American cities are due for a post-pandemic renaissance, according to The Wall Street Journal's opinion piece, "Can America's Cities Make a Comeback?"
Despite the argument that COVID work-from-home mandates have made hybrid work part of the American fabric going forward, and concessions even by major Wall Street banks to permit more work flexibility, it is argued that cities are the still the best place for companies to drive productivity.
Cities are where American workers thrive — by brainstorming, learning from one another and mentoring.
But even more compelling, cities are where professionals, by honing their skills, command and earn far higher salaries. with an earnings premium for city workers of as much as 35% in just 10 years.
'Mysteries in the Air'
Harvard University Economics Chair Edward Glaeser says of the devastation that COVID has wrought on major cities: "The city depends upon being a thriving place, where people buy and sell to each other, and interact with each other. It's terrible for a city that many of its key urban office markets feel like wastelands during the daytime."
The professor, for his part, says having had to deliver lectures to his students during the pandemic via Zoom "is just a bad movie — a really bad movie. None of the magic that comes from live lecturing and live interaction with students is there.
"For most of us, the most important interactions of our lives will occur in the real world, and, consequently, location remains absolutely critical," Glaeser continues.
A foremost urban economist, Glaeser says he is inspired by Alfred Marshall (1842-1924), who himself once said: "Great are the advantages (of cities), which people following the same skilled trade get from near neighborhood to one another. The mysteries of the trade become no mystery but are, as it were, in the air."
Long Way Back
It will be a long way back to convince leading American companies and their workforces to return, however. Nationwide, 19% of U.S. workers have yet to return to their offices or places of work. In tech-heavy San Francisco, the statistic is a staggering 52% who have yet to return.
The story is roughly the same in America's top 10 cities.
In order for the economies of major American cities like New York, San Francisco, Boston and Chicago to bounce back, it is necessary for their workers to reappear.
Perhaps they will heed Glaeser's own personal observations as the most compelling argument for getting back to normal. He puts it thus:
"I have been a much happier person for being around young people again, for being aroung my colleagues. And that has been not only productive, but also joyful."
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