Eli5 Why did so many rust-belt cities never convert into mega cities?


Why were cities like LA able to become mega cities while cities that were established well before and even considered as “gilded” (such an Cincinnati) never reached that point? I know the great depression has a lot to do with it, but l’m curious… was it weather? Transport? Idkkkkk

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3 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

Because the industry there dried up, hence the name “rust belt”
The factories moved overseas once they found that the labor pool was even more exploitable in many other countries where people were, and are, struggling even more just to survive than here in the US. Unfortunately the corporations can make far higher profits by avoiding labor unions that fight for, and provide, the workers with much higher wages, benefits, and a better quality of life overall, as well as by circumventing safety standards, such as OSHA regulations, fair labor laws, etc.
The entire reason the cities in the rust belt became large cities at all in the first place was bc of the steel and automotive industries booming and now that those are no longer there the residents have nothing to stay for. There has to be steady and sufficient quality of employment opportunities to support people in a city in order for it to remain prosperous. Mega cities are all built around industry and once this fails so does everything else.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Cincinnati was rich because of pork. All the pig farmers in the surrounding areas would bring their hogs to Cincinnati where they’d be shipped down the Ohio and Mississippi to huge markets in New Orleans. This was all in the early 1800’s.

You know what competes with pork? Beef. You know where and when huge herds of cattle were starting to be raised? Not Cincinnati (the western plains), and in the 1850s. See, pork was commonly farmed in the Midwest because family farms were generally smaller and pigs don’t require tons of land to graze on. But out west, ranchers were raising herds of thousands of head of cattle on open ranges because the amount of space was practically infinite. So, by the time the railroads reached Kansas, the markets were flooded with tons of cheap and tasty beef.

That competition was enough to slow Cincy from a boom town to just a stable town.

There are other factors too, of course. It’s a combination of dozens of things really.

LA was able to grow because 1) land was plentiful and cheap, 2) it was the hub of a specific industry that no other city could challenge, 3) great climate, 4) tourism, 5) lots of money was entering the city from all sorts of places that helped fund it’s growth and appeal.

But focusing much more specifically on the Rust Belt, these are all northern cities with fairly harsh winters, that were set up to extensively support the rapidly booming automotive industry in the first half of the 20th century. Northern cities where a lot of black communities had sprung up in the wake of the Civil War. The automotive industry that was brought to its knees by the oil issues of the 70’s and the influx of Asian competition.

By the time the 70’s really hit, most of these cities were already featuring urban decay in large part because of the phenomenon of white flight, where all the white families that could afford it were moving out the cities and into the suburbs. This left the cities underfunded and largely unable to provide quality services, like effective policing. Crime rates went up. Racism was at a fever pitch.

(Go check out the 1967 Detroit riot.)

Black urban communities got poorer, white suburbs got richer and richer.

And the industries that the cities were built on were faltering. Plants and foundries were shutting down. Jobs we’re getting outsourced or automated.

It was just a long, slow-moving domino rally of how the Rust Belt fell into disrepair.

And the better off cities have been trying to rejuvenate themselves since stabilizing in the 90’s.

Anonymous 0 Comments