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Shrinking Smart: U.S. Population Decline and Footloose Human Capital

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Rachel FranklinORCiD


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This chapter posits that a telling sign of urban vitality is the extent to which cities possess human capital and suggests that this indicator could be particularly illuminating within the context of evaluating the shrinking city phenomenon in the United States. In the U.S. and elsewhere, a primary marker of city dynamism has tended to be overall population growth. However, population change statistics mask underlying shifts in population composition that may, in many ways, be more important to a city’s wellbeing than total numerical increases. Borrowing the concept of “smart shrinkage” from the planning literature, this chapter argues that one potential indicator of “smart” decline could be the renewed or persistent attraction of these locations for the college educated. Thus, this chapter explores the extent to which declining cities in the United States—those experiencing shrinking populations—are also associated with a decline in stocks of human capital. Two main questions are addressed. First, are there exceptions to the expected association between decline and net decrease of the college educated and if so, are there generalizations that can be made about these sorts of locations? Second, and alternatively, what can be said about growing places that are losing these individuals?

Publication metadata

Author(s): Franklin RS

Editor(s): Martinez C; Weyman T; van Dijk J

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: Demographic Transition, Labour Markets and Regional Resilience

Year: 2017

Pages: 217-233

Print publication date: 08/12/2017

Online publication date: 02/11/2017

Acceptance date: 31/10/2016

Series Title: Advances in Spatial Science

Publisher: Springer

Place Published: Berlin


DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-63197-4_9


Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9783319631967