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The Productive Power of Urban ‘Activity Centers’

A lesson for cities and business owners still trying to lure workers back to the office: Productivity surges in places where people, amenities and jobs cluster together. 

In cities like Boston, major activity centers aren’t confined to downtown business districts. 

In cities like Boston, major activity centers aren’t confined to downtown business districts. 

Photographer: Boston Globe via Getty Images

In June 2019, the Brookings Institution published research showing a dramatic geographic trend in US cities: After generations of jobs scattering to (and within) the suburbs, employment in many sectors was clustering closer together.

These patterns, seen from 2004 to 2015, were most pronounced in the information sector, with Big Tech companies showing a strong preference for just a few major metro areas — and for dense areas within them. Subsequent analysis showed these trends continued through 2018, the latest year for which data was available at the time.