Economist Tyler Cowen offers 10 reasons why Texas is our future in the latest edition of Time. Governor Perry calls it the Texas Miracle. The DNC calls it the miracle that never was. Who’s right? And, more important, does it matter?
As with most things in life and politics, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Nonetheless, the debate matters very much, especially for economic development, but not for the reasons you may think.
As I argued yesterday at the Texas Economic Development Council conference in San Antonio, an objective view of the evidence provides fodder for both sides of the debate. Texas is very much at the forefront of the economic recovery. Using traditional measures of growth in GDP, employment, and population, Texas performs very well compared to other states and the US as a whole.
Yet, many communities around the state are still waiting for the “miracle” to appear. Forty counties in Texas have higher unemployment rates than the US, and 15 of those counties have unemployment rates of 10 percent or higher. Texas also gets mixed marks on wealth creation. The state ranks 28th in per capita income adjusted for purchasing power parity.
You can access the rest of my presentation here:
The miracle or myth debate is a red herring–a media-friendly smokescreen that obfuscates the true threat to the state’s future economic competitiveness: the growing contingent of people who appear to believe that economic development is possible without public investment.
Take education, for example. Nearly one-third of total US population growth in the ≤ 25 age cohort occurred in Texas between 2001 and 2013. That’s a demographic advantage in terms of workforce availability that many states would kill for. The question is, of course, are we serious about investing in people at the level that’s required to ensure that most residents of the state will be able to participate in the “miracle” (slide 24)?
Are we serious about experimenting and investing in new models of career and technical education that get away from the false dichotomy that’s plagued debates about higher education in Texas recently? Economic developers are critical for making these connections clear to politicians and the people who elect them.
As the Texas boosters like to say, people vote with their feet. Hopefully they’ll find opportunities to make enough money to buy boots when they get here.