Minnesota is the US state known as the "land of 10,000 lakes" and in Minneapolis – epicentre of the riots gripping the country – a prime property on the water in the well-to-do suburbs will set buyers back at least $1m.

But those plushier districts like Edina, Minnetonka and Eden Prairie are a different world to Lake Street.

The city's poorest area is a stone's throw from where 46-year-old George Floyd met a death at the hands of a police officer on May 25.

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The sometimes violent protests which have engulfed dozens of US cities since then also raise fresh questions over the longer-term impact of rioting, and the economic scars that can linger after the flames and tear gas have died down.

Victor Matheson, a professor at the Massachusetts-based College of the Holy Cross, lived in Minneapolis for a decade and is one of the few academics to have seriously studied the after-effects of civil disorder – although he stumbled across the topic by accident.

As a sports economist, he was examining the potential impact of a new venue in Los Angeles, the Staples Center, which now hosts the LA Lakers basketball team. But he kept coming across "this big dip in economic activity that occurred right in 1992, and it just persisted forever".

The only explanation he could find for the sudden decline was the devastating riots which followed another instance of police brutality: when four white officers caught on video beating up a black man, Rodney King, were cleared of assault by an all-white jury in April 1992 and anger boiled over on to the streets.

In the LA riots, 53 people lost their lives and an estimated $1bn (£790m) of damage was caused. But according to Matheson, the economic damage afterwards was far greater. He compared the aftermath of the riots with two natural disasters: Hurricane Andrew which hit Miami later that year, and the Northridge earthquake that struck LA in 1994.

Andrew was at the time the most destructive hurricane in US history, while Northridge caused more damage than the King riots. But both natural disasters had no permanent effect – Miami recovered within a year – compared with a 10-year drag from the disorder.

Using sales tax data, he calculated that the riots cost LA almost $4bn in lost revenues over the following decade. One theory was that the higher death toll of the protests spooked people and businesses.

But the second – which he is now more convinced of in light of recent events – is the persistent undercurrent of police violence.

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The death of George Floyd has sparked outrage across the United States. Photo / AP
The death of George Floyd has sparked outrage across the United States. Photo / AP

He says: "It is whether you think there is a long-term solution to the problem. If the engineers can build better houses and earthquake-resistant roads, then in some ways you don't have to worry about them as much. But the Rodney King riots were nearly 30 years ago and we don't seem to have a big solution to the problem of police violence against black citizens. It's a whole lot more difficult than earthquake engineering."

He adds: "There is more ammunition there [for the theory that] people are worried that 'if I rebuild, it is just all going to get burned down again', because we are not going to solve the sociological problem the way we can solve the engineering.

"Probably, a lot of what was occurring was that small businesses decided they didn't want to come back. They took their insurance payouts and said, 'I'm done'."

While not a direct causal link of the latest US rioting, Covid-19 has exacerbated the huge inequalities in American society, acting as the kindling awaiting a sudden spark. When 20.5m jobs were lost in April, white unemployment hit 14.2pc. But black and Hispanic people suffered more disproportionately, as the jobless rate for both groups hit 16.7pc and 18.9pc respectively.

- Telegraph