Are market cities better than people cities? Does the satisfaction that residents take in their city vary from market city to people city? In Market Cities, People Cities: The Shape of Our Urban Future (NYU Press, 2018), Dr. Michael Oluf Emerson and Dr. Kevin T. Smiley identify the kinds of cities people want to live in and the façades strategically placed by city administrators to draw a specific crowd. Emerson and Smiley characterize cities as being somewhere along a spectrum with market city as one extreme and people city as the other extreme. Market cities are inclined to focus on wealth, employment, individualism, and economic opportunity. People cities are more egalitarian, with government investment in infrastructure and an active civil society.
In this interview, Dr. Smiley discusses the implications urban design and policy have on environment and on the experience of people who inhabit these two types of cities. He shares that the approach in which a city takes to mitigate and respond to environmental disaster can be a distinguishing characteristic for labeling a city as market city or people city. Each city lies somewhere along the spectrum and likely does not land on either extreme. An interesting find, however, that Dr. Smiley bore out is that inhabitants of both market cities and people cities tend to be generally satisfied with their place of residence.
Michael O. Johnston is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at William Penn University. He is currently conducting research on the continuous process that occurs with placemaking at farmers’ market.