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What About Rochester?

There is much to be celebrated in the rise of modern megacities, especially in developing countries. But if the trend persists in advanced economies, which is by no means certain, greater public and private innovation will be required to strike a better regional growth balance.

SANTIAGO – The rise of megacities as centers of strong job creation is one of the defining characteristics of the twenty-first-century global economy. But it is not always a positive feature.

In the developing world, as staggering as the challenges are (greater New Delhi, for example, has been absorbing 700,000 new inhabitants per year), urbanization remains the best hope for alleviating poverty. But in advanced economies, far along the so-called Lewis development curve, it is far less obvious that concentrating economic opportunity in ever-larger cities is necessarily the right or only path forward.

The reasons why powerhouses such as New York, San Francisco, and London have become increasingly dominant economically are well known. Large cities offering a huge array of interesting jobs, cultural attractions, and nightlife are a magnet for young unattached workers. And the combination of large masses of highly specialized workers and firms leads to network and agglomeration effects that are difficult for smaller cities to match, particularly in areas like tech, biotech, and finance.

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