[GUEST ESSAY] How a ‘golden era for large cities’ might be turning into an ‘urban doom loop’

By Thomas B. Edsall | The New York Times

The past 30 years “were a golden era for large cities,” Stijn Van Nieuwerburgh, a professor of real estate and finance at Columbia Business School, wrote in November 2022: “A virtuous cycle of improving amenities (educational and cultural institutions, entertainment, low crime) and job opportunities attracted employers, employees, young and old, to cities.”

New York, Los Angeles, Boston and San Francisco, Van Nieuwerburgh continued, “became magnets for the highest-skilled employees and the top employers, with particular concentrations in finance and technology.” In late February and early March 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic hit New York and other population hubs. In Van Nieuwerburgh’s telling, the Covid-19 crisis “triggered a massive migration response. Many households fled urban centers. Most of these Covid migrants moved to the suburbs.”

As the pandemic endured and subsequent coronavirus variants prompted employers to postpone return-to-office plans, Van Nieuwerburgh noted, “Covid-induced migration patterns began to take on a more persistent character. Many households transitioned from temporarily renting a suburban home to purchasing a suburban home.”

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