Edward Glaeser - This Friday

Harvard University economist Edward Glaeser will be in Buffalo on Friday April 18th and will address a forum at the WNED Studios. See - Resurecting Buffalo for additional details.

fixBuffalo readers may remember Glaeser's work - Can Buffalo Ever Come Back? - that first appeared last October. If you're interested in Glaseser's work surrounding issues about urban decline, you may want to read his "Urban Decline and Durable Housing" that was published by the University of Chicago's Journal of Political Economy in 2005. Here's the abstract:
Urban decline is not the mirror image of growth, and durable housing is the primary reason the nature of decline is so different. This paper presents a model of urban decline with durable housing and verifies these implications of the model: (1) city growth rates are skewed so that cities grow more quickly than they decline; (2) urban decline is highly persistent; (3) positive shocks increase population more than they increase housing prices; (4) negative shocks decrease housing prices more than they decrease population; (5) if housing prices are below construction costs, then the city declines; and (6) the combination of cheap housing and weak labor demand attracts individuals with low levels of human capital to declining cities.
I located a podcast with Glaeser from EconTalk - The Economics of Paternalism [podcast after link] hosted by George Mason University's Russ Roberts. Interesting and slighly predictable take and discussion on 'behavorial economics' and rational choice theory from a libertarian perspective.
Charlene Janiga at UB's Regional Institute told me earlier this afternoon that the $30 tickets are still available for Friday's event. They're available online, by calling Charlene at 716-541-1770 or at the door.
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STEEL said...

Maybe someone can give him a picture of Buffalo that is not 35 years old and shows the 75% of the time that there is no snow on the ground

Anonymous said...

That picture accompanied the NY Sun's reprint in October, but the original publication of Glaeser's article (in City Journal) had no picture.


So if it matters, most likely a NY Sun editor added the picture.

Way to zero in on the important substance, though. How did you like the font?

STEEL said...

The image that accompanies a story is very substantive. In this case it reinforces a bias and stereotype that is present in the story. It is also dishonest to present a 30 year old picture as if it is current.

And yes if the font had been a ridiculous type that was inappropriate to the format and subject it should be called out.

Anonymous said...

All opinions have biases, including his and yours.

Bottom line is it was originally published without any picture, so your repeated complaining about that picture is against somebody else, not him.

Write to the NY Sun editor with complaints about what picture that paper used when they reprinted his article which was originally in a different publication.

How about some substance? Do you favor the kinds of federal government spending projects in Buffalo that he argues against?

If so, what are some examples of what you favor and why?

Enough with whining, hurt feelings, and superficial nit picking about stereotypes. Let's have some constructive specific alternatives.

Maybe some of the panelists who will be questioning him here are reading this. Do you have any non-emotional suggestions about what they might ask him or suggest and an alternative to his position?

STEEL said...

It is true that Buffalo has many problems and that many publicly supported projects have failed. However I found Mr. Glaeser's writing to be highly generalized and misleading. He makes conclusions an assumptions not supported by facts and fails to call attention to pertinent information that does not back his claim. For instance he uses subjective issues such as climate to prove that people do not want to live in Buffalo because it is cold. The facts are that most people in this country live in cold climate cities many of which are growing. He notes that Federal spending on urban renewal has been a failure in Buffalo but skips over the fact that most of that funding was in the form of highways that cut up city parks, and neighborhoods. One of these highways eliminated a beautiful parkway sending an upper income neighborhood into decline. Other federal projects included construction of housing projects which transferred concentrations of poverty into formerly stable neighborhoods.

He states that people do not live in high numbers in inhospitable places like our nation's deserts (as further proof that Buffalo has no chance) but neglects to say that in actuality the federal government has spent trillions of dollars building dams and other infrastructure that have made those deserts highly attractive at the expense of places like Buffalo and other cities in the north east. Phoenix gets hydro dams and Buffalo gets housing projects. Maybe he is right perhaps Buffalo would be better off without Federal interference.

I fund this article to be highly un-scholarly and biased. Not what you would expect from a Harvard Professor

Anonymous said...

"...He makes conclusions and assumptions not supported by facts and fails to call attention to pertinent information that does not back his claim. For instance he uses subjective issues such as climate to prove that people do not want to live in Buffalo because it is cold. The facts are that most people in this country live in cold climate cities many of which are growing. ..."

You're seriously saying most people in the US live in cold climate cities????? Did you jsut wake up from a very long sleep?

What's your source on that "fact"?

Accoring to census.gov 2007 estimates, the South Region has 110M residents and the West 70M. The Northeast has 55M and the Midwest 66M. Of the four regions, 180M people are in the South and West compared to 121M in the Notheast and Midwest.

Who's the one casually tossing out "assumptions not supported by facts"?

The "...many of which are growing" part depends on your definition of "many". Most are shrinking.

Also, there is indeed objective statistical correlation between population growth and mean high January temperature in the US over the period 1950 to 2000. So you're wrong to dismiss that away as subjective or say it's not supported by facts. There are also similar temperature correlations over those intervals with income growth and housing price growth, btw.

See Figure 2 at link below, and his related discussion. Of course, just because any two things are correlated doesn't prove cause and effect, nor does he claim that it does. He also indentifies other correlated variables involved, including higher temperature cities having higher productivity and more housing supply. You may doubt any or all of his interpreted reasoning behind the correlations, but those are always subjective and that does not make somethign un-scholarly. The statistics themselves are fact-based and detailed in his peer-reviewed work.

Link: http://www.hks.harvard.edu/taubmancenter/pdfs/sunbelt.pdf

"The Rise of the Sunbelt,"
by Edward L. Glaeser (Harvard University) and Kristina Tobio (Kennedy School of Government)

"... As shown in Figure 1, the South’s share of the national population has increased from 24 percent to 30 percent since 1950. From 1950 to 2000, average income in the South increased from 76 percent of the national average to 94 percent of the national average, while housing prices rose from 83 percent to 91 percent of the national average. The tremendous growth of the South reflects a nationwide correlation between warmth and growth throughout the postwar period.

Figure 2 shows the correlation between January temperatures and population growth from 1950 to 2000.

Correlations between January temperatures and income growth, as well as January temperatures and housing price growth, show a similar pattern.

While it is clear that the Sunbelt - places with warm Januarys and Julys, including but not limited to the South - has experienced a boom since 1950, it is far from obvious what has been the driving force behind this growth.

The traditional explanations for the growth are increasing productivity in the South and increasing demand for Sunbelt amenities, especially its pleasant weather. A third, less studied explanation is the Sunbelt’s more flexible housing supply..."

STEEL said...

cold places






Washington DC







Grand Rapids


St. Louis



St. Paul


Salt Lake City


And lets not for get the entire country of Canad and many other countries which are very cold but remain quite popular with their citizens.

I am not sure what your point is but thanks for the numbers you have posted. I believe they prove my point. the weather has little to do with the worth of a place and its value to a society. That fact that there are growing northern city (even just one) disproves his theory about the weather.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure what your point is but thanks for the numbers you have posted. I believe they prove my point.

No, the Census numbers don't confirm your previous odd contention that "most people live in cold weather cities". They clearly prove the opposite. South and West regions, as of 2006, combined have 180 million; Northeast and Midwest combined have 121 million. So it's not even close, really.

You seem to see Rust Belt and Sun Belt issues in very stark terms of black and white: Rust Belt good, Sun Belt bad, and any piece of info ever implying anything positive about the Sun Belt is to be refuted and denied at all costs. Very strange.

Also, if you really believe citing counter-examples can disprove a statistical correlation, then you don't know what that term means. My previous comment links to a paper of Glaeser's and Tobio which discusses in detail the statistical correlation between 1950-2000 temperature and population growth (and income growth). You originally accused him of not having a factual basis for that.

Of course correlation doesn't mean 100%. See Wikipedia for a good explanation of correlation:

Lists names of some heavy smokers who don't get lung cancer won't disprove a correlation between heavy smoking and lung cancer. Citing cold cities such as Minneapolis or Boston (or Canada!) doesn't disprove anything Glaeser writes about. In fact, his work discusses both of those cities and speculates about reasons they've had better population trends.

It sounds to me that you're reading things too emotionally as an attack on Buffalo or Rust Belt rather than considering other people's exact words dispassionately.

It does no good for Buffalo's cause to deny simple Census facts and definitions of well known statistics terminology. If you want to fight against Glaeser for whatever reason, focus against your arguments against his recommendations if you disagree with them, such as his idea for Rust Belt cities to focus on human capital if you disagree with that.

Anonymous said...

Typos, sorry:

"Lists names of" = "Listing names of",

"focus against your arguments against" = "focus your arguments against"

STEEL said...

That absolute fact is that Buffalo's problems do not stem from cold weather. Period

The story was poorly written and backed up by dubious interpretations of statistics combined sloppy logic.

Roy said...

I have enjoyed reading this back and forth and would like to address some economic assumptions that go unchallenged.

The states of the South and West Regions where populations are explanding are also states that, on average, receive high disproportions of federal tax dollars. Military bases, water projects, agribusiness subsidies and a high proportion of federal roads would all be examples. In contrast, Rust Belt states tend to be net federal tax exporters.

Rust Belt states have high population densities, relatively high education levels and infrastructure already built and paid for. These are usually seen as factors of economic efficiency. The growth states that "anonymous" is so fond of have low population densities, lower incomes and huge investments yet to make in basic infrastructure. As these states claim more population and federal representation they will only grow in their ability to develop using federal, rather than local, dollars. The net result is likely to be growth in the existing federal subsidy structure.

My reading of Glaeser is spotty, but I have seen no evidence of his attention to this huge issue. It is rare to read "economic thought" that does not ignore basic assumptions. In this sense I think Glaeser's analysis is not well founded yet, though they may be with more careful research.

Steel is right about one thing- the photo image is part of a tired pattern. Imagine if every time we mentioned the Southwest we used a photo of a scorpion perched on a cow skull. If "anonymous" can't see the relevance of systematic bias then he just has not paid attention to marketing and elections. His words "Do you have any non-emotional suggestions..." run counter to his defense of perjorative image. Between the tag "anonymous" and the ad hominems (Did you just wake up from a long sleep?) "anonymous" gets off to a weak start. He reels it back in to make useful points later, though I'd love some acknowledgment of federal subsidy issues and the costs of building new infrastructure versus maintaining old.

Census figures are useful, but there may well be major public subsidies driving them. Until these crucial assuptions are well examined I will cast a skeptical ear on Glaeser's analysis. There are other good reasons to invest in human capital. His point on productive social capital is well taken.

Anonymous said...

roy - My comments weren't arguing either way about reasons or importance of facts re. Census numbers, correlation, etc. Never got to that point.

Reasons and importance are subjective, people have different opinions. I have mine but didn't even mention them here.

I was only pointing out a couple specific untruths the other commenter made up. Can't imagine trying to debate opinions with anyone who makes things up as he goes then won't admit it when called on it. We all make errors but it's just too annoying to attempt reasoned exchange with anyone who won't openly honestly admit them until or unless totally cornered, and even then won't do it with humility or class.

A good word for that conversational style is "Clintonesque".

FYI, full video of Glaeser's talk in Buffalo last week is here:


STEEL said...

You are kidding right?

You stated that the Midwest and Northeast have 115M in the cold.

The west is at least 1/2 cold weather population including such places as Denver, Salt Lake, Portl and etc.
That puts 150 Million in the cold
to 145 Million in the warm

You should also note that the highest concentration of population in the US is in the Northeast and great lakes where it is quite nasty in the winter. No place in any of the warm areas of the country come anywhere near the population density of this part of the country

Stop the silly talk

Jim Ostrowski said...

I think coldness is overplayed. But a cold area should not also be an area of high taxes, overregulation, and high union membership.

The cold areas of the country have the oldest regimes, considering that the South was wiped out in 1861-1865.

Government grows by its nature so the oldest will be the biggest.

The cause of Buffalo's decline: over-consumption of capital by the political class.

Anonymous said...

I agree this is an imporatnt factor: "over-consumption of capital by the political class"

Temperature and weather might be overplayed, but still the (very few) people who stubbornly deny it's any factor at all are delusional or for some strange reason choosing to lie about what they believe.

Foolish as it may sound, I've heard some people claim high state/local taxes are overplayed as an issue, and others claim that high levels of unionization is overplayed as an issue.

My take is that all three of those factor have some real effects, along with other things (change in importance since 1950s of Great Lakes transportation, etc.).

Glaeser's published work previous to his article about Buffalo has presented a statistical correlation of temperature and U.S. city populations 1950-2000.

It's almost surprising anyone would so stridently deny it's any part of the picture. Even if one didn't statistically analyze it as Gleaser and his coauthor did, just casually reading Census results over the past few decades would give pretty good hints. Or just noticing which states are gaining seats in Congress and which are losing vs. winter temperatures. Again this doesn't prove cause-effect by itself but it's a strong indicator it might well be a factor.

Probably some people have shown correlations of other factors as well to population. Taxes and unionization are more complex to numerically quantify than temperature, but there's reasonable ways of doing it.

Interesting that Canada was mentioned earlier as an attempted counter example. How many Canadians buy second homes in the Southern U.S. (or eventually migrate there full time) compared to how many U.S. Southerners do the reverse? Quite a difference. Temperature has zero relevance at all in where people choose to live according to some people, or at least one? Hahaha yeah riiiight!

Anonymous said...

"The west is at least 1/2 cold weather population"

Lie. Lie. Lie.

West region total pop: 70M

California: 36M (by itself, more than half of the 70M !), Arizona: 6M, Nevada: 2M

There's 44M of the 70M, over 2/3, and then add in the 10M combined of Washington and Oregon and we get 54M, over 75% of it.

Las Vegas average Jan temp is 57 deg, Seattle's is 46 deg, Buffalo's is 23 deg. Huge difference. By far most of the population in the Census bureau's West Region is warmer than the Northeast Region.

This lie you'll never admit "The west is at least 1/2 cold weather population" (California by itself disproves that) is almost as dishonest as the original lie above that you won't admit "most of the U.S. lives in cold weather cities".

54M plus 110M in South region is 164M, well above half the U.S. So even if we assume everybody in the Northeast and Midwest regions live in "cities, most of which are growing", which isn't true either, your statement still wouldn't hold.

Differeing opinions can be interesting but yours throw in way too much that's made up out of thin air and never admitted even when called on it.

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