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Urbanization and deindustrialization

A while ago I had posted about the deindustrialization process in the US (see here). I now checked the rates of urbanization in a few cities which were associated to the industrialization process in the US, like Detroit and Pittsburgh (Census data).
The graph compares those cities with two more conventional metropolis, New York (right axis) and San Francisco, and also to San José, where which is close to the so-called Silicon Valley is located, since 1960. Detroit grew spectacularly fast in the first 40 years of the 20th century, and so did, to a lesser extent Pittsburgh. Motor City and Steel City represented the rise of metal-mechanical industry, and they grew faster than other cities in the country.

By the 1960s Detroit population had peacked, and Pittsburgh was already in decline. Note that the late 1960s is when the process of deindustrialization associated to a slower growth in industry (so industrial jobs are increasing) than in services started to take place. In the 1970s the population of New York and San Francisco also decreased, and it seemed that deindustrialization and suburbanization meant that cities were a thing of the past (the Death and Life of Jane Jacobs you can call it), destined for the dustbin of history.

But note that in the 1980s population growth picked up in New York and San Francisco while it continued to collapse in the Rust Belt. San José also was growing very fast. This suggests that in the period in which the absolute number of manufacturing jobs are decreasing, not all cities are faring badly, if you are in the business of information technology or finance you are fine. And yes, San José is bigger than San Francisco now.


  1. True that San Jose is bigger than San Francisco now, though this also reflects San Francisco's inability to grow geographically, and its rather restrictive building laws. But it's not quite right to say that Silicon Valley is in San Jose. Silicon Valley is more precisely located in the cities from Palo Alto, in the north, to Mountain View, in the south. San Jose certainly does receive spillover population. We owe this distinction to AT&T, which opted to locate Bell Labs in Palo Alto during its many years as the monopoly provider of phone service in the US.

    1. I stand corrected then. Thanks Will. Mind you I always thought of Palo Alto as a posh residential suburb. By the way, the Census might have data on Palo Alto, but San José is the only one I found readily available. And yes, Bell Labs' connection with Standford goes back to Shockley, one of the inventors of the transistor, if I'm not incorrect.


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