Also: How advertising conquered urban space, and AOC and Bernie Sanders have a plan to decarbonize U.S. public housing.

What We’re Following

Distress signals: City and state governments spend about $50 billion per year to lure companies with incentives—mostly tax breaks—to come to their town and provide jobs. It’s a policy challenge that economist Tim Bartik, the author of a new book, Making Sense of Incentives, has made a career of rethinking.

The cost of attracting big corporate firms at the expense of city tax rolls came into focus with the city-versus-city competition for Amazon’s second headquarters, the results of which were announced one year ago yesterday. In a two-part conversation with Richard Florida, Bartik reflects on incentives in the aftermath of HQ2, and argues that place-based policies like schools, infrastructure, and services are more effective tools for creating jobs, investing in distressed communities, and addressing regional inequality.

Part One: How Cities and States Can Stop the Incentive Madness

Part Two: Tailored Place-Based Policies Are Key to Reducing Regional Inequality

Andrew Small

More on CityLab

AOC and Bernie Sanders Have a Plan to Decarbonize U.S. Public Housing

The Green New Deal for Public Housing Act would commit up to $180 billion over a decade to upgrading 1.2 million federally owned homes.

Kriston Capps

How Advertising Conquered Urban Space

In cities around the world, advertising is everywhere. We may try to shut it out, but it reflects who we are (or want to be) and connects us to the urban past.

Darran Anderson

In the Trump Era, Transportation Funding Is Simple: Build Roads

Under Trump, an Obama-era transportation grant program designed to fund innovative multi-modal projects became a rural highway-building machine.

Andrew Small

The Zombie Storefronts of America

If retail is dying, then pop-up shops might be what replace it.

Amanda Mull

What We’re Reading

Why thousands of Amazon packages converge on a tiny Montana town (The Verge)

Rod Stewart reveals his epic railway city (BBC News)

Pacific Plaza Park is a victory for downtown Dallas (The Dallas Morning News)

The generational split over the Hong Kong protests has neighbors divided (California Sunday)

D.C. is rapidly gentrifying and the fate of its affordable housing hangs in the balance (Washington City Paper)

Tell your friends about the CityLab Daily! Forward this newsletter to someone who loves cities and encourage them to subscribe. Send your own comments, feedback, and tips to

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. photo: San Diego's Trolley

    Out of Darkness, Light Rail!

    In an era of austere federal funding for urban public transportation, light rail seemed to make sense. Did the little trains of the 1980s pull their own weight?

  2. Design

    Why Amsterdam’s Canal Houses Have Endured for 300 Years

    A different kind of wealth distribution in 17th-century Amsterdam paved the way for its quintessential home design.

  3. photo: Developer James Rouse visiting Harborplace in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

    What Happened to Baltimore’s Harborplace?

    The pioneering festival marketplace was among the most trendsetting urban attractions of the last 40 years. Now it’s looking for a new place in a changed city.

  4. Equity

    How Poor Americans Get Exploited by Their Landlords

    American landlords derive more profit from renters in low-income neighborhoods, researchers Matthew Desmond and Nathan Wilmers find.

  5. Equity

    What ‘Livability’ Looks Like for Black Women

    Livability indexes can obscure the experiences of non-white people. CityLab analyzed the outcomes just for black women, for a different kind of ranking.