Morning Shift

Future Of The Midwest Is A Tale Of Two Rust Belts

Storm clouds form over central Illinois corn and soybean grain bins on May 21, 2013, in Pleasant Plains, Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Daniel Tucker

What needs to happen for an economic Renaissance in the Midwest? That’s the question at the heart of a series of blog posts published over the last six months by the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. 

The posts — entitled “Tale of Two Rust Belts” — argue that universities and immigration are two forces that the region needs to harness to achieve economic success. The posts argue that there are two rust belts, one in major, thriving cities like Pittsburgh, Chicago and Minneapolis and another one in outlying small towns without industry, universities or the diverse populations that result from immigration. 

The series avoids oversimplifying the region’s problems into a “cities-good, non-cities-bad” dichotomy with a nuance and depth based on research, not just anecdotes. 

Morning Shift talked with John C. Austin, author of “Tale of Two Rust Belts.” He’s director of the Michigan Economic Center, a lecturer at the University of Michigan, a former president of the Michigan Board of Education and a former nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.