Will Cities Survive the Corona Virus?

A lot of people have been asking...

As you might imagine, I'm still betting on the big cities...

We chose cities because we get our ideas from other people, and cities are where most of the people are. Insight and innovation spreads most easily when there are lots of people, just like viruses do.

The biggest, densest, best connected cities are at risk in pandemics, but they are also inevitably the best environments for opportunity, especially for younger people and the next generation of innovators and wealth creators. (And it's worth noting that even dense cities can be better at controlling outbreaks than their less populated hinterlands. New York City, for example, had high infection rates. But per-capita, Covid-19 cases in dense Manhattan were substantially lower than the neighbouring low-density borough of Staten Island.)

We already know where the leading established cities are - they've been agglomerating the vast majority of innovation, talent, and investment for quite a while. (By 2030, there will 40 mega-cities with populations over 10 Million.) But where are the emerging centres of innovation that hold future promise?

Perhaps counter-intuitively, I would suggest looking more closely at second-tier urban clusters that have suffered rapid and early viral infection rates; these hot spots are proxies for innovation - societies and areas that are highly connected, and where regular face-to-face communication are already prevalent, places where a globalised mobile population (including young people who might have been deterred by the unaffordability of the leading cities) might be choosing to settle.

It's hard to pick winners. Sometimes you have to look at why places are challenged; I'd be betting on some of those early viral hot spots too.

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