Baltimore’s decline

Here are the 10 biggest cities in America in 1950, when most hit their peak:

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 4.34.52 PM

Tyler Cowen recently linked to an article that has lots of interesting information about Baltimore’s decline.

As a result of Baltimore’s multiple social, economic, and educational problems, the city’s population has declined from 939,000 in 1960 to just622,000 today. In silent, gloomy testament to this prolonged exodus, some47,000 abandoned houses and 16,000 vacant buildings now stand like pulled teeth in Baltimore’s urban landscape.

I thought it might be useful to put that decline into some sort of perspective.  Thus I’ll list the population of these same 10 cities in 2013 (many are no longer top 10) as well as the ratio to their 1950 populations.  Then I’ll suggest 5 groupings:

New York  8405k  106.5%

Chicago  2719k    75.1%

LA    3884k   197.2%

Philly   1553k   75.0%

Detroit  689k   37.2%

Baltimore  622k   65.5%

Cleveland   390k  42.6%

St Louis   318k  37.1%

Washington   646k  80.5%

Boston  645k     80.5%

I see 5 groupings:

Cities hitting record population, and still growing.  (NYC, LA)

Cities down substantially, but growing really fast since 2010 (Boston & DC, which were both smaller than Baltimore as recently as 2010.)

Cities down substantially and growing modestly (Chicago, Philly)

Cities down substantially and barely growing (Baltimore)

And cities down catastrophically and still losing population (The terrible three; Detroit, Cleveland and St. Louis.)

A few observations.

1.  Some of the population decline since 1950 is due to smaller families.  Thus a city with exactly the same number of houses might have 25% fewer people due to lower birthrates.  Older American cities are hemmed in by suburbs, which generally grow as the inner city declines.  Almost all of the older cities were losing population until 1990, if only due to smaller families, but the more dynamic ones have recently turned it around.

2.  One possibility is that Baltimore is underperforming due to governance issues. That might seem surprising, as its population numbers are far better than the terrible three.  Indeed the rust belt also has many smaller examples of catastrophic population loss (Buffalo, Gary, Flint, Youngstown, etc.)  But Baltimore seems more like Philadelphia, a fairly big city in the shadow of a more dynamic neighbor (DC and NYC, respectively.)  As recently as 1990 Baltimore still had 77.5% of its peak population, while Philly had 76.5%, DC had 75.7% and Boston had 71.7%. It was holding its own.  Then it started falling dramatically behind other cities in that group.  I see Philly as the closest comparison because they are geographically close, and lack the special characteristics of Chicago, Boston and DC. Both are big, bland east coast cities with a few strong points (Johns Hopkins, Penn, historical neighborhoods, etc.)

3.  The first time I ever heard of urban revival was Baltimore’s Inner Harbor project, which was soon followed by Boston’s Quincy Market.  Obviously things didn’t pan out for Baltimore.

4.  I think Chicago’s data masks a tale of two cities.  It’s 1/2 catastrophic rust belt and 1/2 Manhattan.  It’s numbers end up halfway between Detroit and NYC.

5.  I recently visited the St Louis Fed, and learned about its history.  When the Fed was created, St. Louis was America’s 4th biggest city.  Now it’s smaller than many cities that most Americans have never even heard of (Aurora, Santa Ana, Mesa, etc.)

6.  AFAIK all of America’s catastrophic urban failures lie on a line from St. Louis to Buffalo, passing through Gary, Detroit and Cleveland.  I wonder why?  (Excluding much smaller cities like Camden.)  Even Newark still has 63% of its peak (1930) population.

7.  East coast cities are clearly more dynamic that midwest cities.  But oddly the Midwest has grown faster than the Northeast since 2000, by 5.0% vs. 4.6%. Midwesterners are more inclined toward suburban living.  (The West grew 18.5% and the South grew 19.1%.)

Update:  The New Zealand iPredict NGDP futures markets are up and running. I’ll have a formal announcement later today.



58 Responses to “Baltimore’s decline”

  1. Gravatar of David de los Ángeles Buendía David de los Ángeles Buendía
    4. May 2015 at 07:30

    Dr. Sumner,

    The decline of Baltimore is exactly the same as the decline of Detroit and a thousand other cities and towns in the United States, it is caused by the export of manufacturing capital.

    For example, in Downey California there used to a North American/Rockwell/Boeing facility which manufactured aerospace related structures and employed thousands of highly skilled and well paid workers. Now it is the Columbia Memorial Space Center, a museum. Now it is a very nice museum and well worth a trip no doubt but it employs only a fraction the number of people.

    More importantly, it does not have the same impact on the surrounding community. The Boeing facility supported, directly and indirectly, a large number of smaller businesses in the south east portion of Los Angeles County. Capital was invested on a regular basis in this part of Los Angeles County both in aerospace facilities and in the businesses that surrounded and supported them. When Boeing invested capital and expanded operations, surrounding businesses invested capital supply more goods and services to Boeing and its employees who lived near by. Now there are much less capital being invested, there less economic growth, fewer jobs and jobs that pay less, and generally less overall prosperity.

    One need only multiply this particular example by 100,000 to see what happened to Baltimore and Detroit and Manchester England for that matter.

  2. Gravatar of Njnnja Njnnja
    4. May 2015 at 07:45

    Re #6: It is a little tough to imagine for anyone who lived through the 70’s and looks at those cities today, but the Great Lakes region was the silicon valley of the early 20th century. The most innovative, high tech companies in the world were doing things like making photographic film for Kodak in Rochester, NY or inventing scotch tape at Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing (3M). In 1900, the highest concentration of millionaires per capita in the US was in Buffalo.

    We tend to think of the postwar period as America’s heyday, but for most of the rust belt cities, by 1950 it was already over and their best years were behind them.

  3. Gravatar of LK Beland LK Beland
    4. May 2015 at 07:50

    The contrast with major Canadian cities is remarkable.

    Toronto (current city limits): 222%
    Toronto (former city limits, 1951-2001): 100 %

    Ottawa (current city limits): 359%
    Ottawa (former city limits, 1951-2001): 167%

    Vancouver: 156%

    Quebec City (2006 city limits): 217%

    Montreal (Island): 141%
    Montreal (City; 1951 to 2001): 102%
    (PS: there have been some mergers to the City in between, so take these results with caution; central areas of Montreal had a very high population density in the 1950s; it has decreased quite a bit, although it is still very high by North American standards).

    Even the city of Montreal, with the whole independence scare and its general decline relative to Toronto, has not seen a decline as steep as, say, Boston.

    I wonder why that is. Was it simply a choice of roads vs public transit? Levels of immigration (immigrants tend to move into the inner cities)? More restrictive zoning laws?

  4. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    4. May 2015 at 08:03

    Contrast the sclerotic political marketplace (big city political machines) with the business marketplace;

    ‘McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook says he’s stripping away layers of bureaucracy and increasing accountability so the company can move more nimbly to keep up with changing tastes.

    ‘During a 23-minute video message posted online Monday, Easterbrook said the company’s structure is “cumbersome” and said it can no longer afford its “legacy attitudes.”‘

    If you want to retain your customers you have to meet their needs. Which is something that politicians can put off…and off…and off….

  5. Gravatar of William William
    4. May 2015 at 08:04

    With the Cardinals off to a roaring start this season, I feel a strong psychological need to doubt your analysis when it comes to St. Louis. The population within the city limits has decreased as you said, but the population of the “Great St. Louis Area” is 66% higher than in 1950. Whenever I go to the St. Louis suburbs to visit family, I’m impressed by all the glamorous new stuff they have built and are building out there (e.g. the local mall [West County] was a dump when I was a kid, now it’s actually quite nice).

    As a current East-coaster, naturally I hate driving and prefer to live in a walkable city, but isn’t it possible that living on the coasts biases our idea of the “decline” in the midwest? Perhaps there really is no decline in metro areas like St. Louis, it just has much nicer suburbs and driving to places isn’t nearly as much of a hassle as on the East coast.

  6. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    4. May 2015 at 08:08

    Off topic (or back on);

    ‘…we find that over the whole period the financial crisis was just one component of the Great Recession and that this component itself can be put down mainly to central bank incompetence. Yet the new Regulatory framework is put forward as the way to prevent future crises, even though it will only remove a small component of crisis-causing shocks and is also highly damaging to the flow of credit and finance through the economy.

    ‘One must hope that, in time, sense will prevail and the monstrous new system put in place will be somewhat unwound and reduced in scale. The Bank of England has published its ambitious plans for research on these areas; so maybe it will learn the error of these ways from this new programme.

    ‘Meanwhile monetary policy is being kept remarkably easy, to try to offset the effects on credit growth of the New Regulation. This is a case of two wrongs not adding up to a right. The difficulty, as we have argued before, is that new forms of credit (so far not reliably measurable) are being created via internet peer-to-peer networks. Plainly, the UK economy is now growing strongly and wages are starting to rise, reflecting the strength of employment growth. What we have found in other recent work at Cardiff is that monetary policy alone has all the tools required to stabilise the economy in the face of potential crises….’

  7. Gravatar of Chris Arnade Chris Arnade
    4. May 2015 at 08:56

    For my work, documenting addiction in the US, I travel from city to city.

    I would add that the line you spoke of, from St Louis to Buffalo, extends into the rest of upstate NY.

    The worst, and most decimated cities I have seen, are now much smaller places, like Utica, Binghamton, and Waterbury Ct who have suffered equally large losses in population, but didn’t start with enough of a population to warrant much attention.

    All used to have big manufactures based there, none do now.

  8. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    4. May 2015 at 09:07

    The stats are all wrong, except for Detroit. In fact, while cities declined since the 1950s (often due to white flight), suburbs have expanded. The ‘decline’ is artificial. If you draw a 100 km radius from the center of each city, you’ll find a marked 2x or more increase in population since 1950. Simple population statistics tell you that. What else does Sumner have wrong, and why is he aping Tyler Cowen the last few days?

  9. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    4. May 2015 at 10:29

    OT – “A nominal GDP target for the Eurozone would also make a great deal of sense.” – Wolf, Martin (2014-09-11). The Shifts and the Shocks: What We’ve Learned-and Have Still to Learn-from the Financial Crisis (p. 310).

    It should be noted M. Wolf is prone to fits of finance fashion.

  10. Gravatar of Matt McOsker Matt McOsker
    4. May 2015 at 11:49

    I have lived in Baltimore since 1993, when I moved here the place was downright frightening. It is a much better place now, but has/is/was always fragile as evidenced by the recent riots. Four main events have dictated Baltimore’s course:

    1) WWII
    2) The 1968 Riots
    3) Drugs and the War on Drugs
    4) The housing bubble (this was actually a positive for Baltimore)

    1) Black families moved to Baltimore for war related manufacturing jobs (same as places like Watts). They had jobs, houses and all that comes with those jobs. The war ended, and those jobs disappeared. Things declined for Baltimore black population over the next couple of decades.

    2) The 1968 riots were very bad, the tax base moved to the burbs, and took a lot of tax dollars with them. Those tax dollars made life very difficult for the city. That flight continued into the 90s.

    3) The war on drugs – good god treat people medically. I won’t go into detail.

    4) The housing bubble revived the city, which had a lot of attractive waterfront real estate, and a cheap housing stock,. The easy credit flowed well into the city creating new wealthy neighborhoods, housing values went up driving property tax revenue up. Baltimore had it first population increase during this time.

  11. Gravatar of Nick Rowe Nick Rowe
    4. May 2015 at 12:06

    Suppose I were offered a job, or thinking of starting a firm, in one of those cities. The first question I would ask is “what’s the crime rate?”. Because cheap housing is no good if you are dead, or would get mugged if you walked around your neighbourhood.

    Difficult to disentangle cause and effect though.

  12. Gravatar of Chris Arnade Chris Arnade
    4. May 2015 at 12:21


    I lived in Baltimore from 87-93; it wasn’t that bad. Ok. Maybe a little bad.

    For me, I work documenting inner city addiction, your 3rd point, the war on drugs, is really the one problem that can be addressed rather easily. End criminalization, focus on the health issues.

    I know that intersection, North and Penn. It like many other part of the US, is just another corner being locked down by the police using the expanded authority that has come in the name of the fight against drugs.

  13. Gravatar of Matt McOsker Matt McOsker
    4. May 2015 at 13:10

    Chris agree on the drug thing. In the past 5 years I had 2 murders and a stabbing within 250 feet of my front door, armed muggings, and unamrmed muggings are a weekly occurance. The list of nearby crime is large, and oddly it is still better than 1993. I lived near Hopkins University. I just sold and closed on my house 2 weeks before the recent riots.

  14. Gravatar of CMA CMA
    4. May 2015 at 14:40

    “CMA, I have no idea what “drops of emoney” means, but it doesn’t sound promising.”

    Emoney heli drops involves dropping money to people to stimulate. If performed by fed no need to tax back later. They will also lead to less financialization and more stability for reasons I explained before.

    “CMA, Almost no one agree with you, and almost no one agrees with me, so we are even. But I still find my definition more useful. I really don’t care about the base.”

    I dont disagree with you about NGDP targeting. Just use names that are more straightforward IMO.

  15. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    4. May 2015 at 15:11

    David, I don’t think trade is the problem.

    Njnnja, I agree, although the peak came later. These cities were still doing well in the 1950s. The home of 3M (Twin Cities) is still booming.

    LK, American cities that most resemble Canadian cities are doing fairly well (or at least the metro areas are.) America has more crime, which is a big issue in the old central cities.

    Patrick, Good point. And thanks for the link.

    William, I don’t think your comment conflicts with anything I said, I wasn’t looking at metro areas, and mentioned that midwestern suburbs are popular.

    Chris, Thanks for than info. I once lived in upstate NY—the most depressing place I’ve ever been.

    Ray, I specifically discussed the distinction between cities and suburbs—can’t you read?

    Nick, I agree.

    Thanks Matt, Yes, the War on Drugs has been a disaster. But it’s still a puzzle that Baltimore has recently slipped well behind cities like Philadelphia.

    CMA, Randomly giving people money is foolish idea. There’s a reason you don’t often see rich people like Bill Gates walking down the street handing out money. It’s wasteful, and accomplishes nothing that can’t be done far cheaper with normal monetary policy.

  16. Gravatar of CMA CMA
    4. May 2015 at 15:24

    “CMA, Randomly giving people money is foolish idea. There’s a reason you don’t often see rich people like Bill Gates walking down the street handing out money. It’s wasteful, and accomplishes nothing that can’t be done far cheaper with normal monetary policy.”

    In what sense is an emoney heli wasteful? Asset purchases are a gift to asset owners in increased asset prices due to higher central bank demand. How is an AP cheaper than a hel-e drop?

  17. Gravatar of benjamin cole benjamin cole
    4. May 2015 at 15:57

    If you read contemporary accounts of New York City in the 1970s—remember Abe Beame and the famous headeline “Ford to New York: Drop Dead”? You would have thought the future of New York was bleak. Also in the 1980’s and 1990’s many people though Los Angeles would become “Bronx with palm trees”. Those two cities have managed to revive.

  18. Gravatar of benjamin cole benjamin cole
    4. May 2015 at 16:02

    Mr Buendia: I grew up in the Los Angeles of the 1950s and 60s and remember workers at the Firestone plant owning single-family detached houses and even perhaps a small boat. In fact I think living standards were higher in much of Los Angeles area 50 years ago than today. I do not know how to explain this using economic theory.

  19. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    4. May 2015 at 16:45

    “David, I don’t think trade is the problem.”
    -Why not? It’s pretty clear foreign competition+weak local manufacturing output growth resulted in the hollowing out of the rust belt and the rise of the outer suburbs, which have more knowledge-based jobs. I think the inland cities were hit hardest precisely because they were inland; i.e., far away from places like New York, Boston, and San Francisco. Also, it’s much easier for a metro area to expand in area in the Midwest than in the East. In Detroit and St. Louis, White flight and Black flight can continue for many decades, as cornfields can so easily be turned to suburbs.

  20. Gravatar of Don Don
    4. May 2015 at 17:45

    I’ll sum it up this way, investment banks and their lobbyists are literally sucking the life out of the rest of the country. Good for NYC and DC and bad for the rest of us.

  21. Gravatar of Major.Freedom Major.Freedom
    4. May 2015 at 18:46

    Clearly Baltimore experienced too tight monetary policy. There should have been NGBPLT, then there would have been no riots. Lessons learned from 1933 Germany.

  22. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    4. May 2015 at 22:06

    @Sumner- I can reed but your references to suburbs were not used to rebut the stats but to oddly support your position, so you were unclear. At least one commentator, William, was as confused as I was. See your two meagre references to suburbs and judge for yourself. Then you wonder why nobody understands you; or rather, like a good economist, you are opaque to hedge your bets: (Sumner): “Some of the population decline since 1950 is due to smaller families. …Older American cities are hemmed in by suburbs, which generally grow as the inner city declines” and “But oddly the Midwest has grown faster than the Northeast since 2000, by 5.0% vs. 4.6%. Midwesterners are more inclined toward suburban living. ” (note how confusing this last sentence is, ‘but oddly’ then mentioning suburban living, undercutting the point).

  23. Gravatar of Morgan Warstler Morgan Warstler
    5. May 2015 at 04:38

    Good god people, please just stop.

    The problem is GOVT. Period.

    Texas is winning for one reason – ALL status and power flows to business owners. Govt officials are hired hands who relentlessly try to find another way to do something cheaper. Our local news on nightly basis run up to some poor bastard in some local office and asks WHY his office got new desks, were the old desks not nice enough?

    Road work extending a highway is being done by private crews at 6PM on Sunday night – to STAY OUT OF THE WAY.

    Unions are basically a non thing. The stuff I do day to day, a single software platfrom to replace all of govt would NEVER be able to launch in Baltimore.

    Look folks any new job created in the public sector basically comes at expense of two or more in private sector.

    When I talk about Uber for Welfare – that’s it! That solves ALL of Baltimore problems – overnight, EVERYBODY has a job, and overnight the cost of rehab construction, haircuts, etc.falls – and falls even faster when all licensing requirements are done away with.

    Running an economy is not hard, hard is not letting people who don’t really matter – matter.

  24. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    5. May 2015 at 04:47

    @Warstler re Texas and low taxes. I got a speeding ticket while heading to Mexico in Texas close to the border. I got the distinct impression it was just a revenue raising measure since I was only 5 mph over the limit and had foreign plates. Lots of liberals in Texas too, and don’t forget that there’s very weak correlation between high taxes paid to government and GDP growth. Sure, taxes (not to be confused with gov’t deficits btw) are a slight drag, but it’s like a hot mutual fund that has a great manager but a high load: most investors will be way ahead investing in it even after subtracting the load, in the long run. That said, I am a Vanguard investor since they have the lowest “tax” in the mutual fund industry. If you really like low taxes, come here to the Philippines where there’s weak taxes, weak government, and nothing much by way of high-tech. For work, for brainiacs like me, given a choice between Texas and California or even Virginia, CA, VA > TX. Probably MA, NY are > TX, though I’ve never lived in those two states.

  25. Gravatar of Morgan Warstler Morgan Warstler
    5. May 2015 at 04:52

    20.7% of Jobs in Baltimore Are Government Jobs

    Please stop talking about other stuff gents – govt is the problem killing Baltimore.

  26. Gravatar of Steven Kopits Steven Kopits
    5. May 2015 at 05:13

    My family has lived in Baltimore since 1964.

    The problems there were heavily associated with crime and race. To give an example: My mother was a legal secretary at a notable law firm in the middle of downtown in one of the skyscrapers. At the end of the day, all the staff were escorted by security guards to their cars in the nearby parking garage. That was the climate there–in the middle of downtown.

    As a consequence, whites (and in the last 15 years, prosperous blacks) moved out of the city to the suburbs, which as in other cities mentioned above, have developed greatly over the last forty years and have become more integrated into the Washington economy.

    With a falling city population, taxes–particularly real estate taxes–went up, encouraging more flight. Today, there is absolutely no reason for anyone with a job or a house to live within the confines of the city if they can avoid it.

  27. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. May 2015 at 05:56

    CMA, I have many many posts explaining why bond purchases don’t cause bond prices to rise. That’s a myth. Check out bond prices in the 1960s and 1970s.

    And why is it costly to give away money? Because there is no free lunch. I have many posts discussing the extra tax burden imposed on the economy by giving away money. Why would anyone think giving away money is costless? I don’t get it. If it’s costless lets give everyone a billion dollars.

  28. Gravatar of Morgan Warstler Morgan Warstler
    5. May 2015 at 05:56

    Ray you are nuts, and clearly not a business owner.

    I swear the problem with guys talking monetary theory is they often forge nothing matters more than letting businessmen run the show. Govt is there to referee, enforce property rights, and keep admin costs down.

    Nothing beats that model. Nothing.

  29. Gravatar of Chris Arnade Chris Arnade
    5. May 2015 at 06:02

    The comparison to Canadian cities, as raised by LK is curious, especially since many of them fall within the same demographics, geography, of Buffalo, Detroit, etc.

    I would gather it is a bit overstated because of measurement issues (Cities vs suburbs etc) but it is too large to be just that.

    And certainly from on the ground experience the Canadian rust belt cities are doing much better than their US counterparts.

  30. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. May 2015 at 06:03

    E. Harding, Take the car industry as an example. We still produce lots of cars, but the factories have moved to the south. The vast majority of the job loss in manufacturing is due to automation, not trade.

    Ray, You said:

    “I can reed”


    “For work, for brainiacs like me”

    Morgan, I discussed bad governance.

    Steven, I still think it odd that as recently as 1990 Baltimore had lost less population than Philly, and then things went sharply downhill. Even in 1990 both cities had lots of crime.

  31. Gravatar of DanC DanC
    5. May 2015 at 06:45

    Baltimore has a growing gay population which has increased investment in some areas while not doing much to increase population or family size. That also seems to be true in many major cities.

    Family formation for middle and upper income families often means a move to the suburbs – increasingly regardless of race.

    Baltimore schools reached a tipping point and are currently about 89% Black and awful.

    Forced busing, and the degree to which people with means could flee the cities lead to a decline in population and families. Prior to forced busing you could feel safe in a given section of a city – you could buy protection for your children in a given community. After busing if you were afraid for your children you had to move out of the jurisdiction.

    The flight to the suburbs led to one party rule in many cities. These new politicians where mostly on the left – increasing taxes, regulation, etc. More conservative Democrats disappeared as politicians fought over who could be more generous to the growing power of government workers.

    Growing crime rates lead to increased poverty. (Which is the way the arrow points I think). The drug war caused problems but you cannot discount the very negative impact of increased drug use. Even if drugs were legal, they would have a high negative impact on the society. The idea that if drugs were legal the problems of drug addiction go away is wildly off the mark.

  32. Gravatar of Greg DeLassus Greg DeLassus
    5. May 2015 at 06:52

    “20.7% of Jobs in Baltimore Are Government Jobs

    Please stop talking about other stuff gents – govt is the problem killing Baltimore.”

    Maybe. I guess I would find this thesis more persuasive if I saw evidence that the cities doing well were much less gov’t intensive. From where I am standing, however, I see Chicago and LA running fairly bureaucratic, statist city governments, and yet doing much better than equally bureaucratic cities like St. Louis (my home) and Baltimore. If heavy government is the single variable that explains everything, how do you account for Chicago, NY, LA, etc?

  33. Gravatar of DanC DanC
    5. May 2015 at 07:34

    Baltimore in the 90’s

    Corruption in the administration of Mayor Schmoke.

    Highest property taxes in Maryland.

    58,000 private sector jobs left Baltimore. Communities outside Baltimore see a 25% increase in jobs.

    Drug use was treated as a medical problem not a criminal issue. Drug use increased. Estimated that 10% of Baltimore population was drug addicted. Crime and violent crime increased.

    From 1950 to 1990 Baltimore went from a population of about 950,000 to to 750,000. The white population dropped by 435,000 while the black population increased by 210,000. In the 90’s another 83,000 whites left but 17,000 blacks also left the city. So in the 90’s the black population stopped growing (birth rate grew but migration to city stopped) and even fell.

    From 2000 to 2010 the white exodus slowed by 90%, asian and hispanic grew slightly.

    The Baltimore metro area has a population of 2.5 million with about 2/3 white.


    Before 1990 much of the changes in Baltimore’s population was racial. Starting in the 90’s it became more of an economic segregation as many black families left the city.

    In 197 then Mayor Schmoke said the following:
    Yesterday, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke called the population loss — particularly the exodus of younger, middle-class families — “a matter of great concern to me.” He said the causes “could be summed up in two words, and that’s safety and schools.

    Another quote

    Cheryl Casciani, executive director of the Citizens Planning and Housing Association, said she hopes Baltimore’s New Schools Initiative, which enables community groups to run schools, will help arrest the population slide.

    “If we don’t address the public school problem, it’s unlikely we can address the population problem,” she said. “People are feeling kind of down about the place and looking for ways to feel good about where they live.”

    And another quote from 1997:
    Donaldson, a teacher’s aide and former correctional officer who is raising two sons, ages 7 and 6, moved largely because of crime.

    “You couldn’t have fun in the neighborhood. There are people walking by with pit bulls, people playing music with lots of profanity, people speeding up and down the street, drug dealers all around,” Donaldson said. “I grew up in that neighborhood. Once it was a community. Now it’s just a strip of land people live on.”

  34. Gravatar of DanC DanC
    5. May 2015 at 07:47

    Chicago and LA have seen a big increase in Latino population. Otherwise they would be seeing drops.

    New York under Giuliani reversed some of the worst liberal trends in New York

  35. Gravatar of Steven Kopits Steven Kopits
    5. May 2015 at 08:17

    Philly is a strange city. In many ways, it is of a superior class to Baltimore, that is, Baltimore was traditionally a regional city and Philly, a national one, like Chicago or Los Angeles. There are still vestiges of that kind of greatest in Philadelphia. That never existed in Baltimore.

    Baltimore never had a mafia problem; Philly did. But I don’t really know enough about the details to tell you about why their fates diverged over recent decades.

    By the way, Baltimore is not all bad neighborhoods. There are bad ghetto areas, but there are as well prosperous black areas, working class white areas, and upper middle class neighborhoods as well.

    I for one grew up in Homeland, which along with Guilford and parts of Roland Park constitute the upper middle class neighborhoods inside the city limits. That house remains in the family. Recently, copper water downspouts on the outside of the house were stolen on at least two separate occasions. That kind of thing happens. I know of one murder there in forty years; the neighborhood is otherwise safe. But everyone has a home alarm system.

  36. Gravatar of Morgan Warstler Morgan Warstler
    5. May 2015 at 08:35


    “I guess I would find this thesis more persuasive if I saw evidence that the cities doing well were much less gov’t intensive.”

    I imagine that if you simply ranked cities on how long it takes to get approved to make an addition to your home… or how fast you got a biz license, or how many citations are issued per inspector vs. how many per business….

    These are all the indicators you need to get a strong sense of what I’m talking about.

    People talk about land use regs and unions and not unions etc. but it really comes down to “who wears the pants” – is an angry irate business owner a threat to your job? no? You have a bad govt.

    Think about it as a pure status thing. Make it animal like, can a bunch of betas gum up the works for the alpha?

    I try to keep this stuff a base root as I can for this stuff, bc something / anything has to get peeps to stop acting like monetary is the cause of these issues.

    And everyone PLEASE give a read to Libertarian Slave Reparations:

    Uber for Welfare + City Sovereignty would allow urban areas with large powerful voting block of blacks (Detroit, Baltimore, Chicago, St. Louis, Atlanta) a GUARANTEED way to end black inequality.

    Please give it a read!

  37. Gravatar of Greg DeLassus Greg DeLassus
    5. May 2015 at 09:48

    “Chicago and LA have seen a big increase in Latino population. Otherwise they would be seeing drops.”

    Ok. But St. Louis is seeing even bigger increases in Latino population (58.5% growth between 2000 & 2010) than Chicago (3.35% growth between 2000 & 2010), but St. Louis’ population is shrinking. In other words, it will not do to give a general rule to explain a trend you want (“growth is inversely proportional to size of gov’t”) and then explain away the counter-examples with ad-hoc explanations (“Chicago attracts a lot of Latino immigrants”) that do not even hold true on their own premises.

    “New York under Giuliani reversed some of the worst liberal trends in New York.”

    Maybe. That is a rather subjective statement, so it would be hard for me to dispute. That said, can you point to where Giuliani took over just by looking at the rate of NYC growth over time? I cannot, and that makes me skeptical that Giuliani can be used to explain why a bureaucratic, statist city like NYC does not conform to the “city growth is inversely proportional to gov’t size” rule.

  38. Gravatar of Greg DeLassus Greg DeLassus
    5. May 2015 at 09:52

    “I imagine that if you simply ranked cities on how long it takes to get approved to make an addition to your home… or how fast you got a biz license, or how many citations are issued per inspector vs. how many per business….

    These are all the indicators you need to get a strong sense of what I’m talking about.”

    I am sure that these are good indicators of the claim you are making. And my question is—imagine that we ranked all major US cities according to these factors. And then in another list, we ranked them according to population growth. If we plotted those two lists as an X-Y scattergram, would a clear pattern emerge?

    I would like to see such a scattergram, because while I would be delighted to see the pattern you expect, I am skeptical that we would see such a pattern.

  39. Gravatar of DanC DanC
    5. May 2015 at 11:42

    between 2000 and 2010, Chicago’s Hispanic population increased by over 25,000. Meanwhile, the city’s black population decreased by over 181,000 — a whopping 17 percent — and its white population decreased by about 52,000. Overall, the city’s population dropped by 200,000 between 2000 and 2010.

  40. Gravatar of Morgan Warstler Morgan Warstler
    5. May 2015 at 11:59

    Greg, 20 years ago, CA was easy. Today it’s not. Over 20 years, Texas and Florida have made it FAR easier, while CA and NY have made it harder.

    So we’d have to look at population over a time series, but yeah we’d see business move and jobs move to where their life is easiest.

  41. Gravatar of DanC DanC
    5. May 2015 at 12:00

    City of Chicago (Population 2,834,000):
    – The City of Chicago lost almost 62,000 residents between April of 2000 and July
    of 2006. This compares with a population gain of 112,000 between 1990 and
    – The population losses in Chicago resulted from out migration. The number of
    people leaving the city was so great that the excess of births over deaths was not sufficient to offset it. Chicago is experiencing migration losses for all ages except those between the age of 20-30.
    – Hispanics accounted for almost all of the population increase in the City of Chicago. The number of blacks and whites living in Chicago is declining.

    Chicago is seeing a growth in college educated residents around the Loop, White incomes in the city are about 98% of white incomes in the suburbs. So the center of the city is seeing positive growth while the south, southwest, and west continue to decline.

    The fortunes of the city of Chicago have become clouded in recent years as concerns over its weakening finances and heavy debt obligations have grown. The tally for the unfunded public employee debt obligations of Chicago’s overlapping units of local governments (including those for public schools, parks, and county services) is now approaching $30 billion. Moreover, the city government has been criticized for its practices of funding current public services with proceeds from the issuance of long-term debt and the long-term leases of public assets (such as its parking meter system). However, faith in Chicago’s ability to address its debts has not fallen so far as that in Detroit’s, chiefly because the Windy City’s economic trends display more vibrancy.

    Chicago is increasingly upper income groups who can buy themselves out of the poor schools and the poor who are trapped in violent crime ridden communities with little opportunity.

  42. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. May 2015 at 13:55

    Dan, You said:

    “Drug use was treated as a medical problem not a criminal issue.”

    You think Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama should have been put in prison? I think that’s nuts.

  43. Gravatar of DanC DanC
    5. May 2015 at 19:25

    One, I am amazed that Obama admitted to rather serious drug use to very little comment. Times change.

    Second, the notion that legalizing drugs will be nirvana is, I think, terribly optimistic. The cost of additional addicts will be a burden on society, The current system is expensive in many ways but the alternative path is not without costs.

    The cost in terms of law enforcement etc will fall. The cost of increased addicts, who will increase as prices decrease and availability increases, is uncertain but far from trivial.

    The Baltimore experiment with less aggressive enforcement of drug laws led to a decline in the quality of life for the poor communities in Baltimore. It seems to have led to additional addicts. And it only seemed to lower the criminal penalties for drug dealing, which seems to have led to increased drug selling competition that resulted in increased violence.

    Just because you draw up a model of what the world will look like if you decriminalize drugs, doesn’t mean that the world will fit the model. There are dangers.

  44. Gravatar of Greg DeLassus Greg DeLassus
    5. May 2015 at 19:45

    “[T]he notion that legalizing drugs will be nirvana is, I think, terribly optimistic.”

    This is kind of a straw man. I do not think that anyone here supposes that legalization will usher in “nirvana.” The claim being advanced is simply that the post-prohibition society will be better (not “nirvana,” just better) than the status quo.

    “The cost of additional addicts will be a burden on society…”

    If you read Dan Okrent’s great book “Last Call” about the rise and fall of prohibition, you will see that this exact argument was made about re-legalizing liquor. Suffice it to say, the costs of legalization proved less than those of prohibition.

  45. Gravatar of Greg DeLassus Greg DeLassus
    5. May 2015 at 19:55

    “Over 20 years, Texas and Florida have made it FAR easier, while CA and NY have made it harder.

    So we’d have to look at population over a time series, but yeah we’d see business move and jobs move to where their life is easiest.”

    Maybe. I am not averse to this thesis. Indeed, I would be delighted were it true, because it would offer a fairly easy public-policy model to follow. However, I would be more convinced by some actual data than by breezy assertions. I notice, for example, that Houston, Austin, Dallas/Ft. Worth, and San Antonio are all fast growing cities and places that are recognized as small-business friendly. So far, so good.

    On the other hand, Boise ID is supposedly better than any of those Texas cities, and yet Boise is not bustling. Same for Dayton OH and Louisville KY and Minneapolis MN.

    In other words, the “growth is inversely proportional to gov’t size” hypothesis seems to have only a so-so correlation to the data. I have to wonder (although I have not run the numbers) whether a “people like to move to mountains or warm climates” thesis would not be a better fit to the data.

  46. Gravatar of Greg DeLassus Greg DeLassus
    5. May 2015 at 19:56

    Whoops, I forgot to include the link to the business friendly cities index.

  47. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    5. May 2015 at 20:12

    @Morgan Wartsler – I may not be much of a businessman, but you’re not much of a politician when you write: “Whatever the reparations are going to be, and I suggest TRILLIONS of dollars, I am only in favor of them, if and only if, the guaranteed end result is smaller government.” – you expect to log roll with blacks, who are only 10% of the population? It’s much better if you make a deal with Latinos. But it reminds me of a gambit in the Cold War to pay the Russians a huge amount of money if they have up Poland from the Warsaw Pact. It made sense, but about that time the USSR fell apart. This scheme by Wartsler makes no sense, as blacks have no real political power.

  48. Gravatar of Morgan Warstler Morgan Warstler
    6. May 2015 at 04:09

    Ray, 33% of blacks voting reliably for GOP ends Dems.

  49. Gravatar of Morgan Warstler Morgan Warstler
    6. May 2015 at 04:13

    Greg, you’ll even find smaller swirls, like Dayton is the only nice place left to live nearby.

    I’m not talking about those, I’m talking about folks pulling up stakes and cutting ties and going someplace new. Big population shifts have and are occurring to business friendly places. Nobody moves to Texas for the weather.

  50. Gravatar of ChrisA ChrisA
    6. May 2015 at 05:57

    I would guess there are varying preferences among people for the amount of crime and drug use that they like to have. Some people obviously like drug use, some people obviously like to do criminal things. In a free society is it really so bad to have some areas where people who have these preferences to congregate? Like inner cities such as Baltimore. I hate crime and drug taking and would be horrified if one of my children engaged in either one. But like any preference I should be wary of assuming mine are somehow preferable or better than others.

  51. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    6. May 2015 at 06:40

    Dan, You didn’t answer my question about whether our last three presidents should have gone to prison. Do you just favor imprisoning poor blacks that use drugs, but not the affluent and powerful? Didn’t Rush Limbaugh violate drug laws?

  52. Gravatar of DanC DanC
    6. May 2015 at 07:58

    Oh Scott you really want to play the race card?

    We allow the sale of liquor but we still pass laws that restrict it’s use. I would bet that blacks are more likely to be arrested for public drinking, does that make those laws racist?

    For me the root cause is the motivation to use drugs, especially hard drugs. A society that encourages or condones the use of hard drugs will, I think, have a lower quality of life.

    What do you think will happen if we legalize all drugs?

    BTW I was arrested for drug possession in college. I lent my car to some fraternity friends and they left drugs in the car. I didn’t know it. I was stopped for a traffic violation and off to jail I went. I was initially charged with intent to distribute – a shocking reach. I was offered a plea deal – a rehab program and agreed to three years probation. I was not then or now a drug user but my lawyer suggested I take the deal rather then risk a trial and a possible jail term.

    Spending time in rehab was a shocking experience to me. 13 year old girls turned out on the street to support drug habits. Lifes destroyed. Needless deaths. Innocent children having their future twisted into nightmares. The stories were sobering, even for someone who was sober.

    The arrest has caused problems for me ever since. I was once denied a security clearance with the Federal government. A well know politician offered me a staff position but after a background check I was told that it could be embarrassing. They did help me get a job with a private firm.

    So spending time in jail while family tried to raise bail money ( a day and a half) was an experience I don’t want to repeat. Nor was the rehab experience all that great.

    I have since worked for an outreach program in the prisons. While drug issues are a major issue, so are mental health issues.

    I have great sympathy for individuals in jail over drug offenses. I also have great sympathy for individuals, families, and communities that have been destroyed by drugs.

    Should the Presidents have gone to jail? I would have liked for them to think about the very real tragedies that the drug trade causes around the world and in their communities. Getting high helps support an industry that has very negative impacts on society. I think it is selfish and shortsighted. I doubt any of them would encourage the use of drugs in private or public.

    My brief exposures to the drug trade were horrific. I don’t compare it to the prohibition of alcohol. I think hard drugs are more dangerous to individuals and society.

  53. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    6. May 2015 at 11:40

    Dan, You still haven’t answered my question as to whether those three presidents should have gone to prison. Are you embarrassed by your views? If not, why not just answer the question? Is it that hard to do?

    If you had been black, would you have gotten off with probation?

    Sorry to hear that you suffered unjustly due to our insane drug laws. Millions have suffered far more than you, and equally unjustly, due to the War on Drug Using Americans.

    Either all Americans who have ever used drugs should go to prison, or none. It’s unfair to focus on poor blacks, and let affluent whites off with a slap on the wrist. If that’s “playing the race card” then I plead guilty.

    BTW haven’t at least 50% of baby boomers used drugs? How many boomers have robbed banks or murdered people? If you aren’t willing to imprison everyone who does something, then legalize it, perhaps with a tax to discourage use.

  54. Gravatar of Morgan Warstler Morgan Warstler
    6. May 2015 at 11:41

    DanC, no offense, but it sounds like you have a self-agency problem on multiple fronts.

    But yes all drugs should be legalized by this standard: what are you willing to kill people for doing?

    You make something illegal, even public drinking, in a way that can spiral into bench warrant and further punishment, ultimately some people will die during enforcement.

    So no, right now, I do not want public drinking punished in this way – one of the REASONS Uber for Welfare is so genius, is that it allows you to just DING the payout of the welfare recipient NEXT WEEK, not fine him and run him thru the justice system.

    Now maybe if we had Uber for Welfare, and you wanted to institute some social normative limits I’d be ok with it – but until the publicly drunk guy becomes a threat of violence, I want him left alone.

  55. Gravatar of DanC DanC
    7. May 2015 at 04:26

    No the three Presidents should not have gone to prison? And an arrest would have probably stopped their political careers from getting off the ground.

    Rarely do first time drug offenders go to jail, in my experience. Even in my case my lawyer advised me to take the path of least resistance, an offer I would have been given even if I did not have a lawyer. If I had been black the outcome would have probably been the same. Spend time in drug court and you will be amazed at some of the cases. Occasionally you will even see cases that look like a “motion to fix”. Who can see heroin dealers who sold to undercover cops go into rehab rather then prison. The prisons are full and judges will often, mostly, look to diversion as a first and even second option.

    I was very far from affluent. I grew up very poor, in a high crime community that was “changing”. I had long hair and as a white kid stood out in the hood. I was stopped by the police on a biweekly basis. I didn’t know how unusual that was until I went to college. As one cop joked to me at the time: White kids with long hair get searched for drugs, Black kids with gang colors get searched for weapons. I aways said yes sir, no sir. The cops weren’t brutal, most of the time they were good natured if annoying. Amazing what you can come to expect as normal – sort of like TSA.

    However for a black kid in the inner city an arrest is just another burden that makes escaping poverty more difficult. It can close doors.

    The politician who withdrew the staff offer was afraid of reactions just like yours. I was a white guy on his staff who got away with something. If I had been black with my background they could have sold it as an example of giving a person a second chance, helping to lift him out of the hood. The optics were just wrong. It is what it is. As I was told at the time, the two biggest requirements for the job was an ability to produce votes and raise money, without causing controversy.

    Even when I was denied a security clearance it was a two step process. The drug thing got me flagged and my lie detector exam came up inconclusive. I have zero faith in lie detector machines and examiners. I am told that individuals who had inconclusive lie detector exams resulted in hundreds of qualified candidates being rejected by the CIA during the 70-80″s. I hate the things,

    The Baltimore experiment with lax enforcement of drug laws in the 90’s seems to have led to a decline in the quality of life, more addicts, and more violence.

    It lead to a law and order Mayor promising to get tough.

    The pattern repeats.

  56. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    7. May 2015 at 05:28

    Dan, Lots of people go to prison for first offenses. And blacks are far more likely to go to prison for drugs than whites, even though their rate of drug use is similar. There are stronger penalties for the types of drugs that blacks prefer than those that whites prefer. Baltimore did not legalize drugs, so nothing that happened there has any bearing on my claims.

  57. Gravatar of MikeM MikeM
    24. May 2015 at 13:41

    Problems in American cities strongly correlate with the percentage of african american population.

  58. Gravatar of Major.Freedom Major.Freedom
    7. January 2018 at 12:16

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