Growing Cities With Human Capital

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The Federal Reserve Bank is hosting this conference called "The Economics of Geography". Yesterday, keynote speaker Ed Glaeser of Harvard told the group that the reason cities decline is that they don't spend enough time nurturing what he called "human capital". That's the jargon urban planners use to describe the wealth of skills that a college-educated population brings to the table. He argued that city leaders need to promote amenities that would attract highly-skilled people back to the urban core.

GLAESER: The strengths of this city, the strengths of proximity are about connecting smart people who can learn from each other and that means, it is very hard to direct from the top down, usually it means attracting smart people and getting out of their way. But thinking about pro-skill policies that will sort of attract relatively skilled people to this urban area, when I think of a perspective of what's best for Cleveland that would be certainly the place where I would head.

An increase in skilled workers leads to better wages and quality of life because innovative and new ideas are more likely to flourish and spread. How do you attract these people? Glaeser suggested promoting the low cost of living... the affordability of housing... and an established tradition of arts and culture.

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