There’s little mystery about where people are heading, or why: They are mostly moving toward sun and some semblance of affordability. The major Texas metros—Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin—have collectively grown by more than 3 million since 2010. The most popular destinations for movers are now Phoenix, Dallas, and Las Vegas, which welcome more than 100,000 new people each year…

An easy answer is that America’s smaller metros have cheaper houses. This is especially true recently for Los Angeles, where insufficient housing development has contributed to a 75 percent increase in housing prices since the end of the Great Recession. What’s more, smaller cities and suburbs now offer similar knowledge-work jobs in a familiar residential aesthetic. In the past decade, urban developers, working off the Instagram blueprint, have standardized an MVMP—Minimum Viable Millennial Product—so that the move from Brooklyn to Boise means trading one set of hipster coffee shops, fast-casual joints, and cocktail bars for another set. Even the ground-floor retail differences between various metros becomes less important as more shopping moves online, where residents of every zip code are looking at the came social-media catalog and visiting the same digital mall.

To see what’s more deeply afflicting these metros, it’s useful to understand the plight of Chicago, whose growth after the Great Recession was just a blip in an otherwise long period of decline. Some of Chicago’s problems are unique among large metros. It sits on the far hip of the Rust Belt, hundreds of miles from the coastal economic juggernauts, and it has a homicide rate twice that of New York or L.A.