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Variations among local economic regions.

Too often, national averages underlie federal policy and program decisions. Data, however, indicate a wide range of variation around these national averages across local economic regions. When federal policy and program decisions are driven by these national averages, therefore, the variety of circumstances and needs in local economies are ignored.

The degree of variation in the performance of local economic regions is easily demonstrated.

In 1989 median household income was $30,056 in the nation. Median household incomes in these 50 largest metropolitan areas ranged from a high of $46,848 to a low of $24,442, a difference of $22,406.

Eight metropolitan areas fell below the national average and 42 were above. Of these higher income metropolitan areas, 18 exceed the national average by more than $5,000, 10 by $10,000 or more, and five by $15,000 or more. The range of variation in metropolitan median household incomes, therefore, is significant, and the national averages mask the extent of this variation. This diversity of metropolitan income performance is not related to metropolitan size, at least within the 50 largest metropolitan areas.

Metropolitan areas also exhibit significant variations in rates of employment growth (see figurey. Among the 50 largest metropolitan areas, the rate of employment growth between 1980 and 1990 ranged from a high of 43.5 percent to a low of - 1.4 percent.

The national average growth rate over this period was 18.2 percent. Twenty-six of the 50 large metropolitan areas had growth rates in excess of the national average. Of these, 10 had rates in excess of 30 percent over the 10 year period, and 10 experienced a less than 10 percent rate of growth. The rate of growth in employment was negative in three of the areas. Inspection of figure 4 indicates that rates of employment growth experienced between 1980 and 1990 were not related to metropolitan size.

The unemployment rate is a primary measure of the performance of the national economy and its constituent local economic regions. In 1990, the national rate of unemployment averaged 6.3 percent. Again, the range in unemployment rates across the 50 metropolitan areas is wide, from a high of 9.2 to a low of 3.7.

The majority of these metropolitan areas (29) experienced unemployment rates below the national average, but the remaining 21 had rates in excess of the national mean. Again, there appears to be no consistent relationship between urban size and unemployment performance.

Almost all measures of economic performance reveal similar patterns of variation across local economic regions. The breadth and depth of these patterns of variations indicate that there is a need for federal policies to be sensitive to the diversity of local economic regions and their unique circumstances and needs.
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Title Annotation:Special Report: All in It Together: Cities, Suburbs, Regions
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Mar 8, 1993
Previous Article:Economic report highlights.
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