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Econ Focus cover

Sept. 21, 2020

Richmond Fed’s Econ Focus Looks at the Making of Columbia, Maryland and Reston, Virginia

Two of the large planned communities of the mid-1960s were Columbia, Maryland, and Reston, Virginia. Both arose from the vision their founders had of economically and racially integrated suburban living. But large-scale innovation in real estate development didn’t come easy. The latest issue of the Richmond Fed’s Econ Focus magazine looks at the creation of these so-called “new towns.”

Also in this issue:

  • The COVID-19 crisis and debt relief. Federal responses to the economic crisis have included debt-relief measures for mortgages and student loans; in addition, bank regulators have encouraged responsible loan modifications. Loan forbearance has been a major factor in mitigating delinquency rates, at least for now.
  • Fed lending programs in the crisis. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Fed created new programs to lend to banks, businesses and state and local governments. Some of the programs were revived from the financial crisis of 2007-2008; others have taken the Fed into new territory.
  • Rural broadband. Many rural communities lag cities in access to high-speed internet connections. Access matters now more than ever, with households nationwide relying on broadband for work and school. What are the barriers to improving rural connections?
  • Commentary by Richmond Fed leaders. Richmond Fed President Tom Barkin looks at racial disparities in the Fifth District and their historical roots. Executive Vice President and Director of Research Kartik Athreya considers whether the economics profession needs to think harder about models of racial discrimination.
  • Interview. Joshua Gans of the University of Toronto on managing pandemics, allocating vaccines and the advent of low-cost prediction with artificial intelligence.
  • More. Coverage of other economic issues affecting the Fifth Federal Reserve District and the nation.


For a free subscription to Econ Focus, the economics magazine of the Richmond Fed, or for copies, call (800) 322-0565 or subscribe online. The articles also are available online.


As part of our nation’s central bank, the Richmond Fed is one of 12 regional Reserve Banks working together with the Board of Governors to support a healthy economy and deliver on our mission to foster economic stability and strength. We connect with community and business leaders across the Fifth Federal Reserve District — including the Carolinas, District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and most of West Virginia — to monitor economic conditions, address issues facing our communities, and share this information with monetary and financial policymakers. We also work with banks to ensure they are operating safely and soundly, supply financial institutions with currency that’s fit for distribution, and provide a safe and efficient way to transfer funds through our nation’s payments system.

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Jim Strader (804) 697-8956 (804) 332-0207 (mobile)