Growth Without Growth: An Alternative Economic Development Goal For Metropolitan Areas

Some argue that population growth is not an appropriate indicator of the economic health of metropolitan areas since negative effects such as increased traffic congestion, rising home prices and loss of open space are often associated with such growth. Per capita income growth may be closer to policy makers’ true goal: to improve the economic welfare of its constituents. This thought paper examines whether it is possible for metropolitan areas to “grow without growth” — increase per-capita income without expanding population. It analyzes long-term population and per capita income growth trends in the 100 largest metropolitan areas, categorizes these metro areas by their ability to achieve income growth without adding more people, and determines policy implications for regional economic development strategies.