Mid-level urban average is over?

Forty years ago, Nashville and Birmingham, Ala., were peers. Two hundred miles apart, the cities anchored metropolitan areas of just under one million people each and had a similar number of jobs paying similar wages.

Not anymore. The population of the Nashville area has roughly doubled, and young people have flocked there, drawn by high-paying jobs as much as its hip “Music City” reputation. Last month, the city won an important consolation prize in the competition for Amazon’s second headquarters: an operations center that will eventually employ 5,000 people at salaries averaging $150,000 a year.

Birmingham, by comparison, has steadily lost population, and while its suburbs have expanded, their growth has lagged the Nashville area’s. Once-narrow gaps in education and income have widened, and important employers like SouthTrust and Saks have moved their headquarters. Birmingham tried to lure Amazon, too, but all it is getting from the online retail giant is a warehouse and a distribution center where many jobs will pay about $15 an hour.

That is from Ben Casselman (NYT), interesting throughout.  Ben is yet another example of just how good the Times is at talent selection…


“Ben is yet another example of just how good the Times is at talent selection…”

WHat are other examples?

That’s actually a direct quote from the greatest living American

Now, if they could only work on truth detection, they'd have something worth reading.

Duh! Because Nashville is becoming more liberal while Birmingham stays too conservative that's why its becoming prosperous like liberal Silicon Valley, liberal NYC, liberal Seattle, and liberal Austin. Prosperous = Progressive. Conservative = Complacent.

Hadn’t thought of it like this but yes.

You have confused effect with cause.

It's a fair point, and worth thinking through even with less obvious cases. Twin Cities vs. Milwaukee, for example. Omaha, NE vs. roughly similar sized cities in the region (except Sioux Falls, which is doing fine).

My understanding is that Nashville, due to its location and airport infrastructure, became a big logistics hub (I believe Fedex is big there).

I think this has much more to do with it then your perception of whether people there like it up the butt.

Also, Nashville is only 28% black, while Birmingham is 62% black. I'm guessing state statics are similar.

Tipping point!

"(I believe Fedex is big there)."

FedEx is in Memphis

My mistake. I do know that Tennessee if a big transport hub in general due to location.

Indeed. And that's one of the big factor driving Nashville's growth.

Alabama has an unpleasant place in the history of civil rights, and it also sports https://www.splcenter.org/. And it isn't known for country music or anything to compete with Vanderbilt.

Hank Williams was born in Alabama.

Sun Ra was born in Birmingham

Actually, it seems that progressive California and NYC are losing population to cities with a more liberal/conservative balance.

Every city that is growing is going to get more liberal, if just because conservatism sells very badly among the young, and those are often the ones that move to get a new job.

What this shows is that America's mix of social conservatism, economic populism, along with low taxes for the rich, is completely out of whack, and is a losing combination in the long run. The world needs conservatism, but I suspect it's closer to Tyler's conservatism than what wins in Red America

Part of the trick is knowing what works best at different stages in development of a society.

Groups on the frontier, where being overwhelmed by neighbors, do best with an exploration and militaristic mindset with high levels of expected conformity and protection on the home front. However, once a community is established and prosperous, then increasing trade and innovation becomes the method of continued growth, and that requires more tolerance for different social mores. So, when establishing yourself somewhere, classic conservatism works extremely well, but there comes a point at which shifting to more liberal attitudes pays off.

When you're at or past that cusp, then conservatives start to lose influence. It can be shored up by trying to demonstrate that the society we're in is not past the cusp yet: there are more enemies on our borders, we are at risk of infiltration, we still can't expect the state to take care of protection, that sort of thing. However, although some protections are still helpful (rooting out foreign spies, for example), others are maladaptive at that stage (building a wall when you're not actually threatened).

Ideally, once this point is reached, it is the time to open up new frontiers with new opportunities for growth and establishment. There, the conservative part of our society shines and wins great economic advantages. The problem is, these new frontiers haven't been opened up for about a century, at this point.

Now do liberal Cleveland, liberal Detroit, liberal St. Louis, liberal Newark...

Baltimore resident checking in. We're doing just great, if crime, poverty, and education don't count for anything.

All of those were industrial cities and suffered hugely from deindustrialization. And the "liberalism" of those cities has most been the old liberalism of labor unions and civil rights groups, which is a lot different from the liberalism of, say, Silicon Valley or the Pacific Northwest.

Cleveland [which I work in] does all the trendy Silicon Valley things too, bans on trans fats, gay rights ordinances, gun control efforts etc.

Not to mention I’m know as giving the best Cleveland steamer in all of Ohio

Actually the inverse causality is the truth: Leftwing politics is the fetish of the rich. Rich cities produce left wing communities.

I doubt a ban on trans fat is responsible for Cleveland's woes. And if the city could attract lots of gays to live there, it would likely be all to the good as gays are often the first wave of gentrification.

Aren't most cities now blue islands? What major cities would be considered "conservative" aside from a few out in the Mountain West? Dallas? Maybe if you widened "conservative" to include "pro-growth" ...

Makes sense. Younger folks lean more progressive and they are the ones that rejuvenate old cities so where they move, prosperity should follow. Birmingham needs to see what they can do to attract/keep talent. I say investing in a good engineering college would be a good place to start.

The framing of the article implies that success is becoming more concentrated in fewer places. Is this true? Does the data actually support this?

@dan1111 - yes, cue Paul Krugman's Nobelian efforts.

Bonus trivia: Birmingham, where they love the governor, used to be known way back when as a iron and steel manufacturing city, presumably of the ore there. The trend away from Birmingham and towards the more 'service oriented' Nashville is just another example of "Rust Belt" decay, which some economists (Vaclav Smil) say, plausibly in my mind, will come back to haunt the USA. Once the US dollar ceased to be reserve currency of the world, and once US science and technology ceased to be cutting edge (and China has something like 5x more engineers and scientists than we do, though the USA still leads in R&D), who will care about the USA? Are US haircuts, movies, pop culture and other soft services really that superior to the rest of the world? No.

In order for another country to usurp the United State’s place as a leader in technology they are going to first have to have policies which support innovation. The Chinese economic boom has been the result of the huge population, not innovation. The recent trend of Chinese leadership looks like it will stifle innovation rather than encourage it.


Was an interesting broadcast show (for get if it was news channel or some other) about Shenzhen -- described both as the Chinese or the worlds tech capital.

They were at one of the big tech market places where the guy demonstrated buying and then building a working smart phone in about 2 hours. One of the comments was that there, people took hardware, software and IP largely as open source -- everyone was willing to take from others but understood that their "contributions" would then be taken and adapted to yet some other use.

Some I suspect was a degree of propaganda (to keep the story in line with the CPC and Xi). I also suspect that at least as much was very much an honest statement. The is certainly an environment for innovation. Moreover, just looking at the recent story on the "designer" kids it's pretty clear that people are free to do what they want -- as long as it doesn't directly clash with the CPC party line and doesn't garner too much bad international attention. I think it was the latter in the case of the gene editing on humans that would be born more than any clash with CPC policy.

@john - yes, gene editing is taking on center stage in Asian countries, said journalist Ted C. Fishman in his somewhat tedious but full of anecdotal and factually accurate, when mentioning specific facts, book "China Inc" (2005) since China does not care about 'ethics'. He also mentioned Shenzhen and had a whole couple of chapters dedicated to it, saying what you said. The book has held up well, except for predictions like China will do this or that, which so far have not quite panned out exactly, i.e. their car industry is still selling fewer cars or trucks than Japan's 4M domestic sales and much fewer than the USA's 17M or so sales, despite claims that by now China would be #1 in vehicle sales.

@dan1111 - wealth concentration is not the issue here, leadership is.

@Mike W - true, and China might do that. Fact: Chinese students memorize facts, which US educators claim is dumb, but as one of my physics professors used to say: "memorize this fact then convince yourself it is true"--how true! That's how science progresses, even and especially biology, as George Gamow once observed. So "rote learning" as AlexT has said, works in education. And China is doing just that.

Actually in terms of vehicle sales China leads by far: in 2017, in China 29 million vehicles were sold compared to 17 million in the US and 5.2 million in Japan, 3.2 million in Germany and 3.7 million in India. China is indeed already the world's dominant economic power. The US still has has more soft power: music, hollywood movies, software development, universities. The situation between US and UK circa 1910 was similar: UK had more importance as scientific/cultural and geopolitical than the US while US (and Germany) had bigger economy. It can take a while for China to surpass the US in terms of cultural and scientific influence, specially given China's lackluster cultural industry, so far among Asian countries, Japan itself has a way richer pop culture industry than China's. Although I suspect Chinese pop culture will see a massive increase in influence over the next 20 years.

Economic development is not a road race. Britain is much richer than it was in 1910, despite having fallen behind the United States. And China is getting richer doing work that we did best when our PPP GDP per capita was what theirs is now. That was around 1948. We are still four times as rich as China, per person which is what counts unless you're fighting a war.

Unlike a road race, coming in 2nd or 3rd or 12th in economic development has much the same effect as coming in first. You get rich. If you're not quite as rich as the next fellow, who cares?

Don't worry. Crony R+D will win it for the U.S.A.

"The trend away from Birmingham and towards the more 'service oriented' Nashville is just another example of 'Rust Belt' decay".

Yeah, but some places grow and some places decay. Always. The fact that you can find one city (Birmingham) or even one region (Rust Belt) that is on a downward swing doesn't prove wealth is becoming more concentrated. And Nashville, is arguably part of the "Rust Belt" as well, as it was originally a major trade and manufacturing center.


Nashville was never a 'manufacturing center'

"...and China has something like 5x more engineers and scientists than we do..."

But, it would seem that in order to roll out what those scientists and engineers develop requires a system more like what the US has. If that's the case, then China must become more like the US. So what's the problem?

It really is a definition question, as many of the people that work at Mercedes in Tuscaloosa consider themselves to be close to Birmingham the same way that many people in Loudoun County consider themselves close to DC.

Or just as distant, as the case may be.

Tuscaloosa and Birmingham are now basically the same place, with the suburbs in between serving both cities. Tuscaloosa is doing great. In fact, I've heard people who refer to the emerging southeast megalopolis as Charlanta begin to use the term Charloosa.

Birmingham is a lot blacker (71.6%) than Nashville (28.1%). The metro areas aren't as different, but those are big differences in the city itself. kind of like Detroit vs. Pittsburgh. The NYT article doesn't much mention the racial gap.

The NYT's list of second tier cities that are doing well, like Nashville, tend to be a little whiter than cities that aren't doing well: e.g., Columbus vs. Cleveland.

Of course, successful cities lure in more Hispanics: e.g., Nashville, which has tourism, has about 3 times the percentage of Latinos as Birmingham.

White Privilege?

Bonus trivia: the US South did much worse after Reconstruction than the rest of the country, especially the Deep South, where white GDP fell and black GDP rose, but overall the net result was almost zero total gain (whites lost more than blacks won). Later, with greater mobility and social changes, many southern blacks migrated to Detroit.

Places with black majorities like Detroit, Gary, East St. Louis, New Orleans, Baltimore, and Birmingham tend to lose population, first whites, then blacks.

Atlanta, while it has problems, is kind of an encouraging exception. My impression is that Atlanta has long had a black middle class and its political class has a pretty good awareness of how much it can squeeze the corporate golden goose without killing it. (E.g., the black political operators in Tom Wolfe's Atlanta opus A Man In Full are, on the whole, fairly impressive.)

Steve is right. A huge chunk of the Nashville population is from Memphis or Birmingham originally. Anyone with common sense know why.

Fact checking Steve, it seems his thesis is wrong, unless you want to claim 10% more black makes a dramatic difference.


Detroit #1 - 83% black
Birmingham #4 - 73% black
Memphis #5 - 63% black

Oh, sorry, my bad, Nashville is only 27% black so Sailer is right about the racial composition.

Memphis and Nashville are actually different places.

They are commonly confused, however: my boss in 1984 jetted off to a client meeting In Memphis only to remember when the cabdriver at the airport didn't know where she wanted to go that the client was actually in Nashville.

Memphis and Nashville are VERY different places.
Memphis is the New Orleans of the Midwest.

There's a larger % of blacks in Birmingham. But, (i) are black majorities caused by black majorities? or (ii) is the economic activity that supported the city (and whites) still there?

Birmingham has had nothing but black mayors since 1979 and some of them were pretty out there, Marion Barry-wise. However, one of my readers says the current mayor is pretty competent and reasonable, and Birmingham has been doing pretty well in recent years.

There's a big social science question whether there's an inflection point in the decline of a city around when blacks get long term control over the city government. But it's not one I've seen researched. Perhaps nobody wants to know?

You see some pretty spectacular reactions to avoid this, like liberal NYC voting against the Democratic candidate for mayor for five elections in a row after its one term of a black mayor, and the white liberal establishment coming together to change the rules to allow crime-fighting billionaire Mike Bloomberg to have a third term.

"Birmingham is a lot blacker (71.6%) than Nashville (28.1%). "

But that was true 40 years ago.

Note, the comparison is for MSAs, not inner city.

What might explain the difference is those in Alabama have no problem with more decay than those in Tennessee.

Alabama got highlighted in the news for the large number of bridges closed due to decay: over 500 bridges, turning 10 minute trips into 40-60 minute trips.

But hey, costs are lower in Alabama, meaning longer trips to do simple things have lower costs in Alabama than shorter trips in Tennessee. Ie, people are higher value, ie, most costly, in Tennessee.

Yes, white flight usually just means white people move from the city out to the suburbs, and often economic activity follows leaving a hollowed out city behind. Metro Baltimore isn't doing that badly and parts of metro Detroit (e.g., Ann Arbor) are doing well too.

The article is primarily about the cities rather than the metros.

In Nashville, whites in 1963 engineered the incorporation of the white suburbs into the city. Thus, I believe, Nashville has never had a black mayor, while Birmingham has had all black mayors since the late 1970s. The NYT reporter endorses Birmingham likewise annexing its white suburbs, which would give whites a small majority in the mayor's election, but he doesn't mention this reason for his proposed reform.

"Birmingham is a lot blacker (71.6%) than Nashville (28.1%). "

"But that was true 40 years ago."

The NYT reporter chose 40 years ago as his baseline perhaps because 39 years ago Birmingham elected its first black mayor and it's had all black mayors ever since.

It's not impossible for black mayors to be competent and not very corrupt -- the current black mayor of Birmingham appears to be doing a good job -- but it's just less likely empirically.

I notice that Casselman's preferred reform for Birmingham is to merge the city with the surrounding county, which is said to cut down on municipalities competing on tax breaks. But the unspoken reason would be to give whites the majority of voters in local elections. The Census says whites outnumber blacks in Jefferson County 53-43.

Black majorities have tended to be disastrous for cities, other than D.C., where the feds staged a coup and arrested Mayor Marion Barry. That's the kind of thing you can get away with in the District of Columbia, because important white people live in Washington, but not in Alabama.

Isn't Atlanta majority-black?

See above.

What's the global tendency to centralization in global cities? My impression that it varies by country; Germany not much, South Korea lots and so on. I'd be wary of trying to derive a general rule from just two cities - maybe Birmingham will "catch up" as Nashville property becomes expensive and the city more hipsterised, gentrified and marketed and a less desirable place to live for some of the same clientele?

Geography? One city has the Port of Nashville. Nashville is still a major railroad hub, because of the port.

Also, decisions from long time ago. Atlanta Vs Birmingham battle for becoming Delta hub https://www.bizjournals.com/birmingham/stories/2003/04/28/story3.html

I'm pretty sure the Port is a minor factor. The Cumberland river is not a huge logistics hub.

However, Nashville is a major interstate and freight railway hub.


Alan Jackson, 1994, "Gone Country"

The music business largely relocated from NYC to LA in, I dunno, 1955-1975. See the last third of "Annie Hall" for a debate on the wisdom of this between Woody Allen and Paul Simon.

Has the music industry since relocated from LA to Nashville? I see a lot of long-haired rock and rollers (i.e., professional guitarists) in Sherman Oaks, CA (over the hill from West Hollywood's Sunset Strip), but they're all over 40 or maybe 50. Did the younger guys who didn't already own houses in the Valley relocate to Nashville, like Alan Jackson predicted 24 years ago?

Do you have to add Austin to that mix as well?

Anybody know how the music industry works geographically these days? E.g., if you work on jingles for TV commercials, where do you ought to live: NYC, LA, Nashville, Austin or some place else? I recall Richard Florida saying a decade ago that it had consolidated in Nashville, but I am out of touch.

The internal contradictions of America's regime are getting ever clearer as the populace sees it has been betrayed by malefactors of great wealth.

The article, though good, does not identify the magic bullet for a city to become the next Nashville. Since I work with people in health care, I often deal with people based in Nashville, including health care companies and lawyers. While many may identify Nashville with country music, I identify Nashville with health care. But I suspect Nashville's success will have limits, in part because of the weather (snow and ice) and absence of transit (the article mentions that voters this year rejected transit). I met with two folks from Nashville who work for one of the large health care companies, and they told me that Nashville essentially shuts down when there is even a trace of snow or ice. Snow and ice notwithstanding, if one looks at the winners, they have one thing in common: they are located inland (Nashville, Austin, Columbus, Ohio, Indianapolis). And for good reason: if you were the owner or CEO of company looking to relocate, would you make a large investment in, say, Tampa or Miami or New Orleans? Besides, who needs a port from which to transport goods when the goods being created can be transported electronically?

The DC region extending out about a hundred miles shuts down with a bit of snow ....

But that's increasingly true in New Hampsire for a bit of snow in low land towns due to expanding systems, schools, etc, to include high lands.

Baltimore, 40 miles from DC I-95 actually handles snow better than DC does. I don't mean as well as say Buffalo, but a large fraction of Baltimore's population has roots farther north and panics less at snowfall. In DC too many southern transplants have no idea how to handle even light snowfalls .I recall a minor snow storm three years ago that paralyzed DC but was no big deal in Baltimore.

The owl of Minerva,” Hegel famously wrote, “flies only at dusk”: historical events can be theoretically comprehended only in retrospect.

Austin's success was built from the kernel of being the state capital (low paying but stable jobs) and more importantly UT-Austin, the 50,000 student flagship state school. And affordable housing.

Lots of engineers and other graduating from UT liked living in Austin, and looked for ways to stay there. Dell Computers was started in an UT dorm room.

The Fortune 500 I worked for moved an engineering facility to Austin ~ 1982. Easy to get people to move there. We moved some people from California; they were initially reluctant but when they saw what kind of housing they could get, were happy with the change. I think that affordability attraction is now less.

I don't see transit as a factor. Outside of cities that grew large before cars, it just isn't very useful. As far as I know there is none in Austin today.

"I met with two folks from Nashville who work for one of the large health care companies, and they told me that Nashville essentially shuts down when there is even a trace of snow or ice. "

That's a rare occurrence in the Nashville area. Nashville averages 4-6 inches per snow a year.

You are correct that healthcare is probably a bigger influence on Nashville than entertainment. Though the two are both growth industries with high paying jobs.

In addition to Dan111's comment about this suggesting increased skew in wealth/income at a city level one might also ask is this an example of how growth in imported rather than really home grown process.

Curious. How does an operations center, especially in a relatively lower cost city, average $150k salaries?

Yeah that’s extremely fishy. Probably a couple of executives earning crazy salaries padding that out - not sure exactly what kind of person working at an “operations center” in a flyover lowcost location is earning 150K

Agreed. I interviewed for higher level technical position at Amazon recently in NYC. It paid less than 150.

I'm from Birmingham.

I was surprised to see Birmingham presented as a "loser" from recent trends; of course it is worse than Nashville but we started from a way worse position and are now improving mightily. It's all about the baseline! Weirdly, Casselman chooses for a baseline 40 years ago, when the city was already in rapid decline from the loss of industry.

When I was growing up in the 90s, Birmingham was just continuously emptying out and dying. The only news was bad news: businesses closing, homicide, corruption, etc. Now there are constantly new restaurants, bars, breweries, new parks, etc. opening all over. I've brought friends to Birmingham from LA and New York, and they were genuinely impressed. UAB has expanded and improved its reputation. Lots of my college-educated high school friends have stuck around and bought houses in the city because it's a fun, cheap, low-traffic place to be young. That would've been unthinkable twenty years ago.

We also have a "cool" new mayor who is, so far, neither corrupt nor insane. He replaced a mayor, William Bell, who bit a sitting councilman. And Bell replaced a mayor, Larry Langford, who is in jail for a financial deal that bankrupted the county. On two occasions, I saw Langford give speeches in which he flew off the handle and started listing signs the apocalypse was coming: a cow with red hair, a river changing direction in turkey, some kind of lamp discovered in Jerusalem, etc. So if you take as a normal that your city will be governed by madmen, things are pretty good.

I was also surprised to see Birmingham presented as a loser. I took a business trip there this time last year and was pleasantly surprised.

It did not feel like a dying place at all, but more like a potential for the next sun belt up and comer.

Bezos flies in once a month.

Then they take the average.

If Bezos really flew in once a month, they'd have several employees making high 6 figures at least. Of course, he won't actually be doing that. Not sure where the job averages are coming from. Maybe there are a handful of software developers providing direct support to operations? Not very sure of their business model or what the term actually means in this case.

Balkanization is a big problem in Birmingham. Yes, because of zero-sum municipal competition and inefficient provision of public goods, but primarily because of schools [self-segregation].

In short, Birmingham's inner "suburbs" like Mountain Brook, Homewood, Vestavia Hills, and Hoover are wealthier and more educated than the city of Birmingham itself and have much better schools. That makes it very difficult for the city of Birmingham to recruit and retain the young and upwardly mobile - the prosperous in the region may, and often do, live in the city itself until they start having kids, but then they are off to suburbs and their schools.

My suspicion is that this is more of negative in today's world than it used to be. Density qua density seems to provide a larger benefit in a more service/information based economy. Agglomeration effects, etc. Birmingham is stuck in a political equilibrium with an entrenched structural barrier to density, not unlike restrictive land use policies elsewhere

As a native middle Tennessean, I think the primary differences come down to logistics and commerce.

Nashville has 3 major interstates running through it and is also a railway hub. Interestingly enough, Nashville is the largest city without Amtrak service. The freight lines are too profitable to turn over to money losing passenger service.

In addition, Nashville has been an entertainment, publishing and medical care hub for a century. Those are growth industries. Furthermore, they have a better cultural appeal than a steel and chemical manufacturing industry that Birmingham specialized in.

I'm unconvinced that Nashville local political decisions have mattered much. Perhaps buying the Titans and Predators franchises mattered in attracting business. It was probably a factor in luring Nissan's North American HQ. It's not a coincidence that the Nissan big truck is branded the Titan.

The state of Tennessee has generally put an emphasis on tax money for good roads and avoided toll roads. This has probably been a factor in driving traffic through the city. A significant amount of traffic travels through Nashville headed to Florida and/or headed from the East coast to Texas or the West coast. Whereas, very little cross country traffic goes through Birmingham.

ex-Nashville resident here also. Agree that Nashville benefited from a run of good mayors (Bredesen, Purcell, Dean) as well as generally responsive local government. Nashville is largely an uncontested talent magnet for hundreds of miles in all directions. Being a healthcare hub is a big plus also. The interstates make it highly connected, and it is essentially a Southwest Airlines hub (although I don't think Southwest has official hubs).

Also - I love the people of Nashville. It feels different than other places in the south.

Take the long-range view. In general, corporate headquarters are migrating to less densely populated areas with lower costs of living. Corporations want to take advantage of the lower rents and lower expected employee salaries.

Eventually, these less-populated areas grow, rents and wages equilibrate, and it's off to the "next Nashville" to repeat the cycle. Average isn't over, it's just a constantly shifting equilibrium.

True, but more it may be more accurate to say corporate headquarters are bifurcating, sending back office functions (HR, IT, compliance, etc.) to low cost markets.

The industry clustering effect is strong and we are seeing executives and client-facing teams remain. Alliance Bernstein's private wealth management business, for example, will remain in New York. A company may save by relocating to Nashville, but if all its clients are in New York, it may not be that significant once travel expenses are factored in.

Agreed there. Companies will always maintain a physical presence where their clients are.

That can work both ways. Some high-tech agriculture company (genetically modified seeds), while based in Boston, just opened a second HQ in Memphis, promising 700 jobs there.

Further, new corporate locations seem to avoid the most expensive parts of a metro while staying close enough to basically be right there. Amazon choose Queens and Crystal City which are both very close to Manhattan and DC but not quite in it (making it a lot cheaper, and a lot cheaper housing for employees).

Google and ABC/Disney are each investing over $1bn down the block from me in the most expensive part or NYC.

Why only two data points? Louisville, Memphis, and Jacksonville are in the part of the country and about the same size. I sure others can point out other reasonable data points. The conclusions one reaches depend on the data one wishes to examine.
Perhaps the proper conclusion is that tourism is better for growth than steel making. If we use Orlando, not that far from Birmingham, as the comparator instead of Nashville, the superiority of tourism becomes obvious.

Looking at a map explains a lot. Nashville is centrally located. I flew into the city for the first time about 15 years ago and was surprised at how easily accessible - only an hour or so flight from Chicago and Atlanta.

Nashville has the NHL Predators, Birmingham has the Southern League Bulls. But the Bulls won their first eleven games of the season.

But Nashville has Hot Chicken!

Michael Jordan did briefly put Birmingham on the map when he played some minor-league baseball there

I watched him play. America's greatest athlete was a skinny, weak hitting guy with a impotent throwing arm who was relegated to right field. Strictly the minor league baseball version of pre-internet click bait.

What rational person would ever want to move to Alabama?

I dunno, but I'd guess there are about a billion such people, maybe more.

In strictly PPP GDP terms, about 6 billion people would get an upgrade by moving to Alabama. But if you put them all in Alabama, you wouldn't be able to get a seat at the football games, so maybe it's a bad idea.

We often underestimate how rich our poor people are compared to the rest of the world, even after 30 or 40 years of rapid progress in the developing world.

I'm a professional who just moved to B'ham. I live on two incomes in one of the wealthy suburbs with great schools. I can be in the center of the city in 10 minutes. OH about recruiting talent in the financial sector: "It's hard to get someone from New York to come to Alabama for an interview. However, if they do move here they tend to stay for the rest of their lives because of the high quality of life."

My experience is Alabama has less crappy eye clutter on its interstates than most states, certainly far less than mine. You can get a sense of the way interstates were envisioned. It's not a small thing, versus marinating in ugliness all the time.

Oh, yeah, it still has stands of carnivorous plants too.

Merely being his wife or unwittingly assisting her husband was not enough, said Joshua L. Dratel, a New York lawyer experienced in defending terrorism cases.
“You have to share the intent of the actor,” Mr. Dratel said. “You have to do something to make the crime succeed — not do something that makes the crime succeed without knowing that the crime is going to occur. You have to have both of those elements.”

I wonder if the Times told its photographer, find a view of Birmingham that looks like crap

Portland, OR, and Buffalo are similar examples. I was born in Portland. When I moved to Buffalo in 1985 the two metro areas had a comparable population--about 1.2 million. By now Portland is twice as big, while Buffalo has shrunk to 1.1 million.

For what it's worth, the Black population of the two towns is about the same (though percentage-wise, in Portland it's gotten much smaller).

I think there's probably something in the weather--snow vs. rain. Take your pick.

The Rise and Fall of Urban Economies by Michael Storper compares San Francisco and LA, essentially identical in 1970, their divergent fates through 2010, and analyzes why this happened. Analogizing those causes to Birmingham/Nashville could be worthwhile.

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