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Tyler Cowen

U.S. Economic Ills Are Cultural, Too

Trump’s victory focused attention on struggling regions like Appalachia and the Midwest. The solutions aren’t all about jobs and growth.
Money isn’t everything.
Photographer: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The new hot topic is regional economic development, mostly because the victory of Donald Trump drew attention to lagging economic areas such as Appalachia and the Midwest. My Bloomberg View colleague Noah Smith recently outlined some economic suggestions, and while I agree with many (not all) of his proposals, I would like to consider an alternative and more culturally oriented perspective.

The first noteworthy fact about this discussion is its recent flowering. No new information about these regions has come to light, except for the fact that they tilted the Electoral College toward Trump. That suggests we may be blurring two questions, with “How can we help these regions?” becoming a paternalistic “How can we get them to change their voting patterns?” Mississippi and Louisiana, two of America’s poorest states, haven’t gotten a comparable outburst of new attention, perhaps because they reliably vote Republican in presidential elections.