Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Chicago: treading water or outperforming?

The following graphic caught my eye:

As you can see the top 3 spots remain unchanged:  New York, LA, and Chicago.  Perhaps a good comparison is the decline of other big cities in the region like Detroit, Cleveland, and Milwaukee.  The only other city in the upper Midwest that did not decline was Minneapolis, which also remain unchanged.  No city in the region increased spots.  Also note that for all the boosterism about Indianapolis, it has fallen off the index.  So would you say that Chicago and Minneapolis outperformed the region by holding their respective spots, or underperformed compared to many of the sunbelt cities that climbed up the chart?


  1. Thanks for sharing this, James. I messed around with the numbers a bit, and of the 25 cities with values in both 1978 and 2010, Chicago had the 21st slowest GDP increase, ahead of St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Detroit, and just behind Kansas City and Cincinnati. New York and Philadelphia do only slightly better. Even so, projecting the current rates out, it would take Dallas about another 30 years to overtake Chicago for the #3 spot (whether Dallas could sustain that rate of growth is another question).

    This seems to mainly track population growth, but it would be interesting to see growth in per capita incomes as well, which might help show changes in quality of life. Are these figures derived from MSA populations, I wonder?

  2. Yes, sometimes these are notoriously tricky to evaluate. For example if we were to track incomes to show quality of life would we adjust them for regional cost of living differences?

  3. That's true - by some estimates I've seen some seemingly unlikely markets listed as having best ratio of per capita incomes to cost of living (e.g. Birmingham AL). But anecdotally, at least, I've heard Chicago fares much better in the income-to-COL ratio than New York, and probably Washington DC as well, due to exorbitant housing prices in those markets. Maybe an income-to-housing ratio would be a decent shorthand for measuring this.

    Twenty seconds of searching later, here's somebody who did just that, mid-bubble: