I’ve mentioned before that the common journalistic meme about how half the world is living in cities now is a reflection of the industrialization of China, India, etc., rather than a huge movement to urban areas in already industrialized nations. (That massive movement to cities already occurred in more advanced economy during their era of industrialization.)
On several trips to China, going back to 1998, I frequently heard that half the building cranes in the world were busy in construction there.
So a review of a recent book (“Supreme City”) in the New York Times caught my eye with this opening fact:
“Between 1922 and 1930, a new building went up in New York City every 51 minutes, according to Donald L. Miller. Most of the truly spectacular structures — like the Chrysler Building, with its aspirational steel spire — emerged in Midtown, previously a region of open rail yards and shabby industry. Beginning with the reconstruction of Park Avenue in the early 1920s, Midtown became a destination neighborhood for the city’s ultrarich …
Pictures make the point as well. First, here’s midtown Manhattan around Grand Central Terminal before the growth spurt.
Here’s midtown Manhattan more recently:
And another bit of historical comparison tells the same story. In the 1900 census, the newly created New York City (of all five boroughs) had a population of 3.4 million. By 1930, it had 6.9 million people – more than doubling the population.
While these trends today are having dramatic effects in Asia and elsewhere in the world, they would seem to be a duplication of previous patterns of industrialization. For me, the more interesting question is how people will move around as the post-industrial, Internet-infused, knowledge economy develops.
© 2014 Norman Jacknis