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Inclusive Prosperity Is Incredibly Rare

Just a handful of large metro areas have been able to spread economic gains across all classes and races. What’s their secret?
A job seeker fills out an application at a job fair in Denver, Colorado, February 15, 2017.
A job seeker fills out an application at a job fair in Denver, Colorado, February 15, 2017.Rick Wilking/Reuters

America may be prosperous but it is not inclusive. On the one hand, the nation and its cities and metro areas are still recovering from the economic trauma of the Great Recession: Economic output is up and unemployment is down. But on the other hand, the gains from that economic recovery are disproportionately concentrated among a relatively small number of advantaged groups and advantaged places. Inclusive prosperity has proven distressingly elusive; wide swaths of cities and metros and large groups of people have missed out on the economic rebound.

The most recent edition of the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program’s Metro Monitor report for 2017 (and a blog post based on it) documents this troubling trend, tracking economic growth, prosperity and inclusion for America’s 100 largest metros areas over the post-recession, recovery period from 2010 to 2015.

There’s good news to report: Unemployment has fallen nationwide, and every single one of the 100 largest metros has added jobs and output. Not surprisingly, the strongest growth has been concentrated in knowledge and tech hubs metros such as San Jose (Silicon Valley), San Francisco, Austin, Seattle, Raleigh, Denver, Provo, and Nashville. Sun Belt metros like Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Orlando also swelled, while Rust Belt metros continued to lag. San Jose’s economic output grew by a whopping 36 percent over this period; while Houston’s grew by 28 percent, reflecting the rise of the twin pillars of what I have dubbed America’s knowledge-energy economy, though the energy pillar has fallen off considerably since then.