Stagnant growth, housing sprawl, and increasing abandonment of Pennsylvania's cities and older suburbs are dimming the prospects for high-wage economic recovery throughout the state, according to a new report released today by the Brookings Institution Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy.
Back to Prosperity: A Competitive Agenda for Renewing Pennsylvania cites new data on state economic development and transportation spending to suggest that years of unfocused public investment have steered billions of tax dollars to the exurban fringe. Combined with severely fragmented local government and poor planning, these patterns have led to minimal employment and wage growth even though the state ranks among national leaders in dollars spent per capita on economic development.
"Older Pennsylvania is basically subsidizing its own decline, to the detriment of the state's economic future," said Bruce Katz, director of the Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy. "Cities and older suburbs, home to 58 percent of Pennsylvanians and the driver of 88 percent of the state economy, possess the infrastructure and amenities necessary to attract new businesses and young talented workers. These critical assets, however, are being squandered at the same time residents are experiencing stagnating home values and rising property tax rates."
The 121-page report, accessible at www.brookings.edu/pennsylvania, analyzes current demographic, market, and development trends statewide and statistically profiles eight key metropolitan areas. The report also presents a five-part policy agenda for revitalizing the state economy by steering investment back to cities, boroughs and older townships; leveraging existing infrastructure; revitalizing established neighborhoods; and maximizing the emerging strengths of Pennsylvania's economic future, its health care and education sectors.
"The good news is these trends are not inevitable, and can be reversed," continued Katz. "Budget realities show that Pennsylvania doesn't have another dollar to waste. Now is the perfect time to enact change at the state level to pursue a high-road economic future."
Funding for the report was provided by the Heinz Endowments and the William Penn Foundation. Representatives of the Brookings Institution Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy are scheduled to present the report at forums in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Erie, Reading, York, Lancaster, Scranton, and the Lehigh Valley today through Thursday.