UCLA Chancellor Gene Block shared Distinguished Professor of Urban Planning Michael Storper’s research on the evolution of cities at the Milken Institute’s recent Global Conference, which convened thousands of leaders from government, health care, finance, technology, philanthropy, media and higher education to tackle urgent global economic and social issues. Building on the conference’s theme of “Charting a New Course,” Block joined several discussions with the aim of sharing lessons learned from recent social movements and the global pandemic to reimagine a more prosperous future for all. “Cities keep growing and they keep thriving, but they’re changing. We’re seeing from the pandemic something that we refer to as ‘social scarring,’ or deep psychological impact that’s not going away quickly,” Block said, pointing to Storper’s research. “It’s changing people’s behavior and how they feel about density.” The 24th edition of the Global Conference was held in Beverly Hills from Oct. 17-20.
Urban Planning Distinguished Professor Michael Storper co-authored a paper assessing COVID-19’s anticipated impact on the economic, political and social fabric of cities for the journal Urban Studies. As the world continues to adapt to the pandemic, “we remain in a period of extended social experimentation, with households, business, the professions and the public sector all in the game,” wrote Storper and co-authors Richard Florida of the University of Toronto and Andrés Rodríguez-Pose of the London School of Economics. Throughout history, major metropolitan areas have proved resilient to epidemics and other crises and catastrophes, they wrote. “Nonetheless, even if large cities are unlikely to lose their prominent role, they will be transformed and changed — in the short term and even well after mass immunity.” The authors predict that “social scarring” based on the continued fear of coronavirus infection will continue to influence residence choice, travel and commute patterns, and the economic viability of certain businesses and social gathering spaces. The future of downtowns hangs in the balance as remote work is normalized and online shopping grows even more common. “Cities might increasingly become cultural and civic places rather than shopping destinations or office hubs,” they wrote. Despite its horrific toll, the pandemic offers a window of opportunity where cities can reset, re-energize and call old practices into question, the authors conclude. “As cities rebuild and recover, … they can pilot efforts to confront the widening chasms between classes and neighborhoods and prepare for the many threats of climate change.”
Urban Planning Distinguished Professor Michael Storper co-authored an article about the impact of international investment on domestic employment levels for the London School of Economics’ Global Investments and Local Development blog. “The world over, public policies for recovery from COVID-19 have cherished the idea of curbing foreign activities of domestic firms in order to boost domestic employment and wages. This represents a fundamental misconception about outward foreign direct investment,” Storper wrote with scholars Riccardo Crescenzi and Roberto Ganau. The authors conducted an in-depth analysis of U.S. local labor markets, detailed in a paper recently published in the Journal of Economic Geography. They found that firms with direct investment in other countries create jobs at home, a counterintuitive fact in an era of populism and calls for curbing global economic integration. The authors noted, however, that there is a downside in the form of increasing intra-regional inequalities between high-skilled and low-skilled workers.
An article in Econ Focus about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on life in cities mentioned a 2020 paper co-authored by Urban Planning Professor Michael Storper about the predicted short- and long-term effects of the pandemic. In their paper “Cities in a Post-COVID World,” Storper and co-authors Richard Florida and Andrés Rodríguez-Pose examined the pandemic and resulting lockdown as a forced experiment and made predictions about the social scarring and need to secure the urban built environment against future risks. They argued that despite opportunities for remote work, online shopping and other alternatives to face-to-face interactions, the demand for urban amenities will remain strong after the virus-induced lockdowns are lifted. “It is highly unlikely that COVID-19, despite its high levels of devastation in certain cities, will derail the long-standing process of urbanization and the economic role of cities,” they wrote. “Nonetheless, even if cities will not shrink or die from the COVID pandemic, they will certainly change.”
Urban Planning Professor Michael Storper was cited in a Governing article about the affordable housing crisis in the United States. Experts disagree on the best strategy to meet the need for affordable housing. Two years ago, Minneapolis voted to make single-family zoning illegal; Oregon and cities in North Carolina and Northern California have adopted similar measures; and upzoning has been in place in Chicago for more than a decade. So far, these policy changes have had little effect on housing construction, the article noted. “What upzoning did not do in Chicago, and is not likely to do anywhere, is create incentives for housing construction in the areas where middle-class and lower-income people most need it at the prices for which they need it,” Storper said. Changing zoning laws doesn’t mean that developers will choose to build cheap housing, especially when they can build housing for the affluent and pay an alternative fee to an affordable housing fund.
A Zocalo Public Square column on the urgency of fixing Los Angeles’ longstanding economic and equity problems cited research by Michael Storper, distinguished professor of urban planning. Storper studied the different trajectories of the Bay Area and Los Angeles, two big regional economies that were at parity in 1970, with similar education levels and numbers of engineers. The Bay Area’s leading institutions in education, business and government became highly networked and planned collaboratively. The Los Angeles region remained a collection of separate, siloed communities that competed with one another. Today, the Bay Area is 30% richer than the L.A. region, Storper found. Noting that COVID-19 made the depths of Los Angeles’ problems undeniable, the column called on leaders to build real foundations that allow people to find stability and health in the short term, while reducing inequality to spread prosperity in the long term.
Michael Storper, distinguished professor of regional and international development in urban planning, was featured in an ABC7 News video about the evolution of the California dream. After more than a century of rapid growth, population growth in California has slowed in recent decades. Americans are choosing where to go on the basis of jobs, housing, climate, family and other factors, and many are leaving the Golden State for places such as Texas, Nevada and Arizona. Storper explained that comparing population growth rates in California to other states is like comparing apples to oranges. “Big metropolitan areas like Los Angeles and San Francisco are still quite attractive to high-skilled, high-income people, so there is a net inflow of those groups,” he said. However, these areas are less attractive for low-income and low-education groups. Storper asked, “How can we deal with income inequality in ways that will enable people of all income levels to keep living in our state?”
Michael Storper, distinguished professor of regional and international development in urban planning, was featured in a WalletHub article comparing affordability, access to education and overall quality of life in U.S. state capitals. Storper explained that the “tradition in America is to separate political capitals from major cultural or economic capitals.” As a result, many state capitals benefit from local economic stability but lack business, buzz and technological energy. However, Storper pointed out that Austin, Texas, is a notable exception as a capital with a major university hub, a gigantic tech hub, and a big music and creativity hub. Using 44 different indicators, WalletHub ranked all 50 cities and concluded that Austin ranked highest overall. Storper called Austin a “superstar metro in its own right.” However, he concluded that state capitals “don’t offer much that is particularly advantageous, except maybe relatively low land and cost of living compared to the principal cities.”
By Mary Braswell
A new partnership between UCLA and a top European research university offers urban planning students an opportunity to earn two distinct master’s degrees in two years while studying in the global cities of Los Angeles and Paris.
Beginning in the fall of 2021, the highly regarded urban planning programs at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and France’s Sciences Po will join forces to offer a double master’s focusing on global and comparative planning and governance.
Students accepted into the program will be immersed in two thriving urban laboratories where perspectives on managing cities are quite distinct.
“The approach to urban governance in France and across Europe is very different from the American approach,” said Professor Chris Tilly, chair of UCLA Luskin Urban Planning. “This double master’s is a unique opportunity to learn how things are done in different cultures and to bring that knowledge to a range of global urban environments.”
‘There could not be a better two-city laboratory for learning how to become an urbanist today.’ — Professor Michael Storper
Students will spend the first year in Los Angeles, where UCLA Luskin offers rigorous training in urban planning, development and design with a strong emphasis on social, environmental and racial justice.
Year 2 will be spent at the Paris campus of Sciences Po’s Urban School, which takes a deep comparative and critical approach to public administration and the social transformation of cities. English is the language of instruction at the Urban School, which attracts students from across the globe.
“By creating this dual degree, we get the best of both worlds,” said Professor Michael Storper, who holds appointments at both UCLA Luskin and Sciences Po. “Paris and Los Angeles are both world cities, but they couldn’t be more different in lifestyle and layout.
“Paris is historical, dense, public-transit oriented. And yet, the cities share many of the same challenges for planners, such as economic development, infrastructure, gentrification and housing, diversity and segregation, public space and climate change,” said Storper, a French-American citizen and resident of both cities.
The double master’s program is geared toward students seeking to work internationally or to bring a global perspective to urban planning in their home countries. And the opportunity to study abroad and build a network of friends and colleagues from around the world will be particularly welcome after travel restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic are lifted.
What sets this program apart from other international exchange programs is that it grants two degrees in urban planning, accredited in the United States and Europe, in the time normally needed to earn just one.
Across the University of California system, only one other similar international partnership exists: a double executive MBA program offered by the UCLA Anderson School of Management and the National University of Singapore.
The alliance between UCLA Luskin Urban Planning and the Urban School dates back to 2016, with the launch of a quarter-long student exchange program. To build on that relationship, a team from UCLA Luskin, including Storper, Associate Dean Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris and past Urban Planning Chair Vinit Mukhija, advocated for the double master’s program, which required approval from UCLA and the UC Office of the President.
By design, the program will be small and selective. The roughly 15 students accepted into each year’s cohort will complete coursework and internships integrating theory and scholarship with real professional experiences, preparing them for work in the public, private and nonprofit sectors in any region of the world.
Applications to join the program in fall of 2021 are due on January 31. More information is available on the UCLA Luskin website.
“This program is a natural fit of two great universities and two great cities that are complementary in their differences,” Storper said. “There could not be a better two-city laboratory for learning how to become an urbanist today.”
By Les Dunseith
A new longitudinal study of the geography of upward mobility in the United States shows that regions with high levels of income inequality have suffered from consistently low levels of intergenerational mobility over the last century.
In an article published today by the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, co-authors Dylan Connor of Arizona State University and Michael Storper of UCLA Luskin discuss findings that include:
- Individuals growing up in urbanized and industrialized regions — such as in the Northeast, Midwest and West — experienced higher levels of intergenerational social mobility in the early 20th century, although this advantage declined over time.
- People born in the South experienced consistently lower levels of social mobility throughout the 20th century.
- Regions with large Black populations that face income inequality have suffered from consistently lower levels of social mobility.
- An individual’s early childhood environment has gained increasing importance over time as a predictor of economic upward mobility in the country. In the early 20th century, for example, proximity to a city with employment opportunities in manufacturing was of greater importance than in today’s economy. Contemporary upward mobility is more likely to depend on educational success.
The authors analyzed location and income data from the U.S. Census for more than 1 million U.S.-born fathers and sons in 1920 and 1940, respectively, to measure regional social mobility in the early 20th century. They compared those findings with contemporary social mobility patterns derived from Internal Revenue Service data for 10 million children from the 1980–1982 birth cohorts and later observed from 2011–2012. Although the newer data capture the experiences of both males and females, the historical data only apply to males.
Why did the authors need to look back 100 years?
“The article’s central concern is intergenerational social mobility — meaning the probability that the children of one generation will or will not achieve a higher socioeconomic status than their parents,” said Storper, a professor of urban planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Although adult life may take place in a region different from one’s childhood, the region where a person starts life influences factors such as quality of schooling, social support structures and parental income.
“We have to know how the conditions of their childhood might have helped them be both geographically and socially mobile,” he said, “and whether geographical migrants are more socially mobile than stay-at-homes.”
Connor pointed out that understanding changes over time in intergenerational social mobility can provide a sense of how and where society needs to make improvements. Intergenerational change is a slow process, however, and the study needed to compare multiple waves of parents to their adult children at intervals that were 25 years apart.
“To get a sense of how things are changing across generations, we must take a long-term perspective,” said Connor, an assistant professor in Arizona State’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning.
In recent decades, the Northern Plains went from having one of the lowest rates to among the highest for intergenerational social mobility. One factor was a propensity for people born there to relocate as adults to other parts of the country for better work opportunities, often in sunnier locales such as California and other Western states.
But children born in the South had persistently lower levels of intergenerational social mobility, the study found. Among the factors is “the persistent way that race influences early childhood opportunities, probably by discouraging social consensus around investing in such things as schooling for all, and the way discrimination affects childhood and adult performance,” Storper said.
“This is what we call ‘deep roots’ — or persistent long-term structures impacting social mobility.”
Although many of the leading economic regions of the early 20th century weakened over time as springboards for intergenerational advancement, historical economic inequality within the regions with those deep roots, in contrast, exhibited a more consistent negative association. Correlating factors included high school dropout rates and income inequality.
The Black population share also showed statistical correlation, which the authors say shows the persistent impact of racial subordination, inequality and inadequate schooling on the U.S. landscape of opportunity.
“By social mobility, we are thinking about the degree of upward mobility within the American income/class structure for children who were born into poverty,” said Connor, who noted how the study relates directly to recent momentum around racial inequity and the Black Lives Matter movement. “One of the main concerns is that African American children are both more likely to be born into poverty and also face particularly high barriers to escaping poverty as adults — a point that is very strongly supported by our findings.”
A robust local labor market and access to quality schooling in early life were consistent factors in social mobility across generations and over time, according to the study. Because much of the South continues to lag other regions in terms of schooling and other social influences, major improvements in upward mobility have been slow to develop despite considerable growth in employment and economic output.
The authors also sought to identify and understand other long-term patterns across geographical regions.
“Some areas of the United States have witnessed significant declines in social mobility, while others have had persistently low levels all along. Thus, the contemporary national picture is shaped by both powerful forces of change that reduce intergenerational mobility in some regions and deeply entrenched long-term forces generating persistence in others,” they write in the journal.
Two specific cases stood out to the researchers when they compared data over time.
First, urban areas of the Midwest were comparable to the persistently high-income Northeast and West regions in the early 20th century, but intergenerational social mobility in the region was the third-lowest by century’s end, only slightly above the less urban areas of the South.
Second, the benefits of migration were higher for people leaving the Plains and Mountain regions, and the South to a lesser extent, than for their counterparts who left higher-income regions elsewhere.
“This intuitive pattern is consistent across the century and confirms the role of outmigration in providing a path to upward mobility for people growing up in lower-income places,” the authors wrote.