Massive subsidization of highways, a fetish for home ownership and the decentralized American school system have turned our cities into "ugly stepchildren," Harvard Professor Edward Glaeser argues in this interview recorded by On The Earth Productions at this year’s Congress for New Urbanism in Madison, Wisconsin.

Despite America’s anti-urban policy bias, Glaeser says, cities play a unique role in promoting social justice. Importantly, many of the problems associated with poverty that often plague cities are not caused by the urban environment itself, but are instead signs that cities are succeeding: that they are attracting people with economic and educational opportunities that they could not find elsewhere. Instead of demonizing and neglecting urban areas, this country should promote policies that create a "level playing field" between our cities and the outlying suburban and rural areas.

Be sure to also check out part two of Glaeser’s discussion, in which he explains why cities are more energy efficient than suburbs.

—Kevin Donohoe