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One of our great urbanists and one of our great public health experts join forces to reckon with how cities are changing in the face of existential threats the pandemic has only accelerated
Cities can make us sick. They always have—diseases spread more easily when more people are close to one another. And disease is hardly the only ill that accompanies urban density. Cities have been demonized as breeding grounds for vice and crime from Sodom and Gomorrah on. But cities have flourished nonetheless because they are humanity’s greatest invention, indispensable engines for creativity, innovation, wealth, and connection, the loom on which the fabric of civilization is woven.
But cities now stand at a crossroads. During the global COVID crisis, cities grew silent as people worked from home—if they could work at all. The normal forms of socializing ground to a halt. How permanent are these changes? Advances in digital technology mean that many people can opt out of city life as never before. Will they? Are we on the brink of a post-urban world?
City life will survive but individual cities face terrible risks, argue Edward Glaeser and David Cutler, and a wave of urban failure would be absolutely disastrous. In terms of intimacy and inspiration, nothing can replace what cities offer. Great cities have always demanded great management, and our current crisis has exposed fearful gaps in our capacity for good governance. It is possible to drive a city into the ground, pandemic or not. Glaeser and Cutler examine the evolution that is already happening, and describe the possible futures that lie before us: What will distinguish the cities that will flourish from the ones that won’t? In America, they argue, deep inequities in health care and education are a particular blight on the future of our cities; solving them will be the difference between our collective good health and a downward spiral to a much darker place.
About the Author
Edward Glaeser is the Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics in the Department of Economics at Harvard University. Professor Glaeser has published extensively on cities and their evolution over the last thirty years, and he is the author of Triumph of the City. He leads the Urban Economics Working Group at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and co-leaders the Cities Programme at the International Growth Center. Glaeser is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Public Administration.
David Cutler is the Otto Eckstein Professor of Applied Economics in the Department of Economics at Harvard University. Honored for his scholarly work and singled out for outstanding mentorship, Professor Cutler's work in health economics and public economics has earned him significant academic and public acclaim. He has served on the Council of Economic Advisors and the National Economic Council, and has advised businesses and governments on health care. Cutler is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
“Expansive and entertaining. . . . [A] fast-paced and highly readable journey . . . the book serves as a useful tool in the effort to redefine the role of the city in an age of increasingly polarized politics, and reminds us that urban health is—as Fiorello La Guardia once remarked about cleaning the streets—not a Democratic or Republican issue.” —New York Times Book Review
“Glaeser’s Survival of the City: Living and Thriving in an Age of Isolation, written with Harvard health economist David Cutler, shares the pleasing style of its predecessor [Triumph of the City], an engaging mixture of history and analysis . . . ‘The age of urban miracles need not be over,’ Messrs. Glaeser and Cutler write. ‘Indeed, it must not be.’” —Wall Street Journal
“Survival of the City lays out a compelling vision for reasonable, doable and affordable policy changes that would improve the quality of life in cities and benefit everyone across the nation . . . This is an important book of ideas, history and policy recommendations, a book that should be read and discussed by anyone concerned with the future of cities.” —Inside Higher Ed
“Ambitious and timely . . . a valuable resource on how to make America’s cities better.” —Publishers Weekly
“A sweeping investigation of threats to urban life. . . . A thoughtful and useful consideration of the fate of cities in the age of Covid-19.” —Kirkus
“Over the past three decades, David Cutler has done pathbreaking work on the determinants of health, while Ed Glaeser has done pathbreaking work on cities and economic growth. Now they’ve teamed up to write a book that focuses on the intersection between these two areas: how cities shape our health and livelihoods amidst a global pandemic. A fascinating read that helps us understand how we got to where we are today and design policies to build healthier, opportunity-rich cities in the future, Survival of the City will be a terrific resource for the public and policymakers for years to come.” —Raj Chetty, William A. Ackman Professor of Public Economics, Harvard University
“This is a must-read for anyone interested in the health of cities and their residents. Glaeser and Cutler sift through the evidence to offer an incisive, engaging analysis of the real challenges posed by pandemics and other threats to urban life. Their clear and balanced policy prescriptions will protect cities from long COVID and help them emerge from the pandemic as resilient and vital as ever.” —Ingrid Gould Ellen, Paulette Goddard Professor of Urban Policy and Planning at NYU Wagner
“David Cutler and Ed Glaeser have written an important book on an important topic. They discuss the crucial question of how to prevent cities from becoming privileged enclaves—a development that would impoverish the world. The outline an important prescription for protecting cities around the world by addressing and learning to better address the nexus of governance, jobs, and taxes.” —Thomas R. Frieden
“In this readable yet rigorous book, two brilliant economists tackle the question of our time: How can the people and places whose energies drive our economy thrive in a post-COVID world? Their answer: put health improvement above medical care, striving outsiders before privileged insiders, and cities at the heart of a revitalized American dream.” —Jacob S. Hacker, Stanley B. Resor Professor of Political Science, Yale University; coauthor of Let Them Eat Tweets
“Survival of the City is a smart and surprising account of how the modern metropolis can bounce back from the current crisis, and a compelling argument for sweeping policy change. The authors—one liberal, one conservative—are not ideologically aligned, but their differences yield fresh ideas and bursts of insight. I found myself learning from, arguing with, and thoroughly enjoying every part of this totally necessary book.” —Eric Klinenberg, Helen Gould Shepard Professor in Social Science, New York University
“Survival of the City is a work of stunning brilliance. I learned something on every page, and these are topics I thought I understood. This book is a must read for anyone who hopes to talk intelligently about a post-COVID world.” —Steven Levitt, William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor of Economics, University of Chicago; coauthor of Freakonomics
“This fascinating book is about everything—the plague, COVID-19, obesity, robots, schools and more—all seen through the lens of the city, its past and future. It's a gripping read for anyone, but especially those who are wondering just what is the place of the city in their post-pandemic lives.” —Emily Oster, professor of economics, Brown University