I don’t think this is true. If urban areas were more efficient than rural areas, it would be cheaper to live in an urban area.
Urban areas are generally inefficient for resources because you have bottlenecks on available space. Anything that requires physical space to do can be done more efficiently in a less urban area. This includes obvious things like raising children, but also includes any sort of minimum wage services, which are more efficiently provided in rural areas.
The main thing which is more efficient in an urban area is assembling a large well-paid professional workforce. I think if remote work became possible for a larger set of companies it has the potential to transform rural America.
The main types of economic resources are land, labor, capital, and natural resources. All of these cost money, and cost is a very reasonable way to measure resource consumption. The biggest inefficiencies of urban areas come from the cost of land and labor.
This story might look different when you remove subsidies from the picture. NYC tax revenue subsidizes upstate life in the form of infrastructure etc. Imagine if the residents had to pay for that directly instead.
Urban areas are more efficient for resources because people generally use far less of them, per person, to accomplish the same economic activity.
That "bottleneck" of space is also equivalent to much greater access to all sorts of goods, because it is so much more efficient that what would basically be impossible in rural areas in terms of shipping and communication are extremely efficient in these spaces.
Efficiency is not the same thing as prices. Prices are high in urban areas because access to that space allows so much more economic activity; people are able to pay a lot more because they also have access to a lot more economic activity. That's economic efficiency.
If you're talking about needing a lot of a particular type of resource, like land, then yes it can be more efficient to put the jobs elsewhere. If you're looking for workers that don't have access to higher paying jobs, then yes, take those jobs out to rural areas.
As a person with children, I object heartily to the idea that it's more efficient to raise children in rural areas. I grew up in a rural area, but my child will not, because it is far more efficient to have access to more humans, more services, more education, more everything that urban areas provide.
If you subtract out the cost of the land, is it still more expensive to live in an urban area? (Honest question; I don't know the answer.)
Remote work uptake will accelerate this trend, versus being forced to live in a city to be close to work. Density isn’t a given, or requirement to live well, and we shouldn’t be so foolish to push it (through half baked policy) on others if they don’t want it.
Side note: Support and advocate for remote work!
Just as with roads (where building more doesn’t help alleviate demand), you must destroy demand for everyone to live in the same spot if you want affordable housing. You do that with fungible remote work and (efficiently and sustainably) providing high quality of life not tied to a place in space time.
Now, I just want the kids to get off my lawn and have some peace.
I just don't see that happening.
Disclaimer: I'm not saying that that's good or bad.
It cost $2 to $3 million to build the undivided 2 lane road for each mile out to your house. Assuming an acre per house on that road (both sides) (208 ft of frontage per house gives you 25 per side and 50 on both sides of the road) Then you personally would have had to shell out ~$50,000 to build the road...as would all 50 of your neighbors. More if the average property is larger than an acre.
Yearly maintenance of that road is also not cheap. Figures vary a lot based on location, but lets go with NY’s lower bound...$4500 per year per mile. You and your $50 neighbors would be paying about $90 a year each. Not bad.
But, every 10 to 15 years your road will have to be completely resurfaced, which is about $625,000 per mile or $12,500 for you and your 50 neighbors (~$1000 per year)
And thats just the roads. You have to have a water/sewer system. You need power, telephone, cable, landscaping for the roads, snow removal (possibly), and a myriad of other services provided by your municipality.
You and your 50 neighbors are certainly NOT paying for all those yourselves.
In a city, that same mile of road likely costs $4-$6 million per mile. but instead of sharing that cost with 50 neighbors you are sharing it with 5,000 or more.
Anyway, I love the idea of a rural property. But let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that you and your rural neighbors are actually paying the true costs to live out there.
I’m struggling to find a blog series that talked about this in depth right now, but it’s just not financially sustainable to build/maintain rural and even suburban infrastructure given the economic base in those areas. We’ve really backed ourselves into a corner.
Rural life has existed for over a century, so forgive me when it's waved away as too costly. Would some standards need to change? Possibly, but it’s not impossible.
That being said, there is a difference between true rural, like you are talking about, and “rural” in the sense of exurb mcmansions on 2 acre lots, which I think much of the “i hate urban areas” folks have in mind.
I don't know that voters conceptualize it this way but it seems to me there is a growing movement against this sort of economistic utilitarianism. Some people have come to understand that they/their family/their community already was 'sacrificed' in this manner or that they're on the chopping block. I don't think a doubling down is going to work here.
- small towns tend to have longer trips from the grocery store to your house, which is where most transportation costs occur
Nor do most major cities. The vast bulk of UK and most country's trade goes through just their top 6 or 8 ports. The container comes off a ship, then gets to the other cities and towns via rail or road. You get a similar picture across most regions.
> small towns tend to have longer trips from the grocery store
Not in my experience. Usually far less travel, and less congestion to the shops and superstore. There may be fewer stores overall. I'm assuming the town is large enough to have at least one supermarket here. You may well be right if you're thinking of having to make a trip to the next town over to do the shopping.
People say this all the time. If it's true, why is the cost of living in an urban area almost always higher than in a rural area?
Worse, you are likely looking at the costs of single family home purchasing, without considering cost of upkeep and transportation. Not to mention efficiency of getting work done.
That is all to say, because it is complicated. Scale fundamentally makes things hard to reason about. And cost discussions typically micro optimize a single factor.
It is not precisely the same concept as cheap, but I think you are mistaken about efficiency. Economic efficiency means that goods are produced at the lowest possible average total cost.
A wide range of economic goods have a lower average cost in rural areas. Anything from a 5 bedroom house to a case of Bud Light.
Urban areas are inefficient for most goods. They are popular not because of their general efficiency, but because they have better-paying jobs.
Consider, I can literally walk to the grocery to buy beer. I suppose I have to replace my shoes from wear, but no upkeep or gas on my car. No miles of road that need maintenance to subsidize my trip to the store.
Now, yes, there are miles of road to subsidize getting the store supplied. But that is shared for all people supplied by the store. Same is true, of course, for the trips to the store, but again, my side of that equation is zero. Which is all part of what makes me argue it is more efficient.
And again, complicated with general scale making most observations necessarily simplistic.
Some of it is alleviated by hub and spoke transport plus extra parking places, but not all. At some point, transport costs split the city into a conurbation, even without the sprawl, you end up with towns linked by capacious public transportation and roads.
Or terrible congestion.
There are limits to density after all. Even with walking and bikes and underground and tramways and double decker busses.
and the extreme prices are just a natural byproduct of supply/demand.
the answer for a lot of jobs is being able to be remote, but of course not all jobs can allow for this
why are salaries higher? because the labor pools in high density urban areas have, in some sectors, a more highly developed set of skills and capabilities than the comparable labor pools in other areas have (e.g. Wall Street bankers and quants, NYC chefs and restaurant workers, SV programmers and capital managers, San Diego life sciences and biotech, etc). IOW, agglomeration economies.
Why would someone pay for convenience? Probably because it's the only affordable way to buy more time. You could pay someone to do your errands for you while you commute. You could fly a helicopter to work everyday instead of driving. Those things are way more expensive than just living in a smaller apartment closer to everything, though. That is what sets the upper bound on how much profit can be extracted from real-estate. If teleportation existed, I'm guessing a lot of urban landlords would lose a lot of money. But it doesn't.
Meanwhile, the suburbs are intrinsically less efficient, but subsidized from the urban revenues. Think about the laws that require phone companies to provide service to rural areas, or the USPS to deliver mail to rural areas, or your taxes buying roads to those rural areas. You, the city dweller, are paying for all of those things.
The TL;DR is that efficiency is not related to the price you pay to live somewhere. It's much more complicated.
There are a large number of Suburban areas now, that began as smaller towns and cities grew into and filled the gaps between. Those primarily existed as local concentration points to facilitate rural infrastructure at one time.
* It is not as time sensitive - you can interleave and batch delivery hours. People work hours, unfortunately not yet.
* You can use big transport rail for longer distance or big trucks.
This increases density vastly.
People need some space, crates don't.
It's probably politically impossible, but the right answer seems to me to stop subsidizing sparse living so heavily, and let people's preferences sort it out. I happen to prefer urban environments, but i understand the appeal of sparser living: it just seems like if you prefer something that's much more costly to society, you can pay for it.
in the US high quality of life cities are actually quite scarce and in time almost always overwhelmed by large numbers of people who want to experience that quality of life. then quality of life decreases significantly.
This isn't really possible to do in established metropolises but it could be done in areas where small towns are the mainstay.
You should step back and read your comment objectively. You're essentially saying "I don't want to live there because I disagree with [my stereotyped view of] their political/personal views, and am willing to overlook major indicators of quality of living to live with high crime, taxes, traffic, and high CoL."
I recognize you may have _reasons_ for your stereotype and I don't want to discount them, but for every anecdotal you may have, there is one in the other direction. I've seen bigots in NY and saints in KS. From where I stand, you're the one being close-minded and bigoted by judging people based on how many other people live around them and assuming you are better than them.
Get a nice sized house, with money in the bank, grow a garden, listen to the quiet, cut your own lawn, and share the experience with other people, who like you, eventually migrated back to give that small town feel another chance, later in life.
And now that small town has an art gallery. A Starbucks. Some nice restaurants. And town councillors that like you, moved back from the city and have a desire to fix some of what you remember being broken.
Many of the small towns I remember growing up in that were bigoted close minded places, have gradually changed. Not all. But it's happening.
Those are pretty important to a lot of people.
When in the city we both feel low levels of chronic stress. This is alleviated when in rural areas.
Right now our worries are finding a place for the right price, sufficiently removed from other people, close to enough places that we care about, access to fast internet.
I have heard from real estate agents that this desire to move to the country is becoming increasingly common. I don't know really why that is, but I have to imagine that the ability to work remotely has something to do with it.
Things suck for young middle-class families.
Housing goes from expensive to unaffordable when you can’t split the difference between roommates, and can’t justify living in a run down 1 bedroom closet anymore. Schools are often poor in the city, and the ones that aren’t are often very difficult to get into. Public transportation is great, until you have a child or a stroller, in which case you draw looks like you have the plague. Most of the amenities that make city life enjoyable as a young person become difficult or impossible to enjoy in the presence of children.
This isn’t necessarily the case for all cities, especially those outside the US. But for the most part, American cities are fundamentally broken for families, and as such are mostly playgrounds for the young, the rich, or those so poor they can’t leave and are confined to the corners of town where “urban life” isn’t as glamorous as is often sold. My desire for living in the city took a nosedive soon after having my first child.
It also probably isn’t entirely child driven. Even without kids, I think the 30+ stage of life is when many aspects of city life become less appealing. As you put it, city life is often accompanied by chronic low level stress, which eventually just gets old. Living in a city is great for a career, but at a certain point, careers start to calm down and the need for being in a urban center starts to die with it.
I also hate city life, but I find it depressing that this is just another instance of everything absolutely having to be an us-vs-them scenario. Why can't people just enjoy the qualities of city life or suburban life or rural life without needing to broadly label the other options as somehow awful?
I see no appeal in living in restrictive spaces for the chance at having something "special" to do in the rare moment where I have free time. There's more than enough for me in my surroundings and if needs be, I'm an hour drive from Pittsburgh, PA for some "culture" outings.
*Sucks being relative. I know I don't have it that bad.
Most jobs in these places tend towards service jobs. You can't just move to Columbia. MO and expect to find a professional job. The best way to earn a good living in these areas is to own a business, which is not really feasible for most people. Once these rural towns have a critical mass of businesses to support an influx of professionals, they begin to evolve from small town to suburbia.
I say this as someone who was raised in a town of 515 people, 45-minutes from the closest Walmart. There was nothing there when I left, and that fact has remained over the past 20 years. Why would anyone move to that small town over the hundreds of identical ones all over the state?
The small towns and smaller farms that are doing well are those that are within reasonable commuting range of the bigger centers. The ones that aren't, aren't, and are still undergoing rapid depopulation and farm consolidation into very-large commodity crop growers (canola, wheat, pulses, beef/pork).
The success of rural-heavy jurisdictions of North America are those that will give up on the losing fight to keep every small town alive and start investing in the job-creating urban areas. However, the Conservative/Republican parties that are often in power in these areas know they depend on their rural base and often do the opposite, spending money on highways and crop subsidies rather than transit and education.
I actually had friends in LA tell me "they'll make you squeal like a pig there!" before I left. I'm not sure how many here will get those old references, but it really was a thing when I told my friends in LA I was leaving.
The area where I moved to has grown fast over the past 30 years. Still pretty nice though, and I'm glad I've spent those years here. No amount of money would've been worth spending them in LA.