S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership.
S2: Welcome to the citys edition of Slate Money, your guide to the business and finance news of the Week. We’ve been promising this one for a while and it’s finally here. I’m Felix Salmon, the Axios. I’m here with Emily Peck of Huff Post. Hello. I’m here with Anna SHYMANSKY of Breaking Views. Hello. And I’m here with Richard, Florida. Introduce yourself, Richard. Who are you and where are you from?
S1: I’m Richard Florida. I’m originally from Newark. Sometimes I’m called an urban theorist. I actually have a P-H in city and regional planning. I teach at the University of Toronto. Also, I met Distinguished Fellow at NYU and I live in Toronto. Most of the time. But we’ve been hanging out in the warmth of our condominium in Miami Beach, which which we never had until we moved to Toronto. But Toronto, sufficiently cold that you want a place to go that’s warm in the middle of winter. But we got stuck here longer than we usually are.
S2: We are having you on to talk everything about cities. We’re going to talk a lot about New York, which is the epicenter of the crisis and why it’s the epicenter of the crisis and why other than cities have not seen what New York has seen. We’re going to talk about restaurants. We’re going to talk about retail. We’re going to talk about suburbs. We’re going to talk about all manner of questions related to the intersection of density and covered. We’re also obviously mostly in the numbers round, going to be talking about some of the numbers that came out during the jobs report this week, which was extra terrestrially. Terrible, I think is one way of putting it. All that coming up on Slate money. So, Richard, it is awesome to have you here. We mentioned density, apropos of something random, like once a couple of weeks ago and got this slew of emails going. You have no idea what you’re talking about. Seoul is a very dense city and has had two deaths. This has got nothing to do with density Kovar. It has nothing to do with density. And I guess the main common denominator here was basically you New Yorkers. You think it’s all about you and you and you want to say it. We’ll just pick. It’s not our fault that New York was the global epicenter. It’s the fact that New York is dense. But really, it’s got nothing to do with density if you look at all of the other dense cities. Can we New Yorkers feel a little bit like it’s not awful within cities that completely.
S1: No, I think, you know, the person who’s done the best actual research on this is a guy named Jed Chalco. And Jed is a really good urban economist who happens to work in the private sector. He worked for a spell like Zillo or truly, I think, and now he works for a job site called Indeed. But he writes for really good places like he’s written for 538 or the upshot. Jed ran regressions. And and, you know, density is is a factor. It’s positive and significant with regard to however you look at Cauvin cases or kopi deaths. And if you take New York out, it’s still it’s still positive. If you look at the distribution of places in the United States that have gotten hit with this, more urban places have higher incidence than more. Suburban places have higher incidence that more rural places. That’s it. Everything those critics said was probably accurate. It’s one of many factors that helps propagate the virus or make places more vulnerable. And so two things I would say. The first is New York is one group of kinds of places that got hit horribly with this big, dense global cities that have lots of tourism and a lot of flow of people. And then, you know, have and people will debate this, have a level of crowding. Have people living in multigenerational families may have a subway. Now, there we can talk about that. There’s a big debate about that. But also, you know, these industrial supply chain centers that are linked to Wuhan, like Detroit through automotive supply chains. And in northern Italy, you know, not only through automotive supply chains, but through fashion goods, handbags, dresses, shoes, and then these global ski slope jetset resort places, ski slopes like Rocky Mountains and verbena and alpine places. So and then, you know, and there are a bunch of other factors that put places at risk. And I think the two people focus on our density and lockdown. And I think both of them density makes it worse on balance and lockdowns make it better on balance. But there are other and we can talk about it. There are other factors that make a place more or less susceptible to this damn virus.
S2: So I’m fascinated by the supply chain thing, the way you’re saying that, like Milan had the supply chain and the fashion industry in Detroit had the supply chain and the auto industry. Is that just because one of the things about supply chains is that also people Kardos and you get a bunch of business people flying backwards and forwards to their suppliers and that travel back and forth spread.
S1: Yes. So that’s what I meant to say. It’s not it’s not coming through the parts. It’s coming through the people who are going U.S. workers going to China to look at plants, Chinese workers coming to work in Detroit or coming to work in Milan. There’s a lot of Chinese workers who work, and I think it’s probably coming. It may be coming from managers, but often workers are moving back and forth. They’re learning new production systems there. And when men and engineers, maybe it’s engineers and workers who are kind of working on the line together, trying to sort stuff out. So, yeah, it’s coming. And that’s not to say it doesn’t come through other mechanisms. You know, Detroit does have a very big global airport and no one is a global city and had the Fashion Week. So there are probably other things. But I think I think there’s been enough evidence to suggest it’s been those supply chain linkages and the people flows across those linkages that have been important.
S3: And so I’m curious your thoughts on Germany and like why Germany obviously has studies. It’s also involved in supply chains, especially to autos, but obviously hasn’t had quite the same levels.
S1: Well, I mean I mean, I think you could you could also say the same thing about San Francisco and other places. I was just talking to this really interesting epidemiologist who said it’s a very heterogeneous, not only disease, it’s a very heterogeneous way. It hits places, even if you look at the map of the United States. But I think Germany’s very interesting from an Urbanist perspective, and I didn’t think of this until us. That’s a question. It is the one place that cities don’t follow a power law in urban. It’s always say this, you know, where the big city is kind of twice as big as the next two cities and the next four cities are half as big as next to Germany because of the partition has all of these kind of mid-sized cities. So it doesn’t have a king city that’s one to Germany, although it has a subway, tends to be it. Cities don’t tend to be skyscraper cities. They don’t have giant. Things, obviously, it’s a car place and, you know, probably and I don’t know this for a fact. It’s age distribution, maybe slightly younger than some of some of these places, although I know there are a lot of Germans who are overweight. Maybe they are, on balance, healthier than other places. But but I think just stepping back, when I look at the list of factors, density is one for sure. A crowding is more important, though. And I think, you know, when I wrote a plate piece for City Lab and I said there’s rich people density and poor people density, I’m sitting in a condominium in Miami Beach in a very dense neighborhood in South Beach. I’m sure maybe Felix is sitting in lower Manhattan, but I haven’t been. I mean, I go out for a walk. I’m too chicken to ride my bicycle because I’m afraid I’ll fall and have to go to the E.R.. But I go for a walk every day, but I haven’t gone. Had to go to a store since March 13th. I mean, that’s just everything I want comes to me, even though I’m in a condominium new building, you know what I’m saying? It pretty dense area. But if I was a less fortunate person, if I was a frontline service worker, I’d have to go out and work with other people. And in fact, New York has a very high percentage of those kinds of people, frontline service workers. And I probably take transit to get to work. Crowded is a big factor, not just density. If you live in a multigenerational household. So ethnic communities, immigrant communities. Right. Hit the city community age. I mean, one of the reasons northern Italy was hit so hard was because age there’s a couple I want to mention that I think are really interesting. And I think you guys might find interesting and listeners might. There’s been a lot of critics of urbanism who’ve criticized cities like San Francisco because they’re childless. And that’s a very relevant criticism that that people with families have been forced out of these places because they can’t pay the rent. Well, if children if we close schools because children are vectors and the jury’s out on that, whether they are. But let’s say they are. Well, if you’re a city like San Francisco, which has the lowest percentage of children at home of any city in the United States, you can have less spread that way. Similarly, if you’re healthier, if you’re fit or if you’re younger, which San Francisco is low levels of obesity, low diabetes, low levels potentia. And then finally, on the flip side, if you’re a city with high levels of social capital and I think this is very true of northern Italy, some of the classic studies of social capital have been about northern Italy, the tight family linkages, community linkages, civic and social ties, the alignment stones that on Twitter the other day. And I really like climates where we don’t agree on everything. But I like he’s like one of the great tragedies of this may be that social capital ends up being a propagator of the virus. So it’s to say that there are many factors in addition to density, characteristics of the population and characteristics of places that might make a place more or less vulnerable to this damn virus.
S2: Let me ask you about transit, because that’s one of the things you said that, you know, the jury’s out on. I know that Milan and London putting a bunch of effort into trying to create sort of human powered alternatives to transit in terms of bike lanes. And why the sidewalks and that kind of thing? One thing you mentioned about Germany is they have a bunch of transit, but it’s often like well ventilated s bonds rather than sort of packed subway systems that we associated with places like Tokyo or New York. What’s your view of of subways? And is this like a real sort of existential threat for subways, systems around the world? Is this something huge for them?
S1: So we’ll get to the facts in a minute. But such as they. But I don’t think the facts matter. I think people are going to be scared of trains and subways. And and we saw that in China, transit ridership was down. People turn the cars in. I think it’s like getting in a crowded elevator, getting on an airplane, going up into a tall building. I think there’s just gonna be a fear now. How long that fear lasts? Is it two years? Three years, four? It won’t be forever. It’ll be for some time. So I think there’s going to be fear. You know, in that to The New York Times reporter who wrote that you get a kid and she bought a car and people pilloried her, which was horrible. I mean, I certainly understand why she bought a car. The facts seem to be mixed or there’s some debate. Now, Jeffrey Harris at M.I.T. is a pretty serious guy. I mean, I’ve talked to Jeffrey. I don’t know him personally. I’ve looked at his CV. This is a guy who’s a scientist. I believe he’s a medical doctor, has holds an appointment in economics at M.I.T.. This is not a silly person. He’s pretty convinced that that paper, you know, convinces me as a as a reader that he’s probably got a point. He wrote this very interesting paper that the main transmission vehicle in New York City was the subway. And one of the things he seized upon is also the distance of the commute. So so people who were on the subway for more time that the neighborhoods, I should say, the places where commutes were longer. Yeah. Had high. Now, there are other factors in those neighborhoods. They’re poor. They have more people with pre-existing conditions. But the point of his paper, which is pretty carefully done and this is a guy who has was an economics and a public health background, was that subways were important vectors. And I guess my mind does it it doesn’t really matter if he’s right or wrong theories in the atmosphere. Fear is in the environment. Certainly, I think, you know, I keep thinking of the street cars, like in Toronto where they had the street cars. People feel better. I agree, Felix. It’s very interesting about this. I was skeptical that places would really start to change their streets into into pedestrian thoroughfares and bikeways, but went to. I mean, Milan announced this in Bogota. Bogota has a long history of doing this and Seattle announced it when Toronto announced it the other day. That kind of surprised me because, you know, the current mayor is a good guy, a really competent person, not Rob Ford by any means. But it is part of the he’s he’s a conservative. So part of his coalition is a Rob Ford Coalition. I wouldn’t have thought that they would do it. But so I think for the time being, we will see some shifting and if not forever. Right. We may see them shift back. But I think we are going to see some shift in transportation to cars and also to non vehicular modes of transport.
S3: I’m just curious if we saw, like in previous kind of more localized epidemics, Saar’s, that kind of thing. You know, if we saw a significant period of time after that that people in different Asian countries didn’t use public transportation or did people go back relatively?
S1: First of all, it’s something I’m going to look at. I have not done that and made it, which is really strange that I didn’t, because I have a stack of books on endemics and articles and I, I thought I’ve read everything. And I think it’s probably because I was not focused on those mini epidemic, not many smaller epidemics that I was focused on, things like cholera or the plagues or the Spanish flu. It’s clear that there was residual fear after the Spanish flu for a while, you know, and as much as two, three, four years going out, people were scared. They were scared of other people. You know, the whole article that was moms were scared to hold their kids and that damaged kids. I mean, so I think I think so. Certainly when I moved to Toronto now, now there was not a fear of transit. But when I moved to Toronto, I remember I went to see my doctor and he pointed his elbow at me. And I’m like, what is that? And he’s like, That’s the Saar’s shake. So, yeah, I my assumption is there was not only now I did talk to a bunch of people in Hong Kong because I have a very good Urban Land Institute there. They said that people were very quick to mobilize. I mean, not only what you’ve read, but they said as soon as people heard about a virus, they saw lineups in front of pharmacies and in front of stores and that, well, that’s that foreign people were going to get masks and so forth. So you’re probably correct that there was a whole set of mobilizations. And I do think this fear what we can say is that what we know about China is that people were reluctant to go back to transit, even in a society which is very used to using transit as a major mode of transportation. But I don’t think this will last forever. I think we’re looking at a couple of a couple, three, four years max. I mean, it could be if we do something good. It could be much.
S4: One thing I was gonna ask related to, you know, how long people’s fears last, how how long people’s behaviors change, if the changes are permanent. I guess the big question for me and a lot of other people right now is what is the future of the city look like? What are the changes that will be with us for a long time? You know as well the street closures last. Will. Will cities become more pedestrian focused as more restaurants go under? What does that mean for you? And we’ll talk about that later. But I guess I’ve been thinking a lot about whether or not it’s true or not. Your perception is the density is more dangerous. We see people moving to the suburbs here in New York a little anecdotally anyway. So I guess what is the city going to look like culturally? What’s the vibe? You know? That’s what I’m sort of curious about most now.
S2: Yeah. Let me let me let me push that after the next segment, because. Because that’s going to be a big one. I just want to ask a little question first before we get to the big question. My little question is about my favorite form of transportation, which is the most efficient form of transportation ever invented, more efficient than walking or biking. Is the elevator that one 100 percent? Seems to me to be the real bottleneck in a lot of cities, certainly in New York. But I think in San Francisco, any there’s a huge number of cities where even if you even if everyone could just magically get to wherever they work without having to take transit and without having to take cars, and they could just teleport to the front door of the building, you still have an elevator problem. And I’ve been trying to do the math on elevators and it just doesn’t work. Like how like how does this elevator problem resolve itself?
S1: So I think the elevator problem and the transit problem are are very similar. I think they’re very similar problems, although the math is probably different. And fortunately, I’ve talked to a lot of commercial real estate developers because I just find them fascinating and they’ve got a big problem on their hand. And they agree with you, Felix, that the big bottleneck is the elevator. And and, you know, so one thing people say right away is you’re gonna have queues all the way down the street. But how will you deal with that? You’re going to have to do more remote work and you’re already talking with your tenants and large companies. You saw today, I think, that Google said remote work until 20, till late 2021, remote work until like late 2021. That’s a long time. So more remote work. And what about 40 percent of us, according to the studies, can do remote work? Some more remote work is one. The second thing people are talking about is staggered commutes. So so on the one hand, staggered days. You come in every other day or every third day. And the second one is staggered times. So so people will come in at seven, seven thirty eight. And that’s not because of transit. That’s because of exactly what you said, Felix, to take the queues out of the elevators. People are talking about not just temperature sensors at the building entrance, but elevator sensors to make sure that people are incorrect, to make sure you feel safe. Look, I mean, I live in a small condo building. We have elevators. I’ve not gotten in the elevator with anyone else in. How long is it now? Almost too much. Not quite too much. Almost two months. I’ve been scared to get in an elevator with what? One other person, you know, and I’m not saying I guess professors are kind of risk averse, generally speaking. But I’m not that risk averse. Generally speaking, if that if I’m doing that, other people will do it, too. So I think you’re right about the big bottleneck and I think that bottleneck. The other thing the other thing that people are beginning to talk about is, is do you have some short term rebirth of the suburban office park? In other words, do you start to refashion some of these suburban office parks so that people from in the case of New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Westchester County can go to work closer, work in an office closer to where they live some part of the time, as well as coming to the main headquarters office or a central office in New York. Part of the time, but I think you’re right, it’s transit and elevators that are the bottlenecks.
S2: OK, so now let’s talk about this. The more longer term future and what this and what kind of changes might last for longer than a couple of years. Emily, you had a few questions along those lines.
S4: Yeah, I mean, I’m really. We all remember after September 11th, everyone said New York City was dead and over. We said back then more people would move out of the city, offices would move out of the city. La, la, la, la, la. None of that really happened. The city came back bigger, stronger than ever. It just didn’t happen. So now you’re hearing the same thing here in New York. I am very New York centric. I suppose that, you know, you have already the stories in the Times about people who are moving to Westchester and Connecticut and so on. And you’re already hearing like all the restaurants are going to go away. So the cultural life of the city and the reason people move to cities, which is, you know, for the dining options, a lot of the time that’s going away and people are afraid of cities now. So. But at the same time, people are making arguments like the cars are going to go away. There’s going to be it’s gonna be a vibrant time for the city, actually. So, yeah, I’m curious, Richard, what what you think.
S1: So I’ve been thinking about this a lot. That’s basically what I’ve been doing. I’m writing a big feature which will be out in the next issue of The Atlantic and the magazine. It’s already grown to over 7000 word. So it’s kind of unwieldy. And I have a three part answer for you. And we can break this into chunks if you want to. I could just spew it all out. First of all, urbanization throughout the course of history has been a far stronger factor than infectious disease. It has never disrupted infectious disease propagated by density before. We had even more in public health. Never mind modern medical technology, the possibility of developing antivirals or a vaccine. Infectious disease has never stopped the force of urbanization. I have always give two illustrations of this. My parents were born in the 1920s and are the youngest members of their respective families of seven. So means all my aunts and uncles were born during a Spanish flu. No one told me I was born. Now you know how old I am. I was born in 1957 in the middle of the fifty seven epidemic that attacked infants and toddlers. My God. Never mentioned it like it killed a hundred thousand Americans. My. I never said anything. That the point is and and and is that urbanization is always conquered. This is one of the things we know from from the historical studies, which is very interesting, is that people tend to come toward cities after pandemics. Throughout history, people moved from the countryside to Italian cities in the Spanish flu. People move to cities. So I don’t think that New York or L.A. or San Francisco will lose their status as a superstar cities. I think I think the concentration of finance, entertainment media, high tech in these cities will remain. Which leads me to the second part of the answer. I do think there’s a set of pull and push factors that we can’t ignore this time. We already mentioned fear of transit. Fear of trains. You said, Emily, people want to go to the suburbs. I think for for people who are older and vulnerable or people like me who I have two little kids. People who have kids and I hear this a lot from dyed in the wool New Yorkers. Yeah, I’m probably gonna move. And when you really ping on it, the thing is not just the restaurants, it’s they want a backyard and a lawn and a swing set and a car to move their kids around it. But, you know. The kids have always yeah, right, and that move is not I mean, you know, maybe they mitigated it. My brother waited till he was 13 to move out to Ridgewood, New Jersey, to wait till his eldest daughter was 13 to move out to Ridgewood, New Jersey. But that move is typical remote work. People will be able to remote work. Some people will say the hell with it. You know, I’m going to go to Hudson. I’m going to go to Deacon. I’m going to go to Woodstock. Or, you know, I’m going to go to Nashville. They’ll be with people who say that. But the other thing and I think your your your question. There are a lot of young people like I saw the pictures of Washington Square Park and I said if I was twenty two or twenty three, the first place I’d be heading is New York City. Like, there’s no way you’re gonna keep me down on the farm. And I do think, you know, and my colleague Derek Thompson, the piece you wrote on retail kind of said this. New York could be come affordable enough that not only young people, but like truly creative people, like musicians and artists could afford to move back there. But you could imagine, like now it’s not going to go back to seventy five, but it could go back to like nineteen ninety eight. Relative prices. I don’t I’m making this up. But you could see like musicians and artists and they’re very risk of a. risk averse. You know, the risk of they’ll still go anywhere. So I think you’ll see this swapping of population, older people. I think the other thing and you know, Felix, you know, Felix once wrote this great quote about the towers being the physical manifestation of our greater than J or G. Great. I think it’s far greater than J. I think this at a tear of people and the wealthy aristocrats and oligarchs are headed out of town. Like, I just. They came there for fancy, fancy restaurants and theater. I just don’t see those people hanging on very long. So so maybe in end, you know, maybe this is hopeful thinking, overly optimistic thinking the city will go back to something like it was. But, you know, this depends on how long. If this is over in six to twelve months, the effects will be very small. If it lingers for 18, 24 months or longer, the effects will be big.
S4: That Derek Thompson piece was extraordinary. I mean, he he basically compared it to like a forest fire, like the city will be reborn the way a forest is after a devastating fire like from the ashes will rise, cheap rents and the artists will return sort of like a home.
S1: So just to build on what you said, though, what you said, which was so interesting, people made that same prediction after 9/11. So I don’t want us to force them to it. People said that after 9/11, not only would wealthy people and families and their people were scared to death then, but New York would decay. And of course, as you mentioned, New York had its greatest boom. The great back to the city movement because I wrote Rise of the Creative Class in 2002. And I remember the critics. Oh, my God, you’re nuts. Everyone’s gotta go to the suburbs. And I you know, my great mistake was I under predicted I always blame I under predicted the extent of the urban revival. I completely missed that. This accelerates so greatly after 2001. So. So I do think we have to be careful. And what I did say, though, at 2001 and in 2008 in the piece I wrote for The Atlantic. It would give us a chance to reset our cities, a kind of a brushfire that we we had the opportunity, if we were intentional, to actually make our cities better. And in neither case let that happen. They became more hyper gentrified, more expensive. So I think we have to be cautious this time, especially if this is over quickly. It may not be the automatic reset and maybe New York gets hurt a little more. But San Francisco looks like it got through this pretty much unscathed. And that is the really that’s the real unaffordable city in America, even much more affordable, a much more you think about its resilience to the virus. It’s because it’s hyper gentrified. San Francisco got to pick on it. I do love the city of every city in America has the lowest percentage of frontline workers. It has the highest percentage of professional and remote workers. So it’s already super gentrified. So I just I just I think people are saying that. But it’s hard to say right now. One, I don’t think the city will be devastated in two. I hope we can remake it in a good way. But I’m not 100 percent sure that’s the case.
S2: Let me ask you about brushfires, because they the one little baby low to the ground. Ecosystem that is likely to get burned down, much more likely to get burned down than any of the others is restaurants and specifically single restaurants, which are just one restaurant owned by one person. Not not the. But the like the small distance restaurants. And I think Emily is absolutely right, that restaurants are like one of the main reasons why people move to cities and put New York to one side. What does this mean for, say, Charleston or somewhere, which is, you know, where people which has really built up a restaurant culture, people visit because of restaurants and it’s become, you know, a super exciting place because of restaurants. If those restaurants go away, you know, it seems to me that there’s a bunch of, like, muscle memory. We had Dan Barber on this podcast a couple of weeks ago basically saying that if it goes away, it doesn’t come back very quickly. You need you need all of the sort of cross pollination going on in real time. And if that goes away at all, it takes a very, very long time to come back. And they worry maybe not about New York because New York is is unique, but a bunch of sort of second and third tier places that have really used restaurants in particular to. Punch above their weight that this could be very bad for them?
S1: Well, certainly I agree with you. You know, having gone out on the road again after some years off until this happened, you know, in 2002, New York and San Francisco and Chicago looked very different than the rest of the country. They had all of these really interesting amenities. But most of all, restaurants, music venues, cafes, bars that were just spectacularly better than anywhere else. Cycle forward to twenty eighteen. Charleston, Nashville, Tulsa. Bentonville, Ark. I can go down like a lot. Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Columbus. I would go to these cities and say oftentimes, and this is not meant to be insulting in New York. The restaurants they have are kind of more interesting. And certainly the coffee shops were really interesting because they were all independently owned in New York. They’re more at least in the coffee shop in space, a lot more chains, especially in Manhattan. So I think this is incredible. And the farm to fork movement, you know, I think a lot of restaurants will go out of business. You know, I did like your colleague Henry Graybar, Ahlem city level piece in Slate, new to turn the parking lots that would work in the favor of more a mid rise, mid density, smaller scale cities. If you can turn all these restaurants, parking lots into outdoor seating, but I think Derek’s probably right, there’s probably going to be a lot of failure and then there’s going to be a lot of creative destruction and a lot of new restaurants opening. You know, one thing that would be even worse is if we all get really used to delivery. You know, I can see it happening to me like now my delivery options are better. And I think, you know, we have an entrepreneurial community that’s pretty smart, that knows that we don’t want to just have chain food delivered, that we want really interesting food delivered. If I can start to get really interesting food delivered to me, you know, I can eat it in my house with my friends. It. Am I going to want to go to the restaurant? So I think there’s also a delivery challenge here. But I do think the bigger picture, the bigger picture concept that I would say is that if you look at cities is a balance of two forces, there is a productivity value of living in cities, being close to office, close to other talented people, close to startups, close to the center of financial action, the media. And that’s a big driver of what makes cities. And then there’s an amenity value. And what we saw in after 2001 and 2008, the amenity value of cities surged. Right. That really that was never the case. In fact, throw most of it. History had to pay people more to be in cities because there was decimated. More disease, more infection. Stinky or smelly or more garbage bags. So now for the first time in amenity value. And I think that that balance is going to shift. I do think the value of publicly sourced amenities is going to decline and you’re going to want private amenity. But that might shift the balance to the productivity value of cities. But, yeah, I worry about what you’re saying. And not just food, arts, culture, music, all of that stuff.
S3: Seems like it’s gonna be harder to kind of wonder, though. You know, I think when we think about cities have a tendency to think about the largest cities. But I’m also wondering, like if you do now have more people who are able to work remotely. So not everyone has to live in three cities and can actually spread out. And these are the same people who are going to want a lot of the amenities you would get in a larger city if what you may eventually see is actually just a lot of these kind of mid tier cities or places around universities that actually start to develop quite a bit more. So it’s just not as centralized, but the amenities still exist.
S2: We already we’ve seen that with Austin already. Right? That’s that. You know, you got you got a university. You get like a low density city. And people just love the openness of it and the feel of it, and it just gets bigger and bigger and bigger.
S1: So I think we’ve been seeing that like like you said, both said, I think we’ve been seeing that for a while. If you look at the data, it certainly shows that people are moving from larger cities to second and third tier cities now. I think that’s a price issue. I think it’s super talented. People who are really at the cutting edge of finance or technology or media are staying in the big, big cities. The people who are don’t want to do that. Less motivated by work, less ambitious. They’re the ones saying, you know, I’m not going to I’m not going to work to live. I’m going to move to X, Y, Z. I think college towns like Austin have been the big one. Nashville’s been a big one. I’ve been spending a lot of time in Tulsa. I’m working with the George Kaiser Foundation. They created a program called Pulser Remote. When I go to Tulsa, I need people like you. I meet people from New York, I meet people from Chicago, I meet people from San Francisco. I meet people to L.A. who are drawn to Tulsa. We spend time in Miami. Miami Beach has been a place that’s attracted a ton of new. We take our kids to preschool. Everyone we meet is a migrant from New York City. There’s a few from London, but mainly from New York City. So, yeah, and I think, in fact, people would prefer that than the kind of sterile suburb. I think what we’ve seen now is instead of going to the suburb of San Francisco, the suburb of New York, go to a go to a beacon, go to Hudson or go to a smaller city in a different part of the country. Here’s the issue, though. One, I think jobs might be scarcer in those place, that the great irony of this is that the jobs may be in the big, big cities just because of consolidation and the need to concentrate. And that’s where the action is to. It’s not like college towns are going to be immune from this. Universities are going to get clobbered. And if kids can’t come back in the fall, the economic fallout like what you just talked about in New York with restaurants, bars, cafes. If they don’t have any kids in Ann Arbor or Boulder, it’s going to be metastasizing. So I think they’re. Now, if you’re smart, if I am a second or third tier city and I’m smart about it and very intentional, and I can work to support my restaurant scene and my music scene. And one of the things I’ve been talking to cities about is you’re not going have a Rolling Stone show, you’re not going have a YouTube show. You’re not going to be a Taylor Swift concert. You can do locally sourced culture. You can create portals where people can hire local lags, hire local artist, hire local performers, hire local chefs. You could activate your city in a different way. So, yeah, I think there’s opportunity across the board, but you’re going have to be really smart about it.
S4: One thing I’m also wondering about in terms of the future for cities is immigration. So here in the US, we’re seeing, you know, obviously the Trump administration not wanting anyone to come here anymore. But if you want cities to remain these vital places, cultural hubs, if you want new restaurants to open from the ashes, you need immigrants. And I’m worried here in the States that, you know, with immigration declining, that it’s going to be really hard for cities to come back from this or to come back even more unequal than before.
S1: Well, surely we know the main flow of people into big cities, not the second and third tier cities and not the Sunbelt cities, but the big cities in the United States. And that’s New York, L.A., Chicago, we go down with has been not yuppies. There’s been a flow of highly educated people back to a few neighborhoods. It’s immigrants. What has kept our cities and big metropolitan areas alive in this country is a flow of people wanting the American dream. And and it’s quite clear that our current president and his supporters want to end that. So I think you’re right that that could be as big a threat, less a threat. You know, I spend one more than half the year in Toronto and and less a threat in a place like Toronto. I think that, you know, for countries that decide that they can pick off the people who would have come to America. Yeah, that’s a pretty good advantage. And and and also, you know, it’s really interesting. I’ve been thinking this. This is a professor. And you can think about it from a city point of view. You probably have the best talent recruitment opportunity in modern memory. You know, universities have hiring freezes. They’re not hiring people. The immigrants are inhibited in these. Really, like if you were a university that could really find money. You know, do have a local benefactor who took risks. You took a risk with your endowment and you said, I really want to go after this slew of great talent that no one else is picking up. I mean, it’s kind of a once in a lifetime opportunity. From a city point of view, if you’re a city, whether that city, Sydney or Toronto or Melbourne or whatever, Vancouver, whatever one it is. I’m just making it up. You would have an opportunity to attract talent that probably you otherwise couldn’t. That probably would have come to New York or L.A. or something. Kind of reminds me probably of the, you know, the rise of National Socialism in Germany, the Hitler period, the period of World War Two where New York and L.A. benefited from an influx of of European Jews that remade the scientific community, technical community, entrepreneurial community, Hollywood. Now, it’s probably not quite like that, but Boyd. It’s the only thing I can see as similar as you have this real opportunity to change the shape of your place by attracting all this talent that can’t go elsewhere.
S4: A real brain drain.
S2: Since you mentioned Sydney, let me ask that, because I see a future in the medium term where there’s two different classes of countries. Basically, there’s the more open countries that have given up on bringing that number of cases down to zero. So that would include places like Sweden, 70, the United States and probably Canada as well. And just because it has that long land border with us and it can’t do anything about it. And then you have another group of countries which would include Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, places like that that have really tried very hard and pretty successfully to bring the number of cases down to zero and keep it there. And that they’re going to basically say, like, yeah, no one can come in. And if you do come in, you we’re going to lock you up in a hotel room for two weeks before you can go anywhere. And that doesn’t sound appealing to anyone. So what what how does that play out? If Sydney, which really wasn’t a very global city up until much just basically can’t be global anymore? Like, what’s the implications of that?
S1: So, you know, I’ve been I very good friend who runs the committee from Sydney is a guy from the Bay Area. Gabe Metcalf. And we’ve been talking a lot. And I mean, my closest collaborators, Starliner Mark Mellander, lives in Sweden. So these are things I spend a lot of my time thinking about. One, I don’t think the Swedish strategy is as bad as most people do, and I think there’s been some coming around. You know, I’ve listened to both the current public health minister and the guy who hired him. I forget his name. Got all these long Swedish names, you know, and that strategy is very interesting because it said we’re going to stay relatively open. It’s not about herd immunity, first and foremost, nor is it about economic stabilization first and foremost, when I listen to them. It’s about not freaking people out, not scaring the bejesus out of kids, not destroying families. And most importantly, not getting these all sorts of anti-democratic stuff that we see even in our country. Right. All of this nuttiness. And and so that’s one that the lockdown strategy. I don’t know. I don’t know if you can keep it away. Maybe you can forestall it long enough that a vaccine comes. But, you know, I do think Sydney. I mean, look, if somebody said to me you could go live in Sydney now, I’d probably consider it a lot more than I would have considered it before. It’s sunny. It’s warm. You can go outside. It’s safe. But I think you’re right, Felix. If it stays close in that city, I forget the statistics. It’s far more dependent on foreign immigration and foreign students than even Toronto. I mean, it is a city that is really dependent upon flows of immigration and flows of foreign students from Asia. I don’t know which, but I do think the places that will benefit in the long run are the places that are more open. And that raises a whole interesting set of questions. You know, how do you make and keep yourself open and somewhat protected if you close up too much? You have a whole set of other risks.
S2: Let’s have a numbers round. I think we need some numbers here. Emily, did you bring a number?
S4: My number is fifteen point five percent. That is the unemployment rate for women announced on Friday by the Labor Department. And that number is actually higher than the jobless rate, which is an awful fourteen point seven percent. And it’s higher than the unemployment rate for men and which is 13 percent and white men is twelve point four percent. But the point of my number is that the economic devastation wrought by this crisis is really being felt by women in a way that we’ve just never seen before. Women’s Unem. The unemployment rate for women has never crossed double digits before, not even close. The Great Recession, it was around eight percent. Even the men went up to 10 at that time. So, I mean, and the reasons are ah ah twofold. First is that the jobs lost were in service sectors where women really dominate. If they’re not the majority, they’re close to the majority. And then even in those sectors, women’s job losses are disproportionately high because not only do they make up the majority of workers in those sectors, but they make up the overwhelming majority of the lowest paid, most vulnerable workers.
S2: That was it. That was one of the weird things about the jobs report this month, was that average wages went up more than they’ve ever gotten up ever because of the lower lowest paid people got fired and then said just we have to be working at a high paid people.
S4: Yep. And then the other reason women are getting hit hard. I swear I’ll stop. I’m sorry, but I just wrote a story about it. So it’s like fresh in my head. The other reason is because schools are closed and child care centers are closed. So even some women who actually could go to work can’t go to work right now. So it’s kind of like this double whammy. And it could really get worse even after the pandemic subsides, because a lot of the child care centers in the country are in danger of going under permanently. So a lot of women won’t be able to go back to work, possibly including the people who work at the child care centers and the women who send their kids there. And now I’m done.
S2: My number is I love it just because there’s lots of names in it. Two point nine nine nine trillion dollars. They managed to just come under the three trillion dollar mark, but that is the amount of money that the federal government says that it’s going to have to borrow in the second quarter, which is so. Oh, might be on these. What like any amount of borrowing that the world has ever seen by any entity in the history of humanity, that it’s it’s just off the charts. You know, people were worried about trillion dollar. I’m old enough to remember when people were worried about trillion dollar deficits. There’s an annual deficit. This is three trillion dollars of borrowing in one quarter, which is I mean, it’s a little bit artificial because you normally get a bunch of people paying taxes in the second quarter and they aren’t paying their taxes in the second quarter because it was put back by three months. But even so, boring, three trillion dollars in one quarter. I mean, it’s just technically really hard. You know, the sheer amount of bond issuance that you need to ramp up to do that is astonishing. Richard? Both You know it well.
S1: I have it here. I actually brought a lot of numbers. I’ve never done this. But the number I have is somewhat similar. Well, similar then Emily’s it’s eight point four percent. That is the percentage of people with a bachelor’s degree and higher who are currently unemployed. I don’t remember exactly. I should have done a little bit more homework, but it sounds like it’s more than double. If I remember correctly, the level of unemployment in the Great Recession for people with a bachelor’s degree. I remember those rates. And sometimes I confuse professional in technical occupations with a bachelor’s degree people. But I’m sure those rates staying in the twos and threes and maybe four percent as unemployment went into double digits. The reason I brought that number is I think that’s going to put additional pressure for reopening. I think that it was one thing when the unemployment was surging among lower income, less skilled people. You know what I’m saying? Well, manufacturing workers, this sort of thing. But when people with a high level of degree of education, members of the creative class that are employed, their nervousness is going to be palpable. And I think it’s going to increase the pressure to reopen this economy. And I think they’re going to feel well. Well, if we were open, we can stay relatively safe anyway. So let’s go. Let’s go do it or not. And that that’s why I brought a point for you.
S3: So, yes, I am going to switch my number. See what the thing we are doing here. It’s I think it’s eighteen point one million, which was the number of those jobs that technically were from people who are classified themselves as temporarily unemployed. And to me, this is gonna be the really interesting story moving forward about whether or not that is true, you know, whether or not in it, obviously we don’t know. We don’t know the directory that the disease. We don’t know how demand will recover after disease. But I just thought that was a really interesting part of that very, very large number.
S4: In other words, are those people going to go back to where exactly are they? Are these going to become permanent job loss?
S2: Exactly. If you’re aware, if you’re furloughed, but, you know, that means you’re temporarily unemployed. But there will certainly be many people who are currently furloughed who will never get that job back.
S4: And a lot of them don’t want to like we’re doing some reporting now on workers who are getting called back and allow the workers don’t want to go go back and some of them are choosing not to.
S2: So that’s sort of here’s another number which I’m just going to throw in for shits and giggles, which is 1200. There are 1200 workers in Ohio who were furloughed and then their employers said, OK, we’re back up and running. They’ll come back. And the workers said, no, I don’t feel comfortable coming back and I feel safe coming back. I’ll. Well, maybe I’m just not capable of coming back because I have kids at home and no way of, you know, finding childcare. Whatever the reason was, they said they couldn’t come back. And then six hundred of those employers representing 1200 people turned those names over to the Ohio authorities so that they could they would then stop getting unemployment benefits. Gross on on which and I think that’s going to happen more often. But, yes, I think that’s it for us this week. Thank you very much, Richard Florida, for coming on this show. And it’s a show I’ve been looking forward to and very happy to be managed to do. Thanks very much. To just mean Molly for managing to produce it all from Brooklyn. And we will talk to you next week on Slate Money. I would like to do us a sleepless segment and basically ask you about the reaction to covered as a subset of the reaction to climate change since you’re in Miami. Do the changes that are happening to cities help us in the much bigger fight that we have going on here?
S1: In the short run, yes. In the short run, emissions are down in the short run. People are cycling and walking more. They’re driving less. But in the long run, I don’t think so. I think. I think they’re very similar and that no one thought a pandemic would come, including pretty smart people like me. I mean, I’m much more aware of climate change. And I think for most Americans are like climate change, my mood change. I mean, they smart people, intellectually curious people care about it. But most people don’t care. Even most people in Miami don’t care. They keep buying condominiums and homes. And, you know, I don’t you know, I talk to even political leaders. You know, if the bargains come up, we’ll buy them. You know, people aren’t buying stuff here. So I just don’t know. I just think we’re going to discount this. I think we will be more aware of pandemic disease and viruses. But I don’t it’s just so amazing to me how much we discount other than expert opinion and, you know, intelligent people, highly educated people in highly educated clusters, a highly educated. You know what, elderly western Richard. And you’re in Miami. Miami. It’s. Well, I mean, I’m trying to stay safe, right? I mean, warmth and sun and get outside. But let me let me let me go back to the point you made. Look, I mean, people are going to drive more when this is over and oil prices are going to be at record lows, you know. I mean, we’re all looking at this now and saying the utopian city of dreams we wished was here. I just see I see hordes of cars and, you know, I see it here. But I also hear from my friends in New York that say cars are coming back and that maybe less so than here, but because more car demand plays. I’m really worried that that this is not going to that this is anything is going to set us back, not moving forward as as people shift from transit and trains to cars and gas prices are cheap. And cars are cheap because they’ll be discounted. People will drive more. That’s what worries me.
S4: I agree. I think I think people look at what just happened and see that emissions went down and they’ll say, well, we can’t do that again. Like, that was crazy and terrible. Like, let’s all go back to the way things were before. And I guess the only solution to climate change is to absolutely stop the economy. And we saw that that’s real bad. So let’s just ride this one out. And just like Richard said, more people will drive fuel. Oil prices will be low. More people will drive. I mean, everyone I’ve spoken to on my friends, which is a very select group, I admit, that lives in the city are looking to buy cars now like everyone wants to buy a car known once they want to come out before. So I I’m worried about kind of like a backlash, climate backlash.
S1: And so the balance of this just to answer. I think there’s the dystopias who are saying the cities will be empty. No one will go there. They’ll be ghost towns. They’ll be no restaurants. They’ll be no music venues. They’ll be like people with masks on the street. You’ll be scared and there’ll be crime and violence and the budgets will explode. And then on the other hand, there’s the urban utopias. Everyone’s gonna be walking and smiling and they’ll be riding their bikes and there’ll be no cars and it’ll all be pedestrian boulevards. And the tall buildings, these are the tall buildings will come down and we’ll all live in a neighborhood like Greenwich Village and we’ll open our windows then. Jane Jacobs, you know, when I left, Jane Jacobs and Jane Jacobs village will come back to life. Neither one of those will happen. It will look pretty much like what we have now for a while. There’ll be more driving and there probably be some more bike lanes with better bike lanes. And it’ll probably be a couple streets with pedestrians in New York because of transit. There might be some bus ways. I don’t know which avenues you turn into a bus way, but you might have no cars on one in buses running up and down, maybe a few more ferries because you can be outside on the ferry. But I don’t have any spare ferry, so. But, you know, it feels like Greenstreet looks the way Greenstreet looked one hundred years ago. But what goes on in Green Street is a little different. You know, over time, New York will pretty much look the same. There’ll be some change in the number of pedestrians versus bikes first where cars and trucks go. But it’s not going to change at them. It’s going to be at the margin changes really and feel point. There’ll be some people queued up for the elevator and some people working at home. But it’s never gonna be the dystopia or the utopia. It’s gonna be some tweaked version of what we have now. And the best one, Emily, just go back, is kind of post 9/11. It’s gonna be kind of like that where you sign into the building and you put your shit in a bag. When you go to the airport, it’s gonna be worth zero temperature. And that’s exactly what’s going to freak. And forget what really worries me. Nobody told me about the Spanish flu. No one told me I was born in an epidemic. And the one thing I read, which is amazing, Hemingway, Faulkner, they never wrote about this, the Spanish flu. I mean, it’s just there was this they called it the forgotten pandemic. Like, is it because we’re too scared to remember? Is it because it’s too horrifying to us? Like our ability to forget these things is even we remember terrorist attacks and security threats and great crises much better than we remember pandemics. So I’m just really worried that we’re gonna forget completely about this. And, you know, this is an old hackneyed phrase, what followed the 1918 pandemic, the Roaring Twenties, you know, and if 1918 we had Woodrow Wilson, the 1920s, we had, you know, until we had the recent guy in the White House, pretty bad leadership. You know, Americans went on this giant binge party. So I wouldn’t expect I mean, I. Hope we go to the better, more inclusive, sustainable, resilient, less climate, a change city. But we could also swing back the other way. Nobody knows.
S3: One last thing. I’m kind of curious, too, because I think a lot of this discussion, like we haven’t as much kind of talked about the policy decisions that also can affect these things because, you know, one of the times you really had the movement away from, say, New York City, you know, it wasn’t just it didn’t just happen. It was because in the 50s, I mean, you had policies that subsidize people to move to the suburbs. So I’m I’m kind of curious your thoughts on that.
S1: Well, I think, one, we’ve had those policies, again at the federal level. The lack of deductibility of state and local taxes certainly has fueled some of the migration to low tax dense destinations. I worry a lot, not so much about suburban poaching like that. I worry. Well, cheap gas and low taxes might drive people to suburban locations. But I worry more about the fiscal stress on cities. If you look at what happened as a result of that, in late 60s, 70s and 80s, city budgets got really stress and quality of life really declined. I mean, I remember New York City that it was not I mean, it was great for me. I was a kid. I was oblivious. But you could never raise a family. There were murders and it was crime on every street corner. And it stunk. I mean, it was it at this and then. And then, whether you like it or not. Right. It was cleaned up. There were a whole variety of reasons. It was cleaned up, some policy wise, some migratory. And then it became the city of amenity. But I think if those quality of life and go get to Feliks point the magnetic infrastructure of New York, the restaurants, the bars, the social environment, the theater, the museums comp and you, it’s a tough place to live. You know, there still are bags on the street. There still are, you know. But if you have a compensating quality of life advantage, then you then you look at a tradeoff. I’ll stay there. Great restaurants, great place things to do. I’m worried at the policy level that we’ve shown now in the United States once and for all that we really don’t have a federal government. I mean, I think this has been true. I just think now we all have to rest. But what’s so amazing to me is people still want to say, well, we could have won, maybe we can’t. Maybe the whole thing is so broken and so overcentralized that we have to decentralize it. You know, this is something I’ve been talking about for the past 10 years and not every city responded well, not every state’s responded well. But, you know, if you have that Texas I forget the states of Florida, but even in where I am in Miami Beach, the mayor has responded very effectively. The mayor in Oklahoma, Bynum in Okello in Tulsa, wrote a whole piece in The New York Times saying, I’m going to protect my city in a decentralized framework. You have more points of influence. So maybe we should be having that conversation in this country, you know, and I think is convenient. Sorry if sweet viewers or listeners, it’s convenient to blame Donald Trump. And look, I cry now. I know. I realize why I cried on election night. I really do. But it’s not Donald Trump. There are a lot of people who knew about this. There are a lot of smart people in our country. Infectious disease specialist. There’s a lot of people at agencies like the CDC. There’s a lot of really smart governors. There’s a lot of smart business leaders. We all kind of blew it. And now we’re all scrambling to fix it. And it seems to me the better way to fix it is in all disasters is from the bottom up at the top down. It’s convenient to blame a dysfunctional, narcissistic and incompetent president. But maybe we need to say that could happen again. Maybe we have to wait another forty four. But if we have a chance after forty four, we’re getting another one. Let’s make a system that’s more resilient and decentralized and works from the bottom up. That would be my my hope. But I’m also not optimistic that that will occur.