Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Employment and Gateway Cities

by David Luberoff
Guest Blogger
From time to time, Housing Perspectives features posts by guest bloggers. Today's post was written by David Luberoff, senior project advisor to the Boston Area Research Initiative at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.  David will be a panelist at an upcoming Joint Center for Housing Studies event, Opening the Gates of Opportunity: Realizing the Potential of Gateway Cities, taking place at Harvard on Friday, April 18.  More information about the event is below.

Historically, the gateway cities of Massachusetts have been important regional economic centers, drawing workers each day from neighboring cities and towns.  However, today many gateway cities attract fewer employees from surrounding communities while many residents of those cities travel to suburban jobs, according to data from the Census Bureau’s 2006-to-2010 American Community Surveys (ACS).

Lawrence, Massachusetts

As the table below shows, eight of the state’s ten most populous cities are gateway cities, which are defined as midsized urban areas where average household income and rates of Bachelor degree attainment are below the state average.  (The exceptions are Boston and Cambridge).  But only five gateway cities – Worcester, Springfield, Quincy, New Bedford, and Lowell – are on the top ten list of where jobs are located. The three gateway cities on the top ten list for population – Brockton, Lynn, and Fall River – are replaced on the top ten list for jobs by Waltham, Newton, and Framingham.

Even more striking, among the large gateway cities, Springfield and Worcester are the only places where the number of non-residents coming into the city to go to work exceeds the number of people leaving to work in other locales.  This doesn’t mean that no one commutes into gateway cities.  In general, however, the share of jobs held by local residents is higher in gateway cities (with the notable exception of Quincy).  Additionally, residents of gateway cities farther from metro Boston seem more likely to live and work in the same locale.

Consider, for example, patterns in Lawrence.  According to other data from the ACS, about 7,904 of the about 30,052 Lawrence residents who are workers have jobs in that city.  Another 2,665 work in Methuen, while between 800 and 1,200 work in Boston, Haverhill, Woburn, Andover, Danvers, and Wilmington. Of workers coming into Lawrence from other communities, 2,420 come from Methuen, 1,650 from Haverhill, and 860 from Lowell.  No other locality sends more than 350 people.  It’s also worth noting that more workers commute from Lawrence to nearby Andover (which has more than 30,000 jobs) than from any other locality, including Andover. (Click table to enlarge.)

These data suggest that policies designed to strengthen gateway cities should seek opportunities to make those localities more attractive to firms that draw employees from both the city and surrounding communities.  At the same time, policymakers should seek opportunities to better connect residents of the state’s gateway cities with jobs in suburban locales as well.

These and other challenges and opportunities of gateway cities will be discussed at a half-day event taking place at the Harvard Graduate School of Design next Friday, April 18th. Opening the Gates of Opportunity: Realizing the Potential of Gateway Cities is free and open to the public, but advance registration is required. Please register to attend or watch the live webcast on the Joint Center website (no registration required for the webcast). 

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