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Migration is Economic Development

Richey Piiparinen, Director of Urban Theory and Analytics at the Maxine Goodman Levin School of Urban Affairs, and co-authors Joshua Valdez and Jim Russell, have published a report, Migration is Economic Development. According to the abstract, when it comes to economic and community development, global forces push and pull at regions, affecting a city’s relevance or its standard of living. As a result, they say that some indicators are better measures of where a city fits into the global order of things than others, and that standard measures of “success,” like population size, are relics of a bygone era where size mattered. Instead, they advocate that in today’s idea economy, a better measure is gauging the quality of life in a city, not the quantity of lives. Their analysis looks at GDP per capita for the nation’s large metros, and examines what features are driving GDP per capita growth across America’s metros from 2010 to 2019, through use of a machine learning algorithm called a “Progress Model.”

Out of hundreds of variables analyzed, the authors find that two clusters of features dominated the model results – educational attainment and migration – and find that migration is crucial to the evolution of cities. They share that migration not only allows for the accumulation of human capital, but for global connectivity as well. “Connectivity is part and parcel with the act of migration, allowing for the deepening of a city’s ‘thought bank,’” said Piiparinen. “This depth of ideation is crucial to the process of innovation which, in turn, is crucial economic evolution. Put another way, migration is economic development. It is today. It was yesterday. And it will be tomorrow. The issue for Cleveland is whether the region can leverage its global assets to incur its global relevance, and ultimately the increased well-being of its people.”