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Many Cities Flourished Before COVID-19, but Glaeser and Cutler Argue, “Urban Triumph is Never Guaranteed”


COVID-19 and social distancing have presented a wide range of economic and safety challenges for highly populated cities, their residents, and municipalities. In 2011, Harvard economist Ed Glaeser wrote “Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier,” which details how several cities had been resilient and victorious over certain health crises and other vulnerabilities, including the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Tom Kozlik, head of research and analytics, previously referenced Glaeser’s book when he described how remote work—reducing face-to-face interactions—could complicate municipal ratings.

Glaeser praises cities for the way they bring people together, stating that “cities make us more human.” However, the nature of city life has created greater health risks for metropolitan area residents during COVID-19.

Glaeser and David Cutler published a new book this year, “Survival of the City: Living and Thriving in an Age of Isolation,” which outlines what city leaders and municipalities will need to resolve the unique problems associated with COVID-19. While Glaeser was enthusiastic about the prosperity and strength of cities in the book he published in 2011, his most recent book has a new attitude. He and Cutler state that “urban triumph is never guaranteed.” However, state and local governments across the U.S. face the same challenges together.


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