The Detroit Syndrome

Emerging economies are urbanizing at a brisk pace, and mid-level cities should take note of the lessons from the bankruptcy filing of what was once the fifth largest in the United States, suggests Sanjeev Sanyal, global strategist for Deutsche Bank. The internet and other technologies have spurred growth of urban centers, rather than diminished it as analysts once predicted. The young gravitate toward urban centers as technology has adjusted work routines and transformed innovation from knowledge-creation toward knowledge-mixing. The “post-industrial urban model… strongly favors generalist cities that can cluster different kinds of soft and hard amenities and human capital,” Sanyal writes for Project Syndicate. “But, as Detroit, with its long dependence on the automotive industry, demonstrates, cities that are dependent on a single industry or on a temporary location advantage may fare extremely poorly.” For example, China’s planners have encouraged clustered infrastructure development and specialties for its mid-sized cities. To adjust to fast-changing technologies, nations with aging populations may want to consider consolidation or generalist paths for urban centers. – YaleGlobal

The Detroit Syndrome

Detroit depended on the auto industry; rapid-changing technology drives innovators to major urban centers that encourage random connections
Sanjeev Sanyal
Thursday, July 25, 2013

Sanjeev Sanyal is Deutsche Bank’s Global Strategist. Named “Young Global Leader 2010” by the World Economic Forum, he is the author of The Indian Renaissance: India’s Rise After a Thousand Years of Decline (Penguin 2008) and Land of the Seven Rivers: A Brief History of India’s Geography (Penguin 2012).

(c) 1995-2013 Project Syndicate

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