Seven big takeaways for Metro America in 2017

If 2016 was considered a wild year, it wasn’t long before many deemed 2017 to be the most unpredictable in recent memory. Early speculation on the Trump administration’s urban policy priorities quickly gave way to heated debate about sanctuary cities and—spurred by riots in Charlottesville and NFL protests—race and inequality. Mayors and city leaders were at the center of these discussions, even while some faced devastating natural disasters—all while observing demographic trends and technological shifts that are impacting every facet of American life. In sum, a lot has happened this year in our cities and regions across the country.

The calendar now turns to 2018. Before resolutions for the New Year are set in stone, we at the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program are reflecting on seven important takeaways from 2017:

1. Digital technologies are rapidly transforming the American workforce

MPP_2017_Nov15_Digitalization_OccupationsWhy it matters: “’Digitalization,’” the diffusion of digital technology into nearly every business and workplace, has at once increased the potential of individuals, firms, and society while also contributing to a series of troublesome impacts and inequalities, such as worker pay disparities across many demographics, and the divergence of metropolitan economic outcomes.”

Mark Muro, Sifan Liu, Jacob Whiton, and Siddharth Kulkarni

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2. There is no such thing as a federal infrastructure bill

metro_20171215_photo-1501466044931-62695aada8e9Why it matters: “We appreciate President Trump’s siren call to rebuild American infrastructure, and we share his belief that modernizing our roads, pipes, and dams will boost national competitiveness and improve quality of life. But undertaking such a grand construction program—and doing it well—will require more than a promotional campaign or a new federal financing credit. Until Congress decides what they want to build and how they’ll pay for it, we don’t see a major infrastructure bill passing anytime soon.”

Adie Tomer and Joseph Kane

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3. America’s major urban areas contain 11 million adults who are out of work

mpp_20170622_out_of_workWhy it matters: “Headline statistics like the unemployment rate never tell the whole story. This analysis shines a light on how labor market challenges vary across places and groups of people. It can help local leaders better understand who in their community wants or needs work, and which strategies are best suited for connecting their diverse out-of-work residents to employment.”

Martha H. Ross and Natalie Holmes

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4. Regional strategies can reduce barriers to economic opportunity and create inclusive growth

metro-20170915-parillabarkerrtal-IEDLrelated3Why it matters: “There is no one way to [move inclusive economic development from theory to action], but rather several sensible pathways involving new practices, policies, and partnerships with additional metropolitan systems related to workforce development, community development, transportation and land use, and innovation and entrepreneurship. In many ways, Economic development organizations are ideal to anchor inclusive growth coalitions given their distinct role as regional agenda setters, conveners, or collaborator-generals.”

Joseph Parilla

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5. Black cities matter

metro_20171004_BlackCities-All by total population-revWhy it matters: “We’ve all consumed a historical narrative that black people, and by extension their communities, are deficits. And yet, a national map of majority-black cities, ranked by median household incomes of black families, shows that 124 communities outpace the national median household income for all races ($53,889).”

Andre M. Perry

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6. Economic growth alone does not guarantee better living standards for everyone

metro_20171215_export monitor_mapsWhy it matters: “Only 14 of the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas performed better than the average of their peers on each of the three dimensions of growth, prosperity, and inclusion during this five-year period. And only 11 large metro areas improved on all nine core indicators of the Metro Monitor. These results suggest that economic growth alone, even growth that produces rising living standards, does not reliably assure better outcomes for all groups in a metropolitan area.”

Richard Shearer, Alec Friedhoff, Isha Shah, and Alan Berube

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7. The search for Amazon HQ2 reveals what cities need to compete in the tech economy

Amazon box.Why it matters: “While the fall’s ‘Amazon Idol’ competition is garnering high ratings, the fact remains that it is a major distraction from the glaring need for the country to systematically think about a much larger development problem—the nation’s gaping regional prosperity divides. At present, America possesses no strategy—let alone serious policies—for addressing the uneven allocation of growth across the nation’s 50 states and hundreds of metropolitan areas.”

Mark Muro and Amy Liu

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