Cities are remarkably resilient. They have risen from the ashes after being carpet-bombed and hit with nuclear weapons. “If you think about pandemics in the past,” noted the Princeton economist Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, “they didn’t destroy cities.”
That’s because cities are valuable. The New York metropolitan area generates more economic output than Australia or Spain. The San Francisco region produced nearly one of five patents registered in the United States in 2015. Altogether, 10 cities, home to under a quarter of the country’s population, account for almost half of its patents and a third of its economic production.