- May 1, 2019: Vol. 31, Number 5

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Midwestern winners: Thriving metros show the region is more than a Rust Belt

by Stewart Rubin

Midwestern cities are frequently imagined as a series of beleaguered economies cascading down the crumbling scaffolding of a declining, century-old industrial complex. This certainly rings true as a portrayal of many metro areas across the region. Yet, despite declining demographics, harsh winters and fiscal profligacy in its largest state, some large Midwestern conurbations are thriving, while certain sections of hard-hit metros are flourishing.

The Midwest transmogrified from a vibrant middle-class job mecca to the center of U.S. deindustrialization as the share of the national population working in manufacturing declined from 30 percent in 1950 to approximately 8.5 percent in 2017. The number of manufacturing jobs in the 14 largest Midwestern metros declined 41 percent between 1970 and 2017, while the share of Midwesterners employed in manufacturing declined from 26 percent to 10 percent during the same time period. More recently, the number of manufacturing jobs in those

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