ED GLAESER: Great Britain is a place of
extraordinary spacial heterogeneity. There are some places like London
that are wonders of the world, places of both incredible pleasure and
incredible productivity. And then there are other
parts of the UK that are less successful economically,
the North for example. Places that were hit by
post-industrialization and have not yet quite recovered. What do you think the right policy
responses are to this kind of heterogeneity?
HENRY OVERMAN: So that’s a pretty big question. I think the important thing is,
that you need to start with an understanding of where those
disparities are coming from. And a recognition that those
disparities that you talk about, they are not just simply North, South. We have places in the south that
are doing very well, places, other places in the South coastal towns,
etc, which are doing quite badly. And then if you go to the North-
ED GLAESER: For example?
HENRY OVERMAN: Well, for example Hastings, Folkstown, where I grew up, has been struggling for
a long period of time. Dover, not doing so well. So some of those sort of old coastal
towns, and then round into the estuaries of Northern Kent, places that have
struggled for long periods of time. And then if you go to the North,
again the picture is very varied. Everywhere really was struggling
sort of mid 80s, 90s. Since the 2000s, we’ve seen
a fantastic turnaround in some places. Manchester’s gone from losing population
to growing 10% in terms of its population, but neighboring Liverpool is still
experiencing negative population growth. Go to Newcastle or
South Atlanta in the north east. We’ve got Newcastle, just about getting
back into positive population growth. Sunderland, right next door,
losing population. So I think when you think
about the policy mix, you’ve gotta think about the fact that
there’s this very varied performance within the places.
ED GLAESER: And what variables predict which of
these areas are doing better and which ones are doing poorly?
HENRY OVERMAN: Well, I think the key thing, there’s a couple of key
things that drive it really. So one is that part of what’s driving
the turn around in cities, as you know, is this sort of big structural shift
that we’ve seen toward services and other activities that really
benefit from being in big cities. So some of those cities,
Manchester for example or Leeds, they are getting the activity in the north
that benefits from agglomeration economy. So they will be the bit with
the financial service industry that’s possibly serving that part of the country,
possibly national markets global, less so than London.
ED GLAESER: For the hardest hit places, what would you like to see done
differently than what’s done now?
HENRY OVERMAN: The hardest hit place is always the real toughie.
ED GLAESER: Right. HENRY OVERMAN: So, one of the things I think we have to do is be realistic about
what we can do for those places. I always sort of say, there is part of it, which is getting younger people into
opportunities elsewhere in the region. Not all flooding down to London
in the southeast because actually we just talked about the fact that
actually London in the southeast has lots of people that are struggling. But where can we create opportunities for
those young people? And if you are growing up in Blackpool,
which is a seaside town in the northwest of England, I suspect we can generate
those employment opportunities for you in Manchester
ED GLAESER: Right. HENRY OVERMAN: But we’re gonna struggle to generate any kind of employment opportunities for
you in Blackpool. Now that then always leaves
the question of what you do for the people that are left behind. Now we know that they
are gonna tend to be older, or they’re gonna be really at the bottom
end of the skills distribution, income distribution, and
there I think we need to think creatively. So I think there are some things that
we can do that are really long term investments in that space. These are things that you,
Diane Court, and others emphasized on the Manchester
independent economic review, early year stuff that has a 20 year
payoff investments at that level. And then some of it is gonna be
about public good provision. So some of it is gonna be non-economic
interventions in those areas that are still going to provide
improved quality of life for people that are left behind. And I think it’s somehow sort
of getting that mix right. At the moment, what we do is sort of pretend that we’re
gonna bring them those opportunities. Now that sort of moving away thing,
politicians have always really struggled, right?
ED GLAESER: Right, absolutely.
HENRY OVERMAN: So I always use the personal anecdote with it. I don’t know where you grew up,
but I grew up in Foxston. If I have listened to the politicians
who said that they would bring those opportunities to me,
I wouldn’t know you, I wouldn’t be sitting here now,
I would be driving your fork lift truck.