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Don’t write off cities just yet: they will survive COVID

How we work is changing, and the full impact of the pandemic on cities is not yet clear. But the collaboration they allow will still be indispensable, say Jean-Louis Missika and Ricky Burdett (LSE).

The media has been quick to predict the premature demise of New York, London or Paris. Yet it is difficult to learn lessons about the impact of the pandemic on major cities, because it is not over. Surveys and statistics are very popular, but often misused. A recent study noted that around 90% of executives plan to leave the Paris region, forgetting to mention that in the same annual survey, numbers were equally high in previous years: 82% in 2019, 84% in 2018 and 80% in 2016 – that is, long before the words “COVID-19” were ever uttered. Some wild projections suggest that the double whammy of COVID and Brexit has led to 700,000 mainly foreign-born people leaving London in 2020, while more realistic estimates put that figure at far less. In fact, London’s consistent annual growth over the last decades is set to continue, slowed down by COVID but not reversed.

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