Publications by Barbara Ray

As owner of HiredPen, Barbara specializes in social media and strategic communications for nonprofits and research organizations.

High-Skilled Immigration Flows to Metro Areas

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

7.26.12 | Immigration is a tense topic these days. Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio is in the hotseat for racial profiling in Maricopa County. President Obama bypassed Congress and signed the Dream Act, signaling the opening bell of the campaign debate on the topic.  And as the recession grinds on (despite NBER’s insistence otherwise), the spotlight is turned on immigrant labor, with many arguing that they are “taking jobs from Americans.” The topic is such a flashpoint that it unfortunately rarely moves beyond hyperbole. What is often overlooked in the debate is that U.S. businesses often clamor for immigrants, both low-skilled and high, as a recent Brookings report underscores.  (more…)

To Build Resilient Regions, Pay Attention to Housing

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

DSC_0472 7.17.2012 | As much of the country suffers under crackling heat and drought, with ranchers culling their herds early for lack of pastures, with corn shriveling on the stalk, and wildfires spontaneously combusting, it’s hard to miss the interconnections of an ecosystem, whether natural or manmade.

The ripple of effects moves right up the supply chain, from the weather to the farm to the prices in the grocery store. The resilience of that chain–how it weathers the stress– depends on its diversity and its overall health. Short one element along the chain and vulnerability increases.

In many ways, the resilience of a metro system works much in the same way.

As BRR member and Urban Institute fellow Rolf Pendall and colleagues note in a new issue brief on metro regional resilience, to build a strong metro region means starting with individual families. (more…)

Cities Growing Faster than the Suburbs

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

7.3.2012 | Cities are on the move. For the first time in a very long time, core cities have grown faster than their suburbs, according to recent analysis by Brookings demographer, William Frey. The shift is caused, he speculates, by the housing slump, which has hit the suburbs particularly hard, and by the confluence of a slowed path into adulthood and the preference among young adults for cities.  (more…)

Factors that Haunt Chronically Distressed Metro Areas

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

6.25.2012 | Some cities just can’t catch a break. We’ve written recently about cities that are drawing the best and brightest and that are growing into vibrant hubs of innovation. But what about the other end–those cities where youth are leaving and the good times never quite come?

As research has shown, innovation clusters like Portland or Silicon Valley don’t spring to life out of thin air. They emerge only when there’s enough economic activity to support new markets and sufficient links between and across businesses. If cities can’t get any traction in building businesses and industry, boom times will bypass them once again.

A recent BRR working paper by Network members Howard Wial, Hal Wolman, and Travis St. Clair looks at the factors that land metro areas into the “chronically distressed” camp.  According to their analysis, struggling cities would do well to invest in capital–human, social, and economic– if they want to return to better days.  (more…)

Then and Now: An Ambitious Mapping Project Uncovers 1940s NYC

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

6.19.2012 | It started with a bookstore closing in 1997, a serendipitous find, and a map-maker who apparently doesn’t mind lugging a lot of books from apartment to apartment. The book, New York City Market Analysis, published in 1943, was a treasure trove of gorgeous and intricate maps of New York City neighborhoods, originally intended for advertisers and others hoping to sell their wares. When he spied it on the shelves back in 1997, urban planning student Steve Romalewski knew he had a find. He bought it on the spot.    (more…)

Taking the High Road in Rebuilding Manufacturing

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

6.12.2012 | As Mark Twain once told an audience, “The reports of my death are much exaggerated.” The same could be said for manufacturing.  Granted, manufacturing has been in a death spiral for 30 years, but that plummet seems to have stopped–and turned back up. And some interesting patterns are shaking out as manufacturing starts to find its way back.

Many of these patterns center on metro areas and their ability to draw talent and ideas. These pools of talent, in turn, contribute to a “high road” approach to manufacturing–which is a very different approach from the last several decades. That’s one of the conclusion of a recent report by Network member Howard Wial and colleagues Susan Helper and Timothy Krueger for the Brookings Institution.

The high-road approach is important to US recovery and long-term prosperity because it develops highly skilled, and highly paid, workers who focus on creating innovative products and processes. This is the reverse of past trends, which saw states desperately luring manufacturing with promises of low wages and a ready (and unskilled) workforce. The former is a sustainable strategy for regions and families. The latter is not. (more…)

The New Segregation–Cities That Attract College Grads and Those That Don’t

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

6.5.2012 | Having a college degree is increasingly the passport into the middle class. Although many graduates are questioning the value of that degree in this brutal economy, it is nevertheless still better to have a degree than not have one. A college degree has increasingly become a prerequisite to a “decent” job, even if that decent job is a little farther down the path than it was five years ago.

But a college degree—or rather, a lot of college degree holders—is increasingly a prerequisite to a healthy metro economy as well.

As economist Enrico Moretti outlines in his highly readable new book, “The New Geography of Jobs,” we’re seeing a sharp divergence in metro areas, with winners striding ahead and losers slipping further behind. And the main prerequisite of a winner is the share of college degrees in the local population — a difference that he claims affects every area of peoples’ lives. (more…)

Walkability Is Great, but Don’t Lose Sight of Transit

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

5.30.2012 | Walkability–it’s becoming a buzz word.  NPR, the Huffington Post, Atlantic Cities, and many others all have something to say about the joys of being able to walk to a restaurant, school, work, or the gym. We might add “bikability” to the buzz. As we wrote last week, bike-sharing is inching its way into American cities. Most recently, David Byrne waxed lyrical about the joys of bike-sharing in Sunday’s New York Times. Worth a read.

Of course, his daughter Malu followed with another side of these walkable cities: affordability.  (more…)

The (foreclosure) Tale of Two Developments: A Sense of Community Makes One More Resilient

Friday, May 25th, 2012

5.25.2012 | As I wrote last week, Charlotte, NC, has not been exempt from the housing crisis. Like cities in many locales, Charlotte rushed to build new developments to meet the surging demand. We all know how that story ended. Bust. Yet it wasn’t the end of the story for cities like Charlotte, which now faces empty subdivisions, threatening to become an even bigger problem. (more…)

Habitat for Humanity Tests a New Model for Rebuilding after Foreclosures in Charlotte

Friday, May 18th, 2012

5.16.2012 | If anyone knows how precarious family finances can derail the American Dream and destabilize communities, it’s Habitat for Humanity. Known for helping lower-income families become homeowners, Habitat for Humanity has been at the forefront of asset-building –and community-building–for decades. The nonprofit offers families whom larger banks tend to ignore (in non-boom times at least) no-interest loans, manageable payments, and constant counseling and support. They have put more than 2.5 lower-income families into homes worldwide–homes that the individuals help build– over the past 36 years.

Yet recently, as the housing market sinks and foreclosures rise, Habitat is changing its course. At a conference in Charlotte, NC, earlier this month hosted by BRR,  Bert Green, Executive Director and CEO of  Habitat for Humanity in Charlotte, discussed this pivot–and the lessons learned from rebuilding in stressed communities.  (more…)