University at Albany’s Mumford Center Report: New York and
Southern California Lose Ground as Economic Epicenters

The Rustbelt rebounds, the South continues to surge

Contact: Merci Miglino (518) 442-4652 (w), (518) 229-4403 (cell),
Karl Luntta (518) 437-4981 

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 5, 2002) – New York and Southern California are losing ground as the economic epicenters of the nation, according to analysis of newly released Census 2000 data. The data was released today in a report entitled, Regional Divisions Dampen ‘90s Prosperity, by the University at Albany’s Lewis Mumford Center for Comparative Urban and Regional Research.

"The global financial centers – the major centers of economic activity," said Mumford Center Director John Logan, "are ceding ground to the South and, incredibly, to the Midwest. This is evidenced especially in Los Angeles and New York City – revealing a decade-long trend that preceded September 11."

The Midwest and South have better than average increases in income and employment rates while continuing to reduce poverty levels. According to the report, the average metro area in the Midwest had a gain of better than 10 percent in median household income (adjusting for inflation). And the poverty rate in Midwest metro areas is now lower than any other region (10 percent, down from 11.2 percent in 1990).

The most startling improvement was in Detroit. On the Mumford Prosperity Index (MPI)*, Detroit ranked No. 36 of the largest 50 metro areas in 1990, but climbed to No. 21 in 2000 – ahead of such cities as Charlotte and San Diego. The central city continues to have high poverty and unemployment, but both dropped dramatically in the last ten years.

According to the report, other Southern metro areas are prospering. Austin climbed from No. 40 to No. 15 on the strength of the country’s largest increase in median income, a jump of more than $12,000. "And poverty dropped by nearly five percent, indicating that the Austin metro area’s economic prosperity reached those in the lowest income brackets," said Logan.

Turning to Southern California, Logan said Los Angeles has the "unfortunate distinction of having suffered the greatest decline in median income" – down more than $3,000 – of all the nation’s 331 metro areas, and it fell from No. 43 to No. 46 among the largest 50 areas. At the same time, poverty in LA increased by more than three percent.

"The dot-com prosperity of the 1990s is reflected in income figures for Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. San Francisco and San Jose exhibited increases of $10,000 or more in median income. But in Southern California and California’s Central Valley median income stagnated or actually declined, while poverty increased." said Logan.

"This emerging trend, a shift in the regional picture of economic prosperity," said Logan, "clearly shows that the Northeast and Southern California are lagging behind the rest of the nation while the Midwest has brushed some of the rust off its belt and many Southern metro areas continue their upward trajectory."

The Lewis Mumford Center’s report on these trends, "Regional Divisions Dampen ‘90s Prosperity" can be downloaded at

* The Mumford Prosperity Index (MPI) is an indicator of overall prosperity, as well as per capita income, median income and percent below poverty. The MPI is calculated by standardizing the values for each economic indicator used in the analysis, including: median and per capita income, percentage of the population who are college educated, in professional/managerial occupations; homeownership and vacancy rates; unemployment and percent poverty. (For a complete description of the index see the Technical Notes section at the end of our report).

About the Lewis Mumford Center for Comparative Urban and Regional Research

Recognized as one of the great urbanists of the 20th century, Lewis Mumford endorsed the creation of the Lewis Mumford Center for Comparative Urban and Regional Research in 1988. Under the leadership of Director John Logan, the Center currently focuses on four key initiatives: 1) Global Neighborhoods, 2) the Urban Historical Initiative, 3) the China Urban Research Network; and 4) the Hudson-Mohawk Regional Workshop. Each of these projects examines the impact of global changes on the U.S. metropolis and civil society, probes the 19th and early 20th Century roots of present-day cities and suburbs, and addresses urban change in other parts of the world, mostly notably China. Visit

Established in 1844 and designated a center of the State University of New York in 1962, the University at Albany's broad mission of excellence in undergraduate and graduate education, research and public service engages 17,000 diverse students in eight degree-granting schools and colleges. For more information about this nationally ranked University, visit


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