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According to Brookings Institution report  Chicago ranks 203rd out of 300 metropolitan areas around the world in bouncing back from recession. The question is why is that and how did they come to that conclusion? Further should we have reason to be concerned?

So let’s look at the overview first and then get to the details. Chicago’s established overall wealth as a city makes it a little more difficult to grow from that base so any increase in grow is challenged compared to those less wealthy cities. In other words Chicago thrives. A lot of cities on the list that were on top were developing countries, like China and Turkey, starting from lower development stages so there’s more growth potential.

For an advanced city like Chicago, it becomes important for it to invest in things that make the economy stronger, like education, job training, universities, research and development, and technological innovation. Infrastructure is also important, so firms that are trying to move goods to other markets can do so efficiently, and so people can move around the region and access jobs.

For the city that brags as the “City that Works,” it appeared that it had a magic formula but the real test is how a city performs in an imperfect market. So the reality is that Chicago has no magic formula to improve Chicago’s economy. It’s a combination of all those things. The ultimate goal is continued economic growth that includes the vast majority of the population so everyone can participate in whatever fruits the regional economy bears.

So the study looked at the GDP, which represents the importance of achieving rising incomes and standards of living in a place. The fact that those two indicators are available over a wide range of global metro areas provided the researchers a good snapshot of economic performance.

Compared to other regional Midwestern cities Chicago performed lower than Milwaukee which was 136th, and better than St. Louis and Detroit (which just came out of bankruptcy). When comparing Chicago to Milwaukee and broadening it beyond the one-year trend, which Brookings did, Milwaukee has performed worse than Chicago in the post-recession period. Part of the fact that Milwaukee did better this year is because it is catching up from lower performances in previous years, whereas Chicago has been growing steadily since the recession but not at an overwhelmingly fast clip. So the measurement doesn’t actually mean that Chicago is performing poorly but rather that it had less catching up to do to get to it’s norm. The grow has not been in leaps and bounds but has been steady.

So Chicago ranked 203rd out of 300 global metro areas in comparison to other metro areas of similar size but when you examine that ranking in terms of improvement year over year you have to look at it in terms of U.S. peers, which are not all similar in size but are similar in terms of development state 80 U.S. metro areas are in the sample. Chicago came in 51st out of  that 80. But if you look across and look at cities  similar in size and of economic clout, according to the report  it ranked  Los Angeles at 148th and New York at 176th. They’re slightly higher than Chicago. The large metro areas of Texas—Dallas and Houston—performed very well.

Finally the study, it’s not a measure of the best cities or the most livable cities or the most economically competitive cities. The cities compared are growing the fastest this year and in the post-recession period and reflect Obama’s State Od the Union Address regarding America’s economic recovery.



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