Does Density Help Communities Weather Recession?

Are cities with strong centers faring better in the recession? Today on the Streetsblog Network we’re featuring a post from NRDC Switchboard’s Kaid Benfield that pulls together several items suggesting that might be the case:

2643427389_04a2f16be3_m.jpgDowntown Abilene, Texas: More jobs near the center, lower unemployment. Photo:austrini/Flickr.

[A] story by Alejandro Lazo in Saturday’s Washington Post once again demonstrated that central locations in our metro area are not suffering the same declines in housing values as outer locations. I have covered this before (see also here), but what’s new is a full year’s worth of data on all home sales in the area in 2008. Only one jurisdiction in the region had its median home sales price increase, compared to 2007: Washington, DC itself, with an 8 percent increase.

Benfield also cites a column by economist Ed Glaeser, who has analyzed data showing that cities with more jobs near the central core have lower unemployment, as do cities with higher education rates. Glaeser writes:

I wouldn’t want to leap from this correlation to a wholesale endorsement of encouraging more centralized development. Yet the facts do suggest that smart people, connected by urban density, are doing a better job of dealing with adversity.

Elsewhere around the network: The New Republic’s The Vine blog reports on Obama’s mention of a possible "cash-for-clunkers" program to encourage the purchase of newer, more efficient cars; The Naked City, in Charlotte, NC, talks about what might be next for Charlotte’s transit-boosting mayor, Pat McCrory; and Hugeass City answers the question "What is livability?" — in just 50 words.

Bonus: another awesome bike video from the South Side of Chicago — Cool Kids’ "Black Mags," via the Bus Bench.

  • There is probably an incremental amount of efficiency in denser areas that slows bad economic trends from impacting local economies but that the major determinants of insulation to economic downturn is not density, rather other factors such as income level, scarcity, social or cultural desirability and diversification of the economic base away from dependence on hard hit industries.

    I can’t remember where I read it, but there recently was a claim made that locations with more fundamentalist Christians saw lower property values and [sic] hence fewer foreclosures because the fundies alledgely kept away from speculative capitalism as it did not further serve the lord.

    I’m sure that we can count on a crisis like this for everyone to hitch their hobby horse to the parade to make freakonomics claims.

    -marc