Is best-of-both-worlds Houston pulling away from competitor cities?
Aaron Renn (The Urbanophile
) has a fascinating piece over at New Geography titled "Civic Choices: The Quality vs. Quantity Dilemma
". 'Quality cities' like Boston, NYC, SF, LA, DC, etc. focus on elite populations and jobs at the expense of affordability or any broad job or population growth. In fact, their overall job growth is usually negative. 'Quantity cities' like Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Houston, etc. focus more on broader middle-class growth and affordability. The article contains two very interesting tables of statistics on these cities. A couple of observations that jump out at me from the first table on Quality cities:
- Does Portland's decade of 15.8% population growth with essentially zero job growth mean they just added a bunch of unemployed slackers? Atlanta seems to be in even worse shape, with 28% population growth but no new jobs. What are these people doing?
- The federal government continues to consume ever-greater portions of the economy by creating tens of thousands of jobs in DC and paying them whatever tax dollars are required to cover the high cost of living, allowing DC to buck the market-driven slow-growth of peer cities. As an aside, has anybody noticed that government jobs have shifted from low-paying but secure to high-paying, high-benefit (roughly 2x the private sector), and still just as secure? Nice work if you can get it, but I'm not sure it's a good indicator for the country as a whole. (Update: "Federal workers earning double their private counterparts" - USA Today, hat tip to kjb)
But the more interesting table to me is the second one on Quantity cities (Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Nashville, Orlando, Phoenix, Raleigh, Salt Lake City), which indicates that Houston is pulling away from similar competitor cities like Atlanta and Dallas in key ways:
- At 114%, Houston has the highest per capita income of the Quantity cities relative to the U.S. average. All of the others except for Dallas are below the national average. We're also ahead of Quality cities Chicago, LA, Miami, and Portland.
- We're also in the top 3 for GDP per capita ($49K), and, again, actually ahead of Quality cities Chicago, LA, Miami, and Portland.
- Houston is the only city in the group where average income continued to grow faster than the U.S. average over the last decade.
- Our job growth over the decade (12.6%) is just behind Raleigh (14.1%) and Austin (12.7%), but well ahead of our peer group mega-metros Atlanta (0.5%) and DFW (3.7%), as well as all of the Quality cities.
Summing up, you could say that Houston has the stats to actually qualify for both tables, with the per capita GDP and income to qualify as a Quality city, but with the affordability, population, and job growth of a Quantity city - the best of both worlds
. No wonder we're winning so many awards and rankings
. Not a bad place to be...
Labels: affordability, economy, perspectives, rankings