A Tale of Two Countries?

A study finds America's coasts booming and its center sagging

Before energy prices collapsed, the conventional wisdom held that America's economy was being split along have and have-not lines: a prosperous Sunbelt and a rusting Frostbelt. Now, however, there is talk about a different sort of "two Americas." In the new version, the haves are the high-tech industries and financial-service firms stretching from New Hampshire down the Eastern seaboard and from California's Silicon Valley down to Orange County; the have-nots include the farmers, energy producers and heavy manufacturers in between. The split that some see emerging counterposes booming coasts against a problem-plagued heartland.

That is the intriguing, though debatable, conclusion of...

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