America has made its most productive locations ever less accessible. The best opportunities are found in one place, and for some reason most Americans are opting to live in another.
Our thriving cities fall short of their potential because we constantly rein them in, and we rein them in because we worry that urban growth will be unpleasant.
Instead of addressing its fundamental economic problems, America hustled its middle-class households off to cheap, expanding Sunbelt cities. There, they were temporarily mollified by cheap housing and a migration-driven boom. The arrival of the Great Recession broke this system.
The biggest factor driving people from the coast to the desert is the cost of living, and the difference in cost of living is overwhelmingly driven by the exorbitant price of housing in the Bay Area.