crime to innovation and urban policy. He's just published a new book called triumph of the city. How our greatest invention makes us richer, smarter, greener, healthier and happier, and you thinking the city, our greatest human invention, healthier, greener, Glaser you for real yeah he's for real. So let's start with why blacktop is actually greener than grass on a pleasant spring gain. Eighteen, forty four young have a graduate of friend went out for a picnic in the woods outside of conquered the did little bit of fishing, and the vision was good because I hadn't been much rain lately and they decided to cook What are using the fish? Now there was a
but of wind and the flames flicked from their fire to the near I Tol Grass, a fiery Inferno ensued and by the time has done more than three hundred acres, Prime conquered woodland had been burned to the ground that Young Harvard graduate was, of course, Henry David, throw the modern, patron secular, saint of Environmentalists and it's hard to imagine that there was any bostonian merchant, even industrialists. During his time here who It is much damage to the environment. Is Henry David throated Now- There's a lesson there, which is we're a destructive species to one of our defining characteristics right. We make a big mess when we around stuff and if you love nature, stay away from we are much more likely to harm nature as the road did. When we lived surrounded by the woods, then, if we live, but in All urban apartments by ourselves now there's a statistical partner to that which is together with Matthew Con I've assembled
on carbon emissions associate with living in different parts of the country, and there are two facts which I think are important. Commanded, I want one of which the people who live in cities do tend to emit significant Leslie carbon, the peoples and countries, and this is a controlling for incoming controlling for family size. That's coming mainly from driving from the fact that there is just a lot fewer carbon emissions associated with dense living, it's not just the move, transportation. It's also for drivers within cities. They just driving much shorter distances and then, of course, it because of smaller homes. The higher price of urban space means that people are living in smaller homes, even with the same family size and that Lee it's too lower, busy usage, lower home heating usage and and that those are the facts that I think make city seem to my eye significantly greener. I think this is really important when we think about the future of countries like China in India, because future carbon emissions of the world are going to be a lot lower. If
China has urban patterns of India's urban patterns, look like New York looked like dense cities than if they looked like american, suburban sprawl, and that's why, in fact, I think it is particularly important that this sort of great carbon related battles of the twenty first century, I think We'Ll- have a lot to do with urban, can develop patterns in in Asia. One second point, though, that comes out of the apparent across across across areas within the: U S is that there are big differences across metropolitan areas in terms of carbon emissions, where the sunbelt tends to be. The old sunbelt tends to be the highest emissions places like used in Oklahoma City, mostly because they just very very hot nephews. Electricity usage. They electricity
you said just now, that production is not a green either and the lowest by far is in coastal California, where they just have this temperate climate. That makes for very, very low levels of of energy use made up for slightly by car use it, but it doesn't really even come close in terms of that that they, just quite so much less energy tat. He recalled their houses and much of the rest. The country now you'd. Think then that if you were interested in reducing America's entire carbon footprint that you, the people in council When you would be championing championing new development in high rises around San Francisco Bay, these areas by far the lowest carbon blade areas and in the country, and if you ve got lots of high rises in these attractive areas where there's plenty of demand you would significantly reduce our overall carbon footprint, yet, unfortunately, There's been a mistake. Signing something of mistaken people looked at the local situation and thought that by stopping a building they were Can things greener, but that's not really how things work, because if I turn off the spigot of housing in Kosovo,
when it turns out somewhere else, turns on the day the downside of Phoenix turns on and use them in place with building is going on, is almost surely gonna be more carbon intensive, then coastal, California, so implicitly by. pushing development away from California. Many metals, have actually increased carbon emissions for the country as a whole. No ed, you grew up in Manhattan, correct the indeed your father, was born in Berlin. I read you, I know got your Phd in economics from Chicago Universes Chicago now, you teach at Harvard say, lived near near Boston, so you're pretty to lifelong city dwellers persuade me that your conclusions about the greatness of the city are not a result of personal bias, whether subconscious or otherwise. Well, I don't know if I can do that, but it is true that if that five years ago, when I started acquiring small children,
my wife and I did move out to a fairly sylvan suburb, so I certainly have had the experience of living of living in suburbs, which has pluses and neck is I mean it's really? Suburban life is really disappearances, of course, half urban right, so I go to work in a city. We go to the go to Boston, for museums and and restaurants, and also to things that I drag my kids to despite their protest, but unquestionably we actually have the experience of of living in a suburban and certainly mean nothing. In the book suggested. People who choose suburban life are necessarily making a mistake by doing that what I am arguing against his policies, like artificially subsidizing homeownership like artificially subsidizing highways and like are very difficult problem of local schooling, that are pushing people into into suburbs, and I'm just ordinary people should be free to choose without government policies that follow Jefferson's, lead and vastly by
as the decision against urban life talk to me about some of the feedback, I was interested to see on the blog stay. A lot of the commenting was along the lines of oh. This is a Harvard professor, whose in an ivory tower, of course, he Lake cities in the upper class. He travels well, when he goes to cities and the fact of the matter he's got it all wrong that cities are horrible noisy places and the place where I live is optimal. So it seems, like people generally have a very strong identification, if not a bias with the choices they ve made about where they live, talked me about the feedback along those lines to your book. Well, it's it's certainly right that people different people like different types of of living right, so it's it's a great. We have suburbs that enable people to live in their in their own areas. I do
and she myself from the greater openness change Jacobs, would wonderful ideas, the city's many of which show up in the Balkans and have changed my my views at this, but Jacobs seem to have a very particular view what urban life was supposed to be like she believed in the Greenwich Village neighborhood in which she lived in that letter to champion strong limits on building up strong preservation of older areas and a particular vision of urban light. That was her vision, was her. That was her area. That's that's very different from the economist perspective right. What I'm championing is is unleashing cities. What I'm champing me as is rethinking those barriers to building that would enable places where the market demand is there when their people I should want to live in high rise apartments, I'm I'm Joe feeling, eliminating the barriers that stop that from happening. I'm not championing anyone who lives and who loves his court
it rural area and saying that gosh, we want a shoe worn this person into an apartment. Obviously some people- don't don't want that. That's that's terrific! It's wonderful: the market can deliver lots of different lots of different livingstons. I will say that you know it's it's pretty easy to see in the data. There are real advantages from urban areas and that certainly one of the things that I try to make clear in the book- and it is certainly true that one of the things that I try to fight against is the historic misconception. The prejudice the cities are somehow or other decaying and corrupt that I believe is completely wrong, but I am not arguing that everyone should live in a city coming up. We pin point three things: It had been pushing you and me in some other people. The suburbs also imagine
the restaurants were run like public schools, you think you need out tonight and finally, we're here, edgeways or name his favorite cities in the world. I've gotta say he didn't do this willingly, didn't wanna book buyers and Peoria, say the Pennsylvania lottery, scratch, offs, pennsylvanians or scratching their way to find and with new every month, big top rises and second chance, drawings, excitements, always in order so try, Pennsylvania, lottery, scratch offer your ticket to fund and get yours. Did I keep on scratch? It must be eighteen or older. Please pay responsibly benefits older pennsylvanians, everyday, pronounced radio sponsored by better health online therapy in twenty twenty one. It's finally cool to talk about mental health, but therapy doesn't be sitting around just talking about feelings, battling stress feeling in secure it's time to stop
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Or human and complex list. To wonder: is business movers, podcast on Apple Podcast, Amazon, music or free in the wandering happened from the? U N Y, see an american public media. This is free economics. Radio, Ed Glaser, is Harvard economist and author of the new book triumph of the city. His argument is, If you really want to spur an economic recovery in the? U S, what we need to do is unleash our cities, so I asked him: what are the barriers to doing that? I think that federal level. There three issues, one of which is the home mortgage interest, deduction that the home mortgage interest ducks and essentially access as a push away from urban apartments into into suburban homes, and, let's just go through is that more than eighty five percent of single family detached houses in this country are owner occupied more than eighty five
percent of multi unit dwellings are arrested. There's a good reason for this. If you rent out single founded it half thousand, they they they depreciate on average more than one percent a year according to I'm studies and that's what he's an honest and renters. Don't do that maintenance that homeowners dictating care of their their homes. On the other hand, any one has ever dealt with Co. Upward knows Having a ton of owners under single roof can be like hurting cat, so they're good reasons why that's actually by larger billinger sensibly rented well, if hiding he dwellings. There are typically rented and low density dwelling too timidly own. Then, if you can have a huge public push where hundreds of billions of dollars you can be thrown to promote homeownership your basically telling cities to go drop dead right, your basically pushing people out of urban upon and sent a suburban homes. I think that's a mistake and am glad that prison Obama's budget came out favouring at least a reduction in the camp of the mortgage interest direction. Second, second: policy of its debts. automatic right. We we and we're still doing business. Actually, I give present parliament's less credit for we ve been
huge on building infrastructure in this country. For a long time in some of those investments like eerie canal prove to bear a very high returns, especially, play- I mean the Erie Canal, especially at high returns for New York. From what I understand right, I mean really help it turn New York into the market town that became it was very, very helpful it is true that the growth of New York was just as fast before the cows after the canal, but shore, the cat was clearly improve and it also didn't actually into requiring much subsidy write em in an actual generated, huge returns, direct returns on the ground, which is usually the best ones of infrastructure. Investment right, really good infrastructure can actually pay for itself. With user fees. I worry about a renewed push towards building more transportation infrastructure in this country. The work of the thing about now every new highway that cut into He just city in the Post war period, reduce that cities population by eighteen percent because of suburbanization your will.
Transportation, sort of the opposite of urban clustering. You sort of subsidizing peoples to spread out and the third thing, which is not really a federal issue, but it's it's. You. Is our local system of schooling right, certainly fur. Anyone is apparent. Like myself, the suburban school districts offer huge enticement to leave cities, and this is really a question of of how decided to structure our schools. So I want you just imagine if, for example, instead of having a New York restaurant seen that was dominated by private entrepreneurs, who competed wildly with each other trying to come up with new things and bad restaurants collapse, a good restaurants go onto cooking, show faint. and you know you have this- these powerful forces of competition innovation working instead it if there was a food superintendent, cooperated a system of canteens menus were decided at the local level and every new Yorker had to eat in these canteen. The food would be awful and that's kind of what we decided to do with schooling and then
harnessing the urban ability to provide innovation, competition, new entry weave together, a system where we ve turned all that stuff off and weave allowed. Only a huge advantage for for local public monopoly is very, very difficult to fix this. I think the most health hopeful signs and has been, as you know, a steady stream economics papers on this multiple sites, I think, are coming from charter schools, which are particularly effective in urban areas, and it's not so much that the average charter school is so much better than the average public school, but rather that in charter schools, because they can go bankrupt because they can fail good ones will succeed in the bad ones, will drop out of the mark and certainly was doing lots of great man to my studies that have shown the ability of each artist to deliver great test score results. reform on schooling is really absolutely central, and I think, in the case of cities really means harnessing the urban ability to generate competition and new start ups
reducing the substitute homeownership, something which is very much. I think in the Obama agenda, that it was also coming out, of course, in the housing finance reform package last week, which talks about reforming, Freddy MAC and Fanny may and reducing subsidies to to them, and then, of course, infrastructure which doesn't seem to be on on the Obama agenda. But I hope that I hope that, in fact, we will rethink our dedication to building highways in a lonely spaces. Excellent. I see it's your time. I just ask you for one word: answer Ed Glaser: what is your favorite city in the world? selling the book I get possibly pick pick. Favorites is like asking picking favorites among among chilled By top three top through you, wanna get how many children do you have. I have three: gimme your three favorite cities, then Boston New York, Chicago in the? U S, worldwide.
Barcelona, Hong Kong, London, very good at it. He's so much. It was really a treat to speak with you a greater speed. You thank you so much three economics radios, co, production of W N Y, see american public media and definite productions are produced. Include calling Campbell, Susie lacked invert, increasing eerie David That is our engineer. Subscribe to this Pakistan turns and you'll get the next episode in your sleep. You can find or audio it for economics, radio, dot com and As always, if you want to check out the blog, the books and more for economics go to free economic stock com.
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Transcript generated on 2021-03-19.