The coronavirus pandemic has impacted cities across the country with varying force. New York City has been hardest hit, and it’s no secret that the Big Apple is going to be one of the places that will have the most challenging time bouncing back from the coronavirus pandemic, no matter when things subside. But which cities will have the best coronavirus recovery? And which other cities will struggle? Moody’s Analytics has issued a report
that examines the potential to recover from coronavirus among the top 100 metro areas in the US—and while some of the results are to be expected, some are more surprising.
“The most dynamic recoveries may well bypass traditional powerhouses and take place instead in areas that either were or were poised to lead the way in 2020 before everything changed,” writes Adam Kamins, senior regional economist at Moody’s Analytics and the author of the report.
Moody’s grouped the 10 cities best positioned to recover quickly from the coronavirus pandemic and the 10 cities with the worst chance of recovering from the coronavirus pandemic. “Note that they are sorted alphabetically in order to avoid assigning false precision to our calculations,” Kamins told Forbes Women.
Best Cities for a Coronavirus Recovery
Among the 10 best cities are small college towns, which are particularly well-poised for a recovery. “Durham, North Carolina and Madison, Wisconsin could enjoy a surge in growth in the years to come,” says Kamins.
Fast-growing tech hubs in the West and South will also lead in the post-coronavirus era. “Silicon Valley is nobody’s idea of an up-and-coming area. But there is a notable contrast between the San Jose metro area, with its sprawling tech campuses, and tightly packed San Francisco,” says Kamins, who notes that Raleigh, North Carolina could also prove to be more attractive in a new, post-COVID-19 world.
Cities that were fast-growing pre-coronavirus will continue their rise. “Denver and Salt Lake City are well-positioned to retake their crown as two of the fastest-rising metro areas in the US,” says Kamins.
While Washington DC is one of the more densely populated metro areas in the nation, its highly educated workforce and even its architecture will pay off. “Its longstanding height limit on buildings [will help] leave it in better shape than the rest of the region,” says Kamins.
Other cities on the top 10 best list include Boise, Idaho; Durham, North Carolina; Provo, Utah; and Tucson, Arizona. Read on for the full list of best cities for recovery.
Worst Cities for a Coronavirus Recovery
A significant number of cities in the Northeast made it to the bottom of the list. “The region of the country that I think is worse off is going to be the Northeast,” says Kamns. “You’ve got New York, Philadelphia, New Haven—three of the 10. It is a highly educated area, but so many large urban centers have an outsize share of residents living in big cities. That may be difficult to sustain, especially in the short term.”
And despite the fact that New York City has a large, skilled workforce, there are factors that will hold it back. “Riding the subway, dining in crowded restaurants and attending Broadway shows may be viewed as inherently risky for some time, consistent with the city’s status as the single-most economically exposed metro area,” writes Kamins.
Honolulu made it onto the worst list, Kamins says, because of its exposure to tourism.
Kamins says he was surprised by some of the cities on the worst list, including McAllen, Texas and Stockton, California. “McAllen is more densely populated than most areas with [a lot of] poverty and low degrees of educational attainment. And inland California is much worse off economically than coastal California. Plus, a place like Stockton is a little bit more compressed. There’s not as much space there. So there’s a bit more risk,” says Kamins. “We think that in the aftermath of COVID-19 or even while the pandemic is still going on over the next couple of years, potentially, if there’s no vaccine, that these are areas that might be less attractive.”
Other places on the list of 10 worst cities to recover include Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami and Tampa, Florida. Read on for the full list of worst cities for recovery.
In analyzing the cities, Moody’s Analytics looked at population density and plotted it against two measures of workforce quality, both using educational attainment. In the first comparison, Moody’s used data to compare population density against the share of jobs that require either a college or graduate degree. “Those economies that can provide high-paying jobs to would-be city residents are especially well positioned,” writes Kamins.
Moody’s also looked at CBSAs (core-based statistical areas), a US geographic area defined by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that consists of one or more counties (or equivalents) anchored by an urban center of at least 10,000 people plus adjacent counties that are socioeconomically tied to the urban center by commuting. In this case, Moody’s used educational attainment and the average density across counties that was used to calculate regional exposure to COVID-19.
The Impact of Coronavirus on Big Cities
One of the biggest impacts the country might witness, post-coronavirus, is a migration away from living in big cities. “The generation that is growing up today could remember the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on large, densely populated urban areas and be more likely than its predecessors to opt for less densely packed pastures in the decades to come,” notes Kamins.
Kamins believes that this will also impact where business is done. “Firms will need to follow those workers,” writes Kamins. “Places that are more spacious, rely more heavily on car travel and provide ample access to single-family housing are likely to emerge as more attractive as a result, especially among those who choose to bypass the highly urbanized Northeast.”
Beyond the Lists
Other urban areas that didn’t make the top 10 list—but are places to watch—include Austin, Texas; Seattle; and Minneapolis. “Meanwhile, the draw of suburban areas should not be overlooked,” says Kamins. “The Silver Spring, Maryland; Montgomery-Bucks-Chester County Pennsylvania; and Cambridge, Massachusetts metro divisions could become appealing alternatives to their neighboring cities in a world in which physical proximity is viewed as inherently risky.”
And while they didn’t make it into the top 10 list, Omaha and Des Moines could also succeed. Kamins points out that more isolated places in the Midwest will benefit from the fact that they face few land constraints.
Kamins also believes that the coronavirus fallout could damage some of the nation’s other dynamic economies in the future, including Boston and San Francisco—which didn’t make the 10 worst list, but will also fare poorly in the post-coronavirus era. “Each place is resilient enough to eventually find its footing again, but out-migration could pick up in the medium term,” writes Kamins.
Here are the 10 best and 10 worst cities for recovery. Note that Moody’s sorted the cities alphabetically in order to avoid assigning false precision to the calculations.
Top 10: Cities Best-Positioned to Recover From Coronavirus
(Note: These are alphabetically sorted—not listed in order)
Durham, North Carolina
Raleigh, North Carolina
Salt Lake City, Utah
San Jose, California
Bottom 10: Cities Worst-Positioned to Recover From Coronavirus
(Note: These are alphabetically sorted—not listed in order)
Los Angeles, California
New Haven, Connecticut
New York City