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Trump's Racial Firebombs Weaken U.S.

Thu, 06/30/2016 - 22:38

The issue of race has scarred the entirety of U.S. history. Although sometimes overshadowed by the arguably more deep-seated issue of class, the racial divide is a festering wound that decent Americans, including politicians, genuinely want to heal.

Decency and politics have a tenuous relationship, but this year, one candidate has exacerbated racial tensions in a way not seen since the days of segregationist George Wallace and Richard Nixon’s polarizing vice president, Spiro Agnew. Donald Trump, through his outbursts and incendiary rhetoric, opened the door to a new period of even greater racial antagonism.

Trump promises to “make America great again,” but his divisive approach leaves us both weaker and even more afflicted with racial identity politics. Just as neo-Nazis and old-style racists have rallied to his cause, Trump’s intemperance also has energized ethnic nationalists, particularly in Hispanic communities. Among America’s growing Muslim population, perhaps no one has served as a better recruiter for Islamists, who agree with him that their religion and culture is anathema to America. The triumph of Brexit -- in part driven by immigration -- may encourage this further.

Not all the blame for America’s racial discord falls to Trump, of course. Well before his rise to political prominence, Americans had grown pessimistic about race relations, which constitutes something of a failure by an administration that once promised greater racial unity. The president and Hillary Clinton, who have used racial politics to motivate minorities against the perceived racism of middle and working class whites, share responsibility for the deterioration. And liberal media, academics and elected officials can’t be particularly proud of their records of promoting tolerance and multiculturalism.

White America Betrayed?

In recent years, large swaths of working whites, like their British counterparts,have seen their jobs disappear and old social orders upended, fueling anger and a general sense of loss, reflected in rapidly rising morbidity and suicide rates. AsPittsburgh psychologist Kenneth Thompson puts it: “Their social habitat is strained, and the strain is showing up in a looming body count.”

Trump has exploited their anger by turning it on immigrants, characterizing Mexicans as rapists and calling for border walls, immigration bans and tougher trade deals. However cruel and misguided, Trump’s racial divisiveness resonates with these blue-collar whites, as well as among some more affluent middle-class whites.

In reality, Trump is not a classic racist, but rather an ugly opportunist willing to use ethnic divides for his own benefit. He’s been compared to Adolph Hitler, a monster whose philosophy revolved around race, but Trump has no real theory that extends beyond self-glorification, resentment, and attracting the fetching female; “The Art of the Deal” is not “Mein Kampf.”

Trump will play the race card as a way to satisfy his narcissistic need for enthusiastic admirers. This does not mean his approach does not echo the racism of the past. His claim of bias by a U.S.-born judge of Mexican descent, as well as his suggestions that Muslim jurists are incapable of ruling independently, recall the worst of the pre-Civil Rights South. His proposals to ban Muslim immigrants in general recall approaches in the late 19th and early 20th centuries which targeted Chinese, Japanese and, ultimately eastern and southern Europeans.

Other Negative Forces

Progressives – including the media claque and academic elites -- have shown little sympathy for the white working class and have been dismissive of its embrace of Trump’s candidacy, as characterized by Salon’s recent description: “White America’s sad last stand.”

Instead of trying to understand the deep frustrations of the white middle class, it’s not unusual for progressives to express solidarity with racial minorities and condemn white privilege.

Clinton takes it a step further, stoking minority fear-mongers to generate badly need enthusiasm. Accused of using “dog whistles” to attract racists against candidate Obama in 2008, Clinton now courts racial nationalists, including some in the Black Lives Matter movement, race-baiter supremo Al Sharpton, and La Raza.

Interestingly, the fury against white “racism” is most fully throated and often mostviolent in white, deep-blue bastions such as Portland, Seattle, San Francisco andBoston. It’s in these cities, ironically, where minorities increasingly are victims of gentrification, forced out of their neighborhoods to make way for affluent whites.

At the same time, liberal cities’ planning, energy and environmental policies do not improve life for the working- and middle-class populations, including many minorities. Yet while more highly paid blue-collar jobs disappear, working-class communities frequently are the ones absorbing large numbers of undocumented immigrants. The affluent, “enlightened” liberals in places like Chicago’s Gold Coast, west Los Angeles and the upper east side of Manhattan may get their servants from these populations, but rarely are they neighbors or competitors in the job market.

These are fruits of America’s failed immigration system, an issue that even Latinos in this country are eager to resolve. Had Trump not crossed so many lines of decency, he might have seized the day and turned immigration policy into a huge plus, earning the support of the solid majority of Americans who agree that the border needs to be tightened.

But by painting Latinos as drug dealers and criminals and suggesting that Muslims, per se, represent a security danger, Trump has made himself the issue and squandered the opportunity.

Trump’s willingness to “tell it like it is” may have won over some segments of the population, but it’s fanciful to believe, as some right-wingers do, that it can carry him to the White House. His assaults on issues such as illegal immigration and the need to closely monitor potential terrorists may resonate, but his stridency, and lack of respect for basic decencies, have alienated much of the population.

Multiculturalism of the Streets

The good news is that while race seems to have paralyzed politics, society is becoming more integrated. Once lily-white suburbs are increasingly multi-racial, even as some core cities become less diverse. What the Mexican journalist Sergio Munoz once called “the multiculturalism of the streets” is thriving, even as politicians promote division.

A key indicator is the rising rate of racial intermarriage. Pew surveys show that mixed-race couples account for 15 percent of marriages, including nearly 10 percent of white marriages, 17 percent of black, 26 percent of Hispanic and 28 percent of Asian marriages. This is sure to blur racial distinctions in the decades ahead. If you live in a diverse region like Southern California, you see this mixed-race reality all the time -- at grade school graduations, Angels games, in restaurants and Fourth of July parades. This is the new America.

This 21st century nation-of-immigrants picture is unlikely to stir the soul of the celebrity billionaire with a taste for 24-karat gold plating on everything from his seat belts to his sinks. Trump is in it only to win, because winning is everything to him. The problem is Trump’s vanity campaign will probably cost Republicans the White House, leaving America bluer, more regulated and less responsive to the needs of white workers. In this sense, Trumpism represents something akin to Marx’s “opium of the masses,” an emotional balm that only provides temporary relief.

Clinton’s embrace of racial nationalists, on the other hand, forces her to lead from a position that is fundamentally partisan and mean-spirited. But it is Trump who threatens racial progress more directly, in a more irresponsible and inflammatory fashion. In this case, at least, the despicable is far preferable to the dangerous.

The best hope here is that, once this awful and dangerous lout is dismissed from the national scene, our racial wounds will be allowed again to heal. The spark for this will not come from the venal political and media class, but through day-to-day interactions in the communities we increasingly share.

This piece first appeared at Real Clear Politics.

Joel Kotkin is executive editor of He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book, The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us, will be published in April by Agate. He is also author of The New Class ConflictThe City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.

Trump protest photo by i threw a guitar at him. ( [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Outer California: Sacramento Sends Jobs (and People) to Nashville

Wed, 06/29/2016 - 22:38

A reader comment on a feature by John Sanphillipo (“Finally! Great New Affordable Bay Area Housing! Caught my eye.”). The comment ("You shouldn't have to go to Nashville") expressed an understandable frustration about the sad reality that firms leaving coastal California often skip right over the Central Valley “where the housing costs are reasonable, there are some lovely old homes on tree lined streets, the humidity is less, the mountains are nearby, and you can drive there in 2-3 hours rather than fly.”

Would that it were true. In fact, as this article will show, housing costs are anything but reasonable, given the median income, in the Central Valley, which along with the rest of the non-coastal portion of the state, will be referred to as Outer California in this article.

California Housing Affordability: Into the Abyss

California's severely unaffordable housing is legendary, having escalated from approximately the average national price to income ratio in 1970. This is most evident in the four largest coastal metropolitan areas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and San Jose. Out of the 87 major markets (over 1 million population) in nine nations, these markets ranked fourth, seventh and in a ninth place tie for the least affordable 8n the 12th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey. Their median multiples (median house price divided by median household income) required from 8.1 to 9.8 years income to purchase the median priced house. This compares to the affordability of these and other California markets which had median multiples of approximately 3.0 or less in 1970 and in prior years (Figure 1).

The housing unaffordability of these markets, with an average median multiple of 8.8 is rivaled by the smaller coastal markets (such as Monterey County, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura County), with their median multiple of 7.0. Both market categories are rated as severely unaffordable. But housing has become seriously unaffordable even in Outer California, where the average median multiple is 4.7(Figure 2). House prices have been escalating relative to incomes in Outer California since the housing bust, before which their housing affordability was even worse than now (below).

Housing Affordability in Outer California

A few examples will make the point. Riverside-San Bernardino, and exurban metropolitan area adjacent to Los Angeles had a severely unaffordable median multiple of 5.2 in 2015. Sacramento, had a seriously unaffordable median multiple of 4.7. Both of these major metropolitan areas reached far higher median multiples in the run-up to the housing bust, with Riverside San Bernardino reaching 7.6 and Sacramento reaching 6.6.

But the problem is by no means limited to the largest metropolitan areas. Stockton, now officially a part of the larger San Jose-San Francisco combined statistical area as a result of a housing cost driven exodus of commuters from the Bay Area has a severely unaffordable median multiple of 5.3. Things were much worse in the run-up to the bust, at 8.6. Even long depressed Fresno, far from either the Bay Area or Los Angeles, is nearing severe unaffordability, with a median multiple of 5.0 and reached 7.2 during the bubble. More remote Chico, one of the smallest US markets in the Demographia survey also has a median multiple of 5.0 (see Central Valley map at the top).

Modesto, a 2020 candidate for addition to the San Jose – San Francisco combined statistical area due to the overspill of households seeking houses they can afford, also has a seriously unaffordable median multiple of 4.5. Modesto reached 7.6 during the bubble.

Among the 29 markets rated in California, the most affordable was Bakersfield, which in a few years is likely to follow Fresno into the over 1 million category. During the bubble, Bakersfield reached a median multiple of 6.6. Small town Visalia, nestled against the Sierra foothills, tied Bakersfield's most affordable 4.3 median multiple, and reached an astounding 5.8 during the bubble. Hanford also tied for the most affordable.

The comparison to the bubble peaks is particularly important because it illustrates the volatility of housing markets. Even in small markets, house prices are prone to explode when demand exceeds supply, due in large part to land use regulatory and environmental law structure that restricts housing even in more remote areas,   driving prices up (See William A. Fischel, Regulatory Takings). Figure 3 shows that California house prices in each of the three geographic categories were even more unaffordable during the bubble than today.

Even at their current housing affordability levels, the housing markets of Outer California are considerably overpriced. This is indicated by Figure 2, which compares the median multiples in Stockton, Fresno, Bakersfield, Modesto, Redding, Chico, Merced, Madera and the Imperial Valley's El Centro with severely unaffordable and overregulated Portland, Seattle and Denver, as well as Nashville and other major markets that are more affordable than any in California (Figure 4).

Indeed, out of the 231 US markets in the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey, the 27 California markets represent nearly half of the 58 most expensive.

Meanwhile, a recent report by Zumper indicated among the 50 largest municipalities in the nation, four of the most expensive seven are also in California, with the city of San Francisco ranked number one, followed   San Jose at third, the city of Oakland at fifth and the city of Los Angeles at seventh. Eight of the most expensive municipalities out of the 100 largest are also in California, such as Palo Alto in the Bay Area, Coronado in the San Diego area and Santa Monica in the Los Angeles area.

As if the regulatory and legal structure that combined with the artificially higher demand from loose lending policies were not enough, barely a decade later California is in the process of implementing one of the most radical land-use regulatory structure in a liberal democracy. It will be far more difficult in many areas to build the detached housing that is been the mainstay of the state, which already has the highest urban population density in the nation (see: “California declares war on suburbia"). This suggests that housing affordability is likely to worsen further.

There is good reason for a both companies and middle income households to stay away from or leave California.

More than Housing Affordability

But people and businesses are moving to places like Nashville for reasons other than housing affordability. The state could hardly make it more clear that most business is not welcome. For at least 10 years, CEO Magazine has rated California as having the least favorable business climate. With competition like Illinois, Connecticut and New Jersey, to be ranked 50th with such regularity is a notable underachievement.

Data recently released by the California Manufacturers & Technology Association (CMTA) indicated that California ranked last among the states in per capita attraction of manufacturing investments in 2015. Corporate relocation specialist Joseph Vranich continues to add to a long but for California unfortunate list of companies and jobs that have recently left the state (see: "California companies had for greatness - out of California).

Of course, California is a beautiful place with one of the best climates in the world. But   millions of people and many companies have found greener pastures in Nashville, Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Charlotte, Atlanta and elsewhere. People will continue to visit, but the exodus is likely to continue.

Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international pubilc policy and demographics firm. He is a Senior Fellow of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism (US), Senior Fellow for Housing Affordability and Municipal Policy for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (Canada), and a member of the Board of Advisors of the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University (California). He is co-author of the "Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey" and author of "Demographia World Urban Areas" and "War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life." He was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, where he served with the leading city and county leadership as the only non-elected member. He served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, a national university in Paris.

Photo: Map of Central Valley (Sacramento Valley to the north, San Joaquin Valley to the south) courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey

Orlando: Shrines in the Urban Space

Tue, 06/28/2016 - 22:38

Orlando is now a place where suffering may finally catalyze a response to social violence. The spontaneous outpouring of grief and reconciliation by its people shows that public space lives, and has a useful function in our digital age. In multiple places around the city remembrances of the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting, and of musician and Voice contestant Christina Grimmie who was shot the previous day, are poignant, tangible evidence of the human spirit that one cannot ignore.

In the aftermath of the cascading tragedies of early June, the city had lain grieving and stunned under merciless heat and a tropical storm. But vigils and public gatherings ignored the weather to show solidarity with the victims and their families and loved ones. Last week's cool, dry, spring-like weather broke the city’s sickened fever. Gatherings at multiple sites gained momentum and size.

Since ancient times, the plaza in front of a city’s political seat has held civic importance, and Orlando is no exception. The plaza at City Hall is sculpted into a multilevel maze with fountains and public art, so Orlando’s community adopted the much more open city block across South Orange Avenue as a gathering place — it's a blank slate more adaptable to self-expression. In a synchronicity of events, its owner had recently demolished the 1960s architecture on this block to make way for future development. It is here that President Obama and Vice President Biden laid flowers for the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting.

South of downtown, Pulse nightclub itself had been quickly fenced off in black fabric, but beyond the fence and at nearby Orlando Regional Medical Center additional shrines spontaneously blossomed. By a week later, groups were still using them to stage vigils and gather to grieve, to struggle to understand, and to cleanse together in public. This function is so powerful, and so overriding, that the normally rigid traffic and parking regime has been adapted to allow people the space that they need.

Throughout the twentieth century, public property in cities shrank while private property grew. Malls replaced Main Street. Large condominium complexes, primarily accessed from off-street garages, replaced brownstones that fronted sidewalks. In modern urban patterns, little remains of the old village green, the Italian piazza, or Greek agora. These spaces seemed to be relics, even burdens on the public realm that required upkeep and worry. Orlando’s open space is emblematic of this transition.

Many think the death knell of these spaces has been the internet, with social media replacing the sidewalk as a forum for casual contact. Social media is all privately owned, so if this were true, it would mean that even more of life was spent on someone else’s private property. Photos of people lounging on sidewalks while staring at tiny screens seem to illustrate this point. Public space, some have claimed, is truly dead to the world, with little function other than as the pathway to private real estate development.

Much has been written about this so-called collapse of the public realm, tying it to the extinction of civility and the twilight of civilization. It is fashionable to favor greedy selfishness to the exclusion of the common good, and private interests have little use for garbage-strewn plazas, broken-down town squares, or creaky old Main Streets. Private space is where it’s at, and the public is drowned out by amoral monologues of personal righteousness.

Yet the urge to gather publicly continues, and in Orlando it happened on a scale large enough to be noticed. People still need their open space. Orlando’s famously tolerant and progressive community has come together in a heartbeat of vigils, religious ceremonies, speeches, spiritual gatherings, and memorial services, and it has done so out in the open.

These are not orchestrated or premeditated gatherings. For those, people are renting halls or churches. Instead, these spontaneous gatherings are express an effort to right the wrongs suffered in our city. Ignoring the public/private boundaries, Orlandoans are using their open space for its most important function of all. Privatization of open space, it turns out, is little help in the face of the destruction that happened here.

In the most personal of such shrines, the Plaza Theater, where young singer Christina Grimmie was senselessly shot, has received masses of flowers, candles, and testimonials. A steady stream of visitors spend a few moments in quiet prayer before moving on. At the theater’s narrow sidewalk the singer’s life was taken away, but her memory remains with us all.

The block across from City Hall has five separate memorials constructed of flowers, posters, and banners, and is visited in steady, large numbers. Families, friends, and children pass by, moving quietly and slowly with few words to say. The tropical rains that come and go do not diminish the crowd: umbrellas come up and go down, but the elegiac procession continues.

If Orlando has multiple hearts, the more formal of them is the regular rectangle between City Hall and the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center. The city's other public space of any size is Lake Eola Park, a 16-block rectangle on downtown Orlando’s eastern edge, filled mostly with, well, Lake Eola. On the park’s western edge, facing downtown’s denser core, stands the Lake Eola amphitheater, the site of Orlando’s larger public gatherings.

The amphitheater’s 200-odd seats were insufficient to hold the Sunday night crowd of 50,000 strong that gathered despite rain. People spilled onto nearby Rosalind Avenue, enlarging the public space of this corner of the park, to city-sized proportions. In this huge outpouring of grief, with chants of “One Orlando United” and “We Remember,” the names of the dead rang through the city streets and gave voice to our citizens’ grief as an actual rainbow emerged from the cloudy sky just at sunset.

In times when the polarization of our country feels unbridgeable, and the dialectic seems to be reaching a crescendo, Orlando’s voice has said “one love.” LGBTWQ acceptance has always been available here, and replacing the acronym with “one love” in the face of violence has been Orlando’s mantra, both before and after our darkest weekend. More broadly, the unhealthy, antisocial violence that sparked two shooters to destroy so many lives has met with a startling voice of solidarity and purpose in Orlando. The blackness of our worst week is behind us, and the city’s emergence as a voice of tolerance is now just beginning.

Richard Reep is an architect with VOA Associates, Inc. who has designed award-winning urban mixed-use and hospitality projects. His work has been featured domestically and internationally for the last thirty years. An Adjunct Professor for the Environmental and Growth Studies Department at Rollins College, he teaches urban design and sustainable development; he is also president of the Orlando Foundation for Architecture. Reep resides in Winter Park, Florida with his family.

Photo by the author: Downtown Orlando at City Hall

Brits Opt Out

Mon, 06/27/2016 - 22:38

The famous shot heard “’round the world” this time came from the other side of the Atlantic, but its longtime impact could be equally profound. By voting to leave the European Union and its intrusive bureaucracy, the British people have also risen up against a regime of crony capitalism that has encumbered and perverted democracy across the entire Western world.

The implications, of course, are greatest for Britain and Europe, but they will affect politics here in North America. The Brexit raises to first priority the more general debate about the trajectory of global capitalism which, for all its many accomplishments, has grown to resemble, in its haughtiness and inbreeding, the very statist despotisms that it was supposed to overturn.

Brexit also represents a shot across the bow to all the elites, not only in Brussels, but also in Westminster, both left and right, much as the Sen. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump campaigns have been here in the U.S. The EU pushed policies aimed at the mundane pleasures of the middle class, such as affordable electricity, cheap air travel, cars and single-family housing. Those who opposed the edicts were often excoriated as unenlightened and even racist. The “betters” behind the “Remain” campaign waged a kind of class struggle against the British grassroots – and lost in shocking fashion.

The Revolt of the Masses

As the American author Fred Siegel has suggested, at the root of this rebellion lie the attitudes of our cognitive betters. Over the past half-century, he argues in his book “Revolt Against the Masses,” progressivism has become increasingly haughty and dictatorial, reaching its apex in the Obama administration and its penchant for ruling by decree.

James Heartfield, a powerful thinker on Britain’s old left, described the vote as “a popular reaction against the elite.” The EU did not help its cause by failing to bring a long-promised prosperity to Europe. The recovery that did emerge somewhat in Britain largely benefited the asset-owning property and financial classes, the political base of David Cameron and his high-minded, politically correct brand of Toryism.

Read the entire piece at The Orange County Register.

Joel Kotkin is executive editor of He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book, The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us, will be published in April by Agate. He is also author of The New Class ConflictThe City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.

Map by Mirrorme22Nilfanion: English and Scottish council areas TUBS: Welsh council areas Sting: Gibraltar [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Vote For Brexit Explodes the Myth of the Global City-State

Sun, 06/26/2016 - 22:38

The UK has voted to leave the European Union.

The Brexit campaign was revealing because it was based on the exact opposite of the urban triumphalist vision that so often dominates the discourse.

Globalization doesn’t respect borders we’re told. Cities, not provinces or nation-states, are the real actors in the global economy.  Some have fantasized about the Singapore model of the city-state as ideal.  Virtually all mayors express great dissatisfaction about their national governance arrangements. Benjamin Barber even wrote that mayors should rule the world.

The ultimate vision of this would be an independent, polyglot London, arguably the world’s most truly global city, bestriding the global economy like a colossus.

Yet most of the London establishment – and 60% of Londoners themselves in the vote – strongly supported the Remain option. They warned of disaster for London if it lost access to the EU single market.

This more or less demolishes the arguments for the city-state. If London, the world’s ultimate global city, can’t thrive without access to a continental scale de facto state in the EU, there’s little prospect anyone else can either.

It’s telling that so many city leaders hate their state or national governments, but love supra-national governments like the EU.  The shows that their real desire isn’t to go it alone in the marketplace, but to create replacement governance structures that are more amenable to their way of thinking, that constitutionally enshrine their preferences, and are insulated from democratic accountability.

What’s more, if London suffers because it loses access to the single market, it shows that borders to matter to globalization, and that states and quasi-states like the EU very much can exert control on global flows. They are not simply helpless in the face of the global marketplace.

Of course when I say these arguments are destroyed, I only mean that the people advancing them don’t really believe them themselves. We will find out in a real life test to what extent those ideas are actually valid. Will London’s unparalleled global orientation, talent concentrations, unique and specialized functions enable it to thrive outside the EU? Or will it take a permanent hit? (This assumes, of course, that Brexit actually does happen).

If London does actually continue thriving in the long term, then that would actually back up the city-state idea to some extent, as London will have gone from being part of a gigantic state to a much smaller one. That might suggest that a further devolution to a greater London city-state might be viable after all, if highly unlikely.

But if London can’t recover from the inevitable turbulence around Brexit, this would show that not only do cities need to be part of states, they need to be part of very large and powerful ones.

If you think about it, history suggests that is the case to some extent. London is London because it was the capital of the British Empire. Dittos for Paris and Moscow, both imperial capitals. New York isn’t New York just because of its own characteristics – though those do play a role – but because it is the most important city in the world’s most important country. Shanghai and Beijing are coming on strong because they are in China.

In any event, the city-state theory is going to get something of a trial run, if an imperfect one. Ironically, that real life trial will come over the objections of the city itself, and much of the urbanist class who otherwise preach urban independence.

Aaron M. Renn is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal, and an economic development columnist for Governing magazine. He focuses on ways to help America’s cities thrive in an ever more complex, competitive, globalized, and diverse twenty-first century. During Renn’s 15-year career in management and technology consulting, he was a partner at Accenture and held several technology strategy roles and directed multimillion-dollar global technology implementations. He has contributed to The Guardian,, and numerous other publications. Renn holds a B.S. from Indiana University, where he coauthored an early social-networking platform in 1991.

Image via Shutterstock

Working Class British Voters Led the European Union Rejection

Fri, 06/24/2016 - 12:33

On Thursday night the first results from Britain’s referendum on pulling out of the European Union came in.

A small clue to the way things were going last night was the vote in the North East.

People in Newcastle are known locally as 'takems' (said with a short a, like tack um); those in Sunderland are called 'makems'. It means that people in Sunderland make things and people in Newcastle take them. Sunderland is solidly industrial, while Newcastle, also a big industrial centre, is a market town. Newcastle voted to remain, but by the tiniest of margins. Sunderland voted to leave, 60-40. That was when we began to think that – not for the first time – the polls had got it wrong.

As the night wore on the results came in, defying the pollster’s determination that the people would reject the referendum question and stick with the European Union.

Of London Boroughs, Barking voted to leave, too. It was historically a ‘white flight’ borough, but today it is thronging with Poles and Africans. It is very working class. Islington, by contrast, was overwhelmingly for stay. Islington has working class wards, though these are mostly demoralised, and the borough deserves its reputation for being dominated by a precociously radical middle class.

Most of all the vote is a popular reaction against the elite. Their view that the European Union is not for them is right. I have taken students to the Brussels Parliament, which is a bit like visiting the offices of the IMF. The only people that you see hanging around outside and waiting to see someone, are themselves very haut bourgeois. By contrast, if you go to the Palace of Westminster, you will see large crowds of school children, nurses, veterans, and ethnic minorities. Parliament is often very bad in its decisions and its cliquishness, but the people do look to it in a way that they will never look on Brussels. That law making should have passed so silently and sneakily off to the European Commission is not something that ordinary British people approve of, and they are right.

The British Labour movement protested against the Maastricht Treaty back in 1991 that created the EU, and had already been committed to a position of withdrawing from the preceding EEC. Labour's heartlands were in agreement. Over time, though, the temptation of the 'European Social Chapter', and the trade union leaders' resentment at the Tories opt-out of that did tempt some labour leaders (though not their members) to support the EU. That in itself is a symptom of the unions' loss of influence in their own right; they hoped that their European friends would offer them what their own campaigning could not.

As the Labour Party became more distant, metropolitan and elitist, it sought to re-write the party's policy to mirror its own concerns, and also to diminish working people's aspirations for social democratic reform in their favour. They got rid of the socialist clause in the party's constitution, Clause 4, diminished union leaders' say so in making party policy, and, symbolically, they changed the party's position on Europe from withdrawal to positive support. For younger graduates in London who were the party's activists, that all seemed to make sense, but a chasm was opening up between the party and its working class redoubts in the Midlands and the North of England.

There are many facets to this disaffection. People are angry about the NHS. Some of the mood of hostility towards Blair's government was attached to the Iraq War.

Latterly, the question of immigration became one that the labour voters came to distrust the Labour leadership on. In private the Cabinet did indeed talk about encouraging wide scale immigration, with the ambition of making the Conservative Party unelectable, by creating a 'multicultural' country. In a telling moment in the 2010 election Gordon Brown was caught by a radio mike complaining about a voter whom he had been introduced to. ‘That bigoted woman’, he called her. Suddenly everyone could hear the snobbery in his prissy voice. ‘Bigoted’ here was code for common, uneducated, or perhaps even ‘unwashed’.

The EU issue was initially raised by the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), which is to say the grassroots of the Conservative Party, peeling away from David Cameron's leadership. UKIP in that way are a mirror image of the disaffection of the Labour vote. In time, UKIP candidates got some support in Labour constituencies. That was a clue that the disaffection of the Labour vote was about to form itself up around the referendum.

Asked by pollsters why they had voted to leave the EU, some said it was immigration. But more said that it was the question of democracy. This is a word that seems to mean very little to the academics, government officials, constitutional lawyers and politicians, and yet, strangely, means a great deal to those whose access to it is most limited – the greater mass of the British public.

Depressingly, the sulking metropolitans and ‘opinion formers’ (Ha!) dismissed this revolt of the lower orders as nothing more than race prejudice. But that says more about those that say it than those that it is said of. To them almost every expression of popular sentiment feels like fascism. They see fascism in the support for the English football team, and lurking in the bad tempered rants of ‘white van man’ as he makes his deliveries. An old drunk on a bus says something mean about immigrants and he is pilloried on YouTube and Facebook as the latest sign of incipient fascism.

What they usually mean is that the common people have spoken, and spoken clumsily, without the tortuous manners of the intersectional left. But by and large the exiters were not angry with migrants so much as they were angry with the established order.

A tipping point was the publication of a letter on the front page of the Times, signed by leading businessmen demanding ‘remain’. This came hot on the heels of the claims that all economists (the same ones who had told us that there was no danger of an economic meltdown in 2008) were for remain. Before that the leaders of all the major parties lined up to say that remain was the only viable result.

Elsewhere in Europe we have seen this kind of consensus form up. The last time was around the proposed EU Constitution in 2004/5. As every respectable voice made it plain that the Constitution effectively making the EU into a superstate was needed, the ordinary people revolted. In referenda in France and Denmark it was rejected. The project was in tatters. The very solidity of the establishment behind the EU Constitution was the thing that sunk it. If this shower are for it, thought the mass of the people, then it must be rubbish. So it was with the EU referendum in Britain on 23 June. The solidity of the establishment case for staying was probably what decided the majority to leave.

The ‘out’ decision leaves many questions. The traders have attacked the pound – well, they had made it clear that they did not like exit, so we can expect them to try to punish the voters. We will weather it, and the economy’s underlying strength will make them come back for sterling later on.  Shame on them.

It is by no means clear that the vote to leave will lead to an actual ‘exit’. The prolonged process of leaving set out in the EU Treaty is effectively a ‘cooling off’ period, and a confident political leader – perhaps Boris Johnson, the star of the exit campaign – might well be tempted by some reforms. The EU itself will be shaken by the vote, and there are already signs that its leaders are moving away from the Federal structure of the Union in favour of a looser, intergovernmental agreement, that would allow greater sovereignty for its member states. That much is just an obvious attempt to accommodate what is already a groundswell of opposition to the Union that is much wider than Britain, taking in France, Spain, Greece and Portugal.

One thing is for sure:  the vote shows that very few of the experts, the academics, the media, lawyers and politicians have any insight into the will of the people, or even understand the meaning of the words sovereignty and democracy.

James Heartfield is author of The European Union and the End of Politics and an historian and political scientist based in London.

Photo by flickr user Diamond Geezer licensed under Creative Commons.

Downtowns Dominate New Zealand Transit Commuting

Thu, 06/23/2016 - 22:38

The statistical authorities of various nations survey commuting behavior of their citizens in periodic population censuses and related surveys. Most of this data relates to the residential location of workers, but not to the work location. Both sets of data are important for understanding the dynamics of mobility within urban areas. However, in some countries, like Canada and the United States work location is not readily available. As a result, items of analysis such as how people get to work and the density of employment in parts of urban areas can be difficult, if not impossible to obtain. For example, based on the last two censuses, we have produced reports estimating the shares of employment in the downtown areas of major metropolitan areas.

New Zealand has a model program that provides detailed information both on residential location and work location. The work location data is not only important as a model for other statistical authorities, but also reveals trends which the more limited data in other countries suggest. This article will describe the commuting data in the three largest metropolitan areas in New Zealand (Note). The analysis focuses on the 2013 census, which was postponed from 2011 as a result of the disastrous Christchurch earthquakes. As will be shown below, these events had major implications in the commuting data for New Zealand's second largest metropolitan area.


Auckland has by far the largest metropolitan area in New Zealand, with approximately 1.6 million residents. As a result of the recent local government consolidation, Auckland has emerged as the only entire metropolitan area in the high income world of more than 1 million population that is administered by a single local government. It will soon be followed by Honolulu, which has a single local government, and which is soon to pass 1 million population.

Auckland houses about one third of New Zealand's population. As a result, Auckland is dominates New Zealand. By comparison, the New York metropolitan area, in its most liberal definition (combined statistical area) represents only seven percent of the US population.

The Statistics New Zealand data indicates that the Auckland central business district (CBD or downtown area) has approximately 13.6 percent of the jobs (Figure 1) in the metropolitan area (the city of Auckland, or the Auckland Regional Council). This is nearly double the US average for major metropolitan areas (over 1 million population), which is 7.0 percent, but well below New York's 22.0 percent. It is about the same as that of Canada's major metropolitan area average, and that of Canada's largest metropolitan area, Toronto. It also duplicates the Sydney CBD share of metropolitan employment.

As is typical of large, more centrally oriented metropolitan areas, transit commuting is focused on the CBD in Auckland. In 2013, approximately 47 percent of all job locations accessed by transit in the metropolitan area   were in the CBD. This was up from 45 percent in 2001 (Figure 2). More than one-half of the new transit commuters between 2001 and 2013 work in the CBD. This is despite the fact that the CBD represents only one percent of the built-up urban area.

Between the 2001 and 2013 censuses, Auckland experienced an increase in its transit work trip market share from 6.1 percent to 7.7 percent. However, as is typical of transit market shares, there was considerable variation. Transit carried 26.7 percent of the work trips to the CBD as designated by Statistics New Zealand. In the rest of the metropolitan area only 4.7 percent of the jobs were accessed by transit. Overall, transit carries 7,7 percent of work trips in Auckland (among commuters providing information), which is up from 6,1 percent in 2001. While this is a modest work trip market share, it is at least a full percentage point above that of urban planning model Portland.


Wellington is the national capital and third largest metropolitan area with nearly 500,000 residents. But despite its smaller population, Wellington has the nation's largest CBD, by a whisker and by far the largest transit commute share in the nation.

In 2013, Wellington's Statistics New Zealand designated CBD had approximately 80,000 jobs. This represents a very high 37 percent of the employment in the metropolitan area (Figure 3). While there are no comprehensive international CBD employment data, the anecdotal information indicates that this level of CBD employment is well above that of all major metropolitan areas in the United States, Canada and Australia, and two-thirds above New York, which has the highest CBD share of any major metropolitan area in these nations.

The dominance of the CBD in transit destinations is even more apparent in Wellington than in Auckland. In 2001, the CBD accounted for 66 percent of the transit commuting locations in the metropolitan area. By 2013 this increased to 74 percent. In fact all of the increase in transit work trips was to CBD locations, as commuting to other locations declined (Figure 4).

In 2013, transit carried 33.6 percent of employees to the CBD, up from 28.6 percent in 2001. Transit carried 6.2 percent of the travel to jobs outside the CBD. Overall, transit carried 15.7 percent of work trips in the metropolitan area, up from 14.7 percent in 2001. This is a sizeable transit market share, which would place Wellington ahead of all US metropolitan areas in the United States except New York and San Francisco.


Christchurch is New Zealand’s second largest metropolitan area, with nearly 600,000 residents.

Christchurch is a special case, due to the devastating earthquakes that hit the area in 2010 and 2011. Because of the disruption, the New Zealand government postponed the 2011 census to 2013.

The core of Christchurch, Cathedral Square suffered particular damage, ruining the city's historic cathedral, the remains of which were demolished. The Statistics New Zealand designated CBD experienced a more than 50 percent loss in employment from the previous census (2006). In 2001, a very respectable 16.1 percent of employment was in the CBD. By 2013, that figure had declined to 7.3 percent (Figure 5).

Christchurch has not had the strength of transit ridership of Wellington or Auckland. In 2013, only 5.9 percent of CBD commuters used transit. Overall, transit carries approximately 2.3 percent of work trips in the Christchurch metropolitan area in 2013.

Transit is About Downtown

New Zealand's strongest CBD and transit markets provide further evidence that "transit is about downtown." Both Auckland and Wellington experienced comparatively strong increases in transit work trip ridership between 2001 and 2013. Yet most of the additional work transit work trip destinations were concentrated in the CBD in Auckland, and all of the new trips had CBD destinations in Wellington.

This is similar to the situation in the United States. In the US, 55 percent of transit commuting destinations are in the six municipalities (as opposed to metropolitan areas) that have the largest CBDs, measured by employment. Transit commuting is also heavily skewed toward the CBDs in Canada and Australia.

Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international pubilc policy and demographics firm. He is a Senior Fellow of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism (US), Senior Fellow for Housing Affordability and Municipal Policy for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (Canada), and a member of the Board of Advisors of the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University (California). He is co-author of the "Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey" and author of "Demographia World Urban Areas" and "War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life." He was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, where he served with the leading city and county leadership as the only non-elected member. He served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, a national university in Paris.

Photograph: Downtown Auckland (by author)

Brexit Will Be Britain’s Fourth of July

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 22:38

The campaign to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union, widely known as “Brexit,” is potentially on the verge of a huge victory Thursday despite overwhelming opposition in the media and among the corporate and political establishment. The outcome matters not just as an expression of arcane British insularity, but as evidence of a growing rebellion against the ever greater consolidation and concentration of power now occurring across all of Europe, as well as here in the United States.

In many ways, this rebellion’s antecedents include our own revolution, which sought to overturn a distant, and largely unaccountable, bureaucracy. Like Lord North, George III’s prime minister, today’s Eurocratic elites spoke of obligations and fealty to the wisdom of the central imperium. What shocked the centralizers then, and once again today, was the temerity of the governed to challenge the precepts of their betters.

None of this suggests that Brexit will win this time around, given the massive odds of overcoming so much concentrated establishment power, and the reaction to the brutal slaying of a prominent, pro-EU Labor MP by a deranged neo-Nazi (is there any other kind?). But the fact that the anti-EU rebels have gotten this far (after the Brexiters had surged ahead, polls now show the country evenly split) suggests a growing desire to overturn hyper-centralization with a return to self-government and local control.

Given the grisly history of internecine warfare on the old continent , the idea of European integration initially had a certain appealing logic. And indeed the early years of integration promised much: greater prosperity, adherence to democracy and even a guarantee that Europe would retain a powerful voice in the world economy and politics. That promise has faded, as Europe remains locked in what appears a more or less permanent cycle of secular decline and stagnation.

Over the past decade, the EU has lagged in terms of both growth and innovation even by our mediocre standards. The EU’s poor performance is recognized well beyond Britain’s borders. Today more than 60 per cent of French voters now hold an unfavorable view of the Union while almost half the electorate in Germany, Spain and the Netherlands have also become Euroskeptic, notes a recent Pew study. In all, these countries’ rejection of the “European project” is even greater than in the UK’s.

Rather than embrace a greater Europe bolstered by millions of newcomers, most Europeans now reject such demographic engineering. This sentiment has been rising, most portentously, among Europe’s diminished youth.

These sentiments help explain the rise in support for Brexit. Much of Britain’s hard-pressed middle and working classes are disturbed by the current record immigration, much of it from other EU countries, which has occurred despite Prime Minister David Cameron’s repeated promises to reduce its growth.

To this phenomena, one has to consider the recent EU sanctioned mass migration from the Middle East. This can be seen as not just an economic threat, but one that could undermine the hard-won rights achieved women and gays. The language spoken by the Eurocrats may seem liberal and progressive, but their effects on the ground seem profoundly both illiberal and authoritarian, as societies are forced to adapt to the quasi-medieval codes of the newcomers, notably in such matters as separating men and women in public pools.

In terms of immigration, populist anger is most powerful in the poorer countries, such as in Eastern Europe, and among the already beleaguered working class in the more prosperous north. Despite Labour’s support for both large scale immigration and the EU, a recent YouGov poll finds the majority of working-class Brits favor leaving.

This growing opposition also stems from growing resentment of an unaccountable, and often haughty, bureaucracy that seeks to impose regulation on everything from the borders to the schools, planning, environment policy, and, perhaps most insulting of all, laws that control the production and distribution of such critical European products as alcohol and cheese. Climate change regulations imposed from Brussels also threaten to further weaken the middle class, even making car ownership too expensive for most drivers.

The European and British rebellions have clear parallels here in the United States. If there is any consistent theme to the current Administration, it has been implicit embrace of the European model. This includes the massive expansion both of executive branch regulatory power and a relentless, ever growing assault on the traditional rights of states and local communities to control their own fates.

President Obama’s use of executive orders, much in the image of the EU bureaucracy, has enhanced federal power into many areas once was the purview of localities, such as public education and transportation, land use and, most absurdly, the regulation of bathroom access. Ultimately, every state, city or town may find—as is already the case in Europe—that their future lies in the hands of distant bureaucracies , in this case HUD, the EPA, and other federal agencies.

As is increasingly true in Europe, the vaunting of the leviathan does not reflect popular will. According to numerous surveys, Americans now fear their own government more than they do than outside threats. In contrast, some 72 percent of Americans, according to Gallup, trust their local governments more than their state institutions. Even millennials, who maintain liberal positions on issues such as immigration and gay marriage, generally favor of community-based, local solutions to key problems. “Millennials are on a completely different page than most politicians in Washington, DC,” notes pollster John Della Volpe. “This is a more cynical generation when it comes to political institutions.”

This rebellion against ever increasingly centralized power—what might be called “fashionable fascism”—is just beginning. It does not reside solely on the far right. Many on the left embrace the ideal of localism as a reaction against globalization and domination by large corporations. Grassroots progressives often embrace the idea of purchasing from local merchants and relying on locally produced agricultural products as an environmental win, and a form of resistance to ever-greater centralized big business control.

Of course, prevailing progressive opinion on both sides of the Atlantic embraces central control, often in the form of favor of a “technocracy” determining energy, economic and land use policies. If the technocrats get their way, we can expect policies aimed at limiting the mundane pleasures of the middle class such as affordable electricity, cheap air travel, cars, and single-family housing.

One might hope that progressives who favor the concentration of power when their side is in power might rethink matters if central power were invested in the likes of Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, or France’s Marine Le Pen. After all, Vladimir Putin is an elected leader who has shown how power can be in profoundly illiberal ways.

So let’s hear it for Brexit, or at least the spirit that animates it: a desire to regain control of our lives, families and communities. What we need —- as the British increasingly demand —- is tolerance for diverse forms of expression and governance, allowing people, as much as is feasible, to choose how to live. As even the French, who invented modern centralization, increasingly recognize: vive la difference!

This piece first appeared at The Daily Beast.

Joel Kotkin is executive editor of He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book, The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us, will be published in April by Agate. He is also author of The New Class ConflictThe City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.

Photo by Xavier Häpe - BY 2.0

The U.S. Cities Where Manufacturing Is Thriving

Tue, 06/21/2016 - 22:38

Perhaps no sector in the U.S. economy generates more angst than manufacturing. Over the past quarter century, manufacturing has hemorrhaged over 5 million jobs. The devastation of many regional economies, particularly in the Midwest, is testament to this decline. If the information sector has been the golden child of the media, manufacturing has been the offspring that we pity but can’t comfortably embrace.

Yet manufacturing remains critically important. Over the period from 1997 to 2012, labor productivity growth in manufacturing—3.3% per year—was a third higher than the rest of the economy. Clearly manufacturing is no technological laggard, accounting in 2012 for 68.9% of all R&D expenditures by U.S. businesses and employing 36% of the nation’s scientists and engineers, the largest share of any industry.

So even as employment has declined or stagnated, the impact of manufacturing on local economies remains profound. Manufacturing has the highest multiplier effect of any sector of the economy. According to the Commerce Department, a dollar of final demand for manufacturing generates $1.33 in output from other sectors of the economy, considerably higher than the multiplier for information ($0.80) and more than twice as high as such fields as retail trade ($0.66) and business services ($0.61). Other estimates place this impact far higher.

The Midwest Revival

Our list of the fastest-growing manufacturing regions differs considerably from our rankings of the best cities for jobs overall, and of the strongest information economies. To avoid the distortions and wild swings that can occur in economies with few industrial jobs, we focused on the 48 metropolitan statistical areas with at least 50,000 manufacturing positions.

As with our other rankings in this series, the list is based on employment growth in the sector over the short-, medium- and long-term, going back to 2005, and we factor in momentum — whether growth is slowing or accelerating. (For a detailed description of our methodology, click here.)

Manufacturing has enjoyed something of a renaissance since 2009 — after 12 years of declines, it has gained back 828,000 jobs. But like everything in economics, or life, the resurgence has not been equally distributed. In sharp contrast to other areas of the economy, the industrial heartland has some real winners.

Grand Rapids-Wyoming, Mich., has boosted its industrial workforce by 29% since 2010 to 110,800 workers, with 5.4% job growth last year alone, placing it first on our list. This growth has been very diversified, with many specialty firms engaged not only in auto parts, but also food, aerospace and defense. The metro area seems to be breaking all the shibboleths ascribed to the “Rust Belt” — unemployment dropped to 3.3% this year, population growth and the birthrate are now well above the national average. For most of our strongest manufacturing economies, however, the real driver has been the recent resurgence in automobile sales, which are now at record levels. Despite all the talk of “peak car” a few years ago, with oil prices in the dumps and the population now once again headed to lower-density areas, driving hit a new peak in 2015 in terms of total vehicle miles traveled.

The next four fastest-growing industrial areas are all auto-dependent, led by second-ranked Elkhart-Goshen, Ind., where the big business is the highly cyclical recreational vehicle industry. Since 2010, industrial employment has grown 37% in the area to 60,500 jobs.

In No. 3 Louisville/Jefferson County, which abuts the border of Indiana and Kentucky, the industrial workforce has expanded 25.6% since 2010 to 60,500 jobs. Like Grand Rapids, its base is widely diversified. The largest industrial employers include Ford, which makes pickup trucks and SUVs at two plants in the area; GE Appliances, whose sale to China’s Haier was just completed; Publishers Printing and spirits maker Brown-Forman Corp.

But the big story, and the big numbers, are in the greater Detroit area, where there are roughly 240,000 manufacturing jobs. About 149,000 of them are in suburban Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills, also known as “automation alley,” where the area’s industrial workforce has expanded by 30.6% since 2010, helping it to a fifth-place showing on our list. In fourth place is Detroit-Dearborn-Livonia, where industrial employment surged 27% since 2010.

High-Tech Centers Rebound

Although their growth rates are roughly half those of the auto stars that dominate the top of the list, there has been a healthy recovery in manufacturing jobs in traditional high-tech and aerospace-dominated economies, mostly in the west. No. 6 San Diego-Carlsbad, which, like most metro areas, has lost industrial employment over the past decade, has seen a bit of a rebound since 2010, with an 11.5% expansion to 106,700 jobs concentrated mostly in aerospace and nondurable goods.

No. 7 Denver-Aurora-Lakewood’s industrial workforce has grown 12.7% since 2010 and 3.7% last year alone, while No. 10 Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, Ore.-Wash., where Intel recently completed an expansion, has posted industrial job growth of 12.4% since 2010. A $3 billion plant in suburban Hillsboro has spurred a migration of suppliers as well.

Despite concerns about the loss of electronics manufacturing to Asia, there has even been a small surge in industrial employment in high-cost, highly regulated Silicon Valley. After losing tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs in the wake of the bursting of the bubble in 2000, No. 19 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara has seen a modest 5.9% upsurge in industrial employment since 2010, helped by the growth of electric vehicle maker Tesla, which now employs about 15,000. The Valley will likely never be the industrial powerhouse it was in decades past (today’s manufacturing employment of 161,900 is still 38% lower than the peak in 2000), but, as firms seek to marry digital technology into the “internet of things,” the area may still continue to produce some real goods, likely before any mass production phase, for the foreseeable future.

The Big Losers: Los Angeles And Chicago

A large number of manufacturing-rich areas are continuing to lose industrial jobs, often at a rapid rate. Nearly a third of the 100 largest manufacturing metro areas registered declines in employment in the last two years. This year’s worst performer is Newark, N.J., where manufacturing employment is off almost 4% since 2013 and more than 6% since 2010.

Perhaps even more disturbing has been the decline of the nation’s two largest agglomerations of industrial jobs, No. 43 Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights and No. 27 Los Angeles-Long Beach. Chicago’s decline can be traced, at least in part, to the decline of its traditional industries, such as steel and metal fabrication. For decades, many of these jobs have disappeared, moved south or abroad, and the decline continues,  with  jobs down nearly 1.7% since 2010. Since 1990, the area has lost a remarkable 45% of its industrial jobs.

But if Chicago’s loss can be attributed to the overall decline of the old industrial base, Los Angeles’ steady losses have come from a more modern mix of aerospace, design and specialty manufacturing. Since 2010 — despite the rapid growth in many manufacturing areas — Los Angeles has managed to lose an additional 3.37% of its industrial jobs. Over the past 25 years, the Big Orange has seen its once thriving industrial base fall from 785,400 to 356,100 jobs—a decline of almost 55%. In both Chicago and Los Angeles, the decline of manufacturing has accompanied demographic stagnation, high rates of poverty and mediocre overall job growth.

Does Manufacturing Actually Matter?

In many ways, the answer to that question depends on who you are and the structure of your local economy. To be sure, the San Francisco metro area (San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco), despite a mere 35,500 industrial jobs, too few to even make our list, has transformed its economy so dramatically that the loss of industry seems to have had little impact. New York, once a manufacturing mecca, makes the list at No. 30, but now has barely 78,900 industrial jobs. Yet the city continues to outperform most other large metro areas in terms of overall job growth.

In places where other sectors such as information or business services have picked up the slack, the overall impact has not led to regional decline. The old blue collar workforce may have suffered, but the shift to a post-industrial future has not been disastrous for the overall economy.

But few places are as glamorous or alluring as New York or San Francisco, with their appeal to the highly educated, foreign capital and millennial workers. As we can see in Los Angeles and Chicago, as well as many places in the middle of the country, manufacturing still matters, and its decline, or resurgence, remains an issue of paramount importance.

This piece first appeared at Forbes.

Joel Kotkin is executive editor of He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book, The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us, will be published in April by Agate. He is also author of The New Class ConflictThe City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.

Michael Shires, Ph.D. is a professor at Pepperdine University School of Public Policy.

Brexit: Why the Brits Will Stay... Or Go

Mon, 06/20/2016 - 22:38

On June 23, Britain votes on whether to remain in the European Union or to leave it. Either way, the point has been made and registered around the European continent that the British have more faith in the white rabbits of political fairy tales than they do in the sinkhole of Brussels and its economic policies.

Even though the vote is mostly a creature of English party politics — Prime Minister David Cameron chose to have a showdown with the noisome “Eurosceptics” who make up half of his fox-hunting party — the negative consequences of the vote both for Europe and for Great Britain will exceed any advantages that he wrings from the party’s recalcitrant right wing.

Punters, who in Britain predict outcomes more successfully than pundits do, have been giving a slight advantage at the polls to the so-called Leavers. But the senseless killing by a Neo-Nazi of the well-liked Labour Minister of Parliament Jo Cox, who was campaigning in Yorkshire for Britain to stay in Europe, casts a pall on the Leave position. With more than thirteen percent of the electorate undecided and unlikely to make up their minds before they vote, the referendum on Britain and Europe could still tilt in favor of the Union.

Who wants Britain out of Europe? The main constituencies for leaving the EU are working class Labourites tired of losing their jobs to Slovenian immigrants, and right-wing nativists. Leave supporters include UKIP, the British Independence Party, which sees all good things British (David Beckham’s right foot. . . David Beckham’s left foot. . .) going up in the smoke of endless regulations from Brussels, or being overrun by a long line of immigrants who have 'clogged up' local social services.

That the French city of Calais has become a Syrian refugee waiting room for those on their way to England is another reason some Britons would like to retreat to their “island fortress.” “We want our country back” is the typical refrain of Leavers.

In economic terms, Britain sends the EU about $20 billion a year, and gets back (directly) about $7 billion. Thus the English contribute about $13 billion to the Union, which, depending on how you look at it, buys them either continent-wide peace and prosperity, or welfare payments to Greek civil servants retiring at age 52.

But it would be naïve to assume that Britain gets nothing more from the European Union than some milk subsidies. For starters, even though the country kept the British pound instead of adapting the Euro, the financial center of Europe remains in London. Banks, brokerage firms, and other financial intermediaries trade more Euro-based investments in the city than in any other EU capital.

Compared to London, Paris, where they still take long lunches, has the feel of a prosperous regional market, and Frankfurt has the air of twentieth century Cincinnati, a well-to-do merchant city on a river.

As EU members, British companies — to a degree that is difficult to quantify — also enjoy a huge competitive advantage for their sales into Europe.

Nevertheless, some British workers only see the negative influence of the EU on their job security and paychecks. Large ships are now more likely to be built in Gdansk than Glasgow, much the way Airbuses are pieced together around the continent rather than in United Kingdom hangars. Officially, Labour is opposing Brexit, but that party itself is fractured on the question.

In voting to leave the European Union, the skeptics believe that Britain can maintain its positive trade relations with Europe and its global financial position, while still booting out Bulgarian émigrés living on the English dole. They also believe they would save $13 billion in subsidies to Italian vintners (et al.) who knock off for lunch not long after the their third morning coffee.

But how forgiving would Europe be with bilateralism if it were trashed by Brexit isolationists?

Politically, the historical arguments are lost on the iPhone generation. For them, the European militarism that has been a fixture since the Thirty Years War in the seventeenth century (if not before), and the Franco-Prussian wars of the nineteenth and twentieth century, are as distant as formal tea service on the job at 4 PM.

If Britain does decide to exit the common market, chances are good that a Doomsday scenario in Europe could unfold as follows:

—With Britain out of the European Union, the Scottish Nationalist Party — the most dominant party in Scotland — would likely call for another referendum on Scottish independence, which this time would pass, just before Scotland applied for membership in the EU.

—Britain’s exit from the EU would also strengthen the far right in France’s next presidential election in spring 2017, as the French would see themselves as the only counterweight in Europe to German dominance, which is never a good idea.

—Brexit would also be a huge victory for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is no fan of David Cameron, Barack Obama, or NATO policies that have pushed the borders of the European community into the Baltic States and close to Ukraine.

—Putin would be likely to view Britain’s exit from the community as clear evidence that the United States has little influence in Europe. He could use the moment to menace Latvia, Georgia, Ukraine or Moldova.

—Finally, Brexit could hasten debt default not just in Greece, but in other Mediterranean countries that for the moment enjoy the full faith and credit of all major European countries. If the backstop is reduced to Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party, the chances are good that her government would fall to parties on the right, and her successor would probably be less keen on having Berlin backstop all the questionable loans in southern Europe.

If you want to criticize the EU, do so because it did not spend much time, if any, on the question of dissolution when drafting the articles of incorporation. That's made it easy for one country, in this case Britain, to have a simple yes or no vote on membership, almost sixty years into the experiment on common economic polices.

In retrospect, the EU could have demanded a two-thirds voting majority or a confirmation vote in the European parliament. Or it could have mandated that the exit period take place over ten years or so.

Instead, on June 23rd, Britain votes on the future of Europe, and those holding the keys are, among others, unemployed fisherman on the North Sea coast, where EU membership is a license for Dutch or German trawlers to fish in the local waters.

Ironically, among those most supportive of the EU are London millennials, for whom Europe remains “cool.” The problem with this bloc of voters, according to press reports, is that few of them know when the vote will be held or have registered to cast a ballot (“…whatever. . .”).

In many respects, Leavers are the spiritual heirs of appeasement, the belief by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and others that there was no reason for England to become entangled in European affairs. As he put it when Hitler wanted the Czechoslovak Sudetenland in 1938: “How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas-masks here because of a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing.”

In response, Winston Churchill (never to be confused with the Leavers) scoffed that the British ruling class liked “…to take its weekends in the country while Hitler takes his countries in the weekends.” Alas, Brexit is this generation’s Munich, and with Europe in the midst of the wettest spring in 100 years, there are umbrellas in the air.

Matthew Stevenson, a contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine, is the author, most recently, of Remembering the Twentieth Century Limited, a collection of historical travel essays, and Whistle-Stopping America. His next book, Reading the Rails, will be published in 2016. He lives in Switzerland.

Flickr photo by Paul Loyd: Brexit

California's State Religion

Mon, 06/20/2016 - 06:49

In a state ruled by a former Jesuit, perhaps we should not be shocked to find ourselves in the grip of an incipient state religion. Of course, this religion is not actually Christianity, or even anything close to the dogma of Catholicism, but something that increasingly resembles the former Soviet Union, or present-day Iran and Saudi Arabia, than the supposed world center of free, untrammeled expression.

Two pieces of legislation introduced in the Legislature last session, but not yet enacted, show the power of the new religion. One is Senate Bill 1146, which seeks to limit the historically broad exemptions the state and federal governments have provided religious schools to, well, be religious.

Under the rubric of official “tolerance,” the bill would only allow religiously focused schools to deviate from the secular orthodoxy required at nonreligious schools, including support for transgender bathrooms or limitations on expressions of faith by students and even Christian university presidents, in a much narrower range of educational activity than ever before. Many schools believe the bill would needlessly risk their mission and funding to “solve” gender and social equity problems on their campuses that currently don’t exist.

The second piece of legislation, thankfully temporarily tabled, Senate Bill 1161, the Orwellian-named “California Climate Science Truth and Accountability Act of 2016,” would have dramatically extended the period of time that state officials could prosecute anyone who dared challenge the climate orthodoxy, including statements made decades ago. It would have sought “redress for unfair competition practices committed by entities that have deceived, confused or misled the public on the risks of climate change or financially supported activities that have deceived, confused or misled the public on those risks.”

Although advocates tended to focus on the hated energy companies, the law could conceivably also extend to skeptics who may either reject the prevailing notions of man-made climate change, or might believe that policies concocted to “arrest” the phenomena may be themselves less than cost-effective or even not effective at all. So, fellow Californians, sign onto Gov. Torquemada’s program or face possible prosecution and the fires of hell.

Read the entire piece at The Orange County Register.

Joel Kotkin is executive editor of He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book, The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us, will be published in April by Agate. He is also author of The New Class ConflictThe City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.

Photo: Troy Holden

Bye-Bye Big Apple!

Sat, 06/18/2016 - 06:27

Central Park jogs and carriage rides, Broadway shows, world-class museums and restaurants, the allure of Times Square: these are the things that make downtown New York City so appealing… for tourists. But for those who aren’t just visiting — for the millions who live and work in this bustling, densely populated area — the relationship with the core of the Big Apple can be equal parts love and hate.

New York City life isn’t for everyone, and if you’re among the folks who feel like their dreams of thriving have been reduced to hopes of surviving, take a look at these benefits of moving away from central New York City:

Better Weather — New York City has nice weather… on occasion. Take this past winter: In January, Winter Storm Jonas was the heaviest snowstorm on record in New York City with 27.5 inches of snow, according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. If nothing else, moving out of the city can put you in a better climate. According to How Money Walks, between 2000 and 2010, 600,000 people left NYC for states with better weather, such as Florida, North Carolina and California.

More Transportation Options — Sure, the notion of not needing a car to get around the city seems like a perk. But being subject to the times and route limitations of a mass transit system that is seldom running correctly is no picnic either. Fortune rated Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan first, second and fourth in their worst places for driving, thanks to massive traffic during all hours of the day and nowhere to park. Transporting stuff around town can also be a nightmare. Grocery shopping is limited to how much you can carry into your apartment, which can lead you to more expensive and seamless ways to get meals, like take-out and delivery. Moving out of the city will allow you to enjoy the benefits of driving a car.

Affordable Housing — It’s no secret that New York City is one of the least affordable places to live, and in the heart of the city, astronomical rents for even the tiniest of apartments are the norm. For many, the only way to afford living in NYC is to have multiple roommates and work more than one job. Moving out of the city will open up a whole new world of affordable housing, where terms like 'plenty of space,' 'quiet neighborhood,' and 'convenient and safe location' add a new dimension of quality to your life. Especially for those that are beginning to raise a family with the dream of buying a house or apartment, it’s something to consider. In addition, all of New York state has a high tax burden compared with other states. NYC is trying to combat those leaving the city with government programs such as START-UP NY, which gives new businesses the opportunity to operate tax-free for ten years through partnerships with universities. But taxes, on top of high rents and living expenses like entertainment, groceries and transportation, add up.

Friendlier People — Put over eight million people in a concrete jungle where they need to work hard every day just to make ends meet and you’ve got a recipe for rudeness. The stereotypically blunt, pushy, stubborn New Yorker portrayed in movies is often exaggerated, but the fact remains that people are too busy fighting the crowds and rushing to and from work to take time for social pleasantries. And in a town that never sleeps, where people work all hours of the day, it can be hard to establish real social connections. Moving out of New York City to a less densely populated area where people live at a slightly slower pace won’t guarantee that you’ll meet friendlier people. But it will definitely increase the odds. Plus, you'll have fewer tourists to deal with.

More Opportunities for Recreation — Getting out of the city by car, train, plane or bus can be exhausting. It takes real planning to find a recreational area that’s not too far away or too crowded. Plus, animal lovers will notice that living with a dog outside of NYC is much more doable. NYC has a lot to offer, but for the typical resident, there’s never enough time or money to enjoy it.

Moving away from New York City to a suburb that offers nearby outdoor recreational activities is great for the mind, body and spirit. And once in your new location, you can visit New York and enjoy it in the best way possible — as a tourist.

Cary Teller is an Oregon native with a flair for fashion and organic gardening. She's passionate about writing, and enjoys hiking, reading, cooking, and playing with her rescue pit bull, Mazie.

Flickr photo by Kevin Case: Sixth Avenue in midtown New York City.

Southern California Still Best place to Get Creative

Thu, 06/16/2016 - 22:38

Over the past decade, Southern California has lagged well behind its chief rivals – New York and the Bay Area, as well as the fast-growing cities of the Sun Belt – in everything from job creation to tech growth. Yet, in what the late economist Jack Kyser dubbed “the creative industries,” this region remains an impressive superpower.

By creative industries, we mean not just Hollywood’s film and television complex, which remains foundational, but those serving a host of other lifestyle-oriented activities, from fashion and product design to engineering theme parks, games and food. We may be lagging Silicon Valley in technology and New York in finance or news media, but when it comes to entertaining people, and defining lifestyle, the Southland remains a powerful, even primal, force.

Overall, according to the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., creative industries employ more than 418,000 people in L.A. and Orange counties. This is larger than second-place New York, and more than five times larger than the San Francisco and Seattle regions. Orange County and Los Angeles account for 80 percent of statewide employment in entertainment and fashion. In toys, L.A. and O.C. account for over two-thirds of statewide jobs.

As a whole, visual- and performing-arts providers have done best in percentage terms, growing by 23.8 percent, followed closely by fine arts and performing-arts schools, with 23.2 percent growth. The SoCal creative economy took a big hit during the recession, when overall employment decreased 14.5 percent, compared with 8 percent for all other industries. But recent trends speak to the resiliency of the region’s creative industries. From 2009-14, employment finally began to grow, even as the rest of L.A.’s economy was still shrinking.

As other local industries fade, the creative ones become more important, making up a growing share of the regional economy. New research by Chapman University’s Marshall Toplansky and Nate Kaspi found Orange and Los Angeles counties boast among the highest per capita employment in these creative fields of any major region in the country.

Read the entire piece at The Orange County Register.

Joel Kotkin is executive editor of He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book, The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us, will be published in April by Agate. He is also author of The New Class ConflictThe City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.

Charlie Stephens is a researcher and MBA candidate at Chapman University’s Argyros School of Business and Economics; he is founder of

Dublin Facing Another Housing Bubble?

Wed, 06/15/2016 - 22:38

In a recent column in the Sunday Independent, Ireland's largest weekend newspaper, one of Ireland's leading economists, Colm McCarthy of University College (Dublin) raised the prospect another housing bubble in Dublin, Ireland's leading weekend newspaper. Dublin is the nation's capital and home to approximately 40% of the population. This is a potentially serious concern, given the economic devastation that the previous Dublin housing bubble contributed to across Ireland during 2006-2010.

The Housing and Economic Bust in Ireland

Ireland suffered one of the worst economic reversals of any nation during the Great Financial Crisis. This had been preceded by Ireland's impressive economic advance, which had the nation registering a higher gross domestic product per capita-purchasing power parity (GDP-PPP) than even its former colonial overlord, the United Kingdom. Anyone who had predicted in 1960 that Ireland would be more prosperous than the United Kingdom would have been summarily dismissed.

But the Great Financial Crisis brought an 11.3 percent reduction in GDP-PPP to Ireland between 2006 and 2010. This was nearly double the reduction in the United Kingdom (6.0 percent). The loss was nearly three times the peak to trough decline in the United States (4.0 percent). Unemployment reached above 15 percent and Ireland required bail-out loans totaling €67.5 billion ($75 billion or C$95 billion) from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Happily, however, Ireland has struggled back and now has nearly reached its peak 2006 GDP-PPP. But as in the United States and elsewhere, restoration of previous levels of prosperity at the national level has not made whole many of the individual victims of the downturn (Figure 1).

Urban Containment Policy and Higher House Prices

In a previous Sunday Independent commentary, McCarthy noted asserted  Ireland's land use regulations had been an important contributor to the housing bubble (see: “Urban Containment and the Housing Bubble in Ireland”).

Ireland's planning regulations have been copied and imported from the British Town and Country Planning Act of 1947, which have been largely responsible for the continuing and worsening housing crisis in the United Kingdom. In Ireland, as in the United Kingdom, these regulations deny planning permission to suburban locations. McCarthy attributes the "dysfunctionality of the housing market" in Dublin to such land use restrictions, which are called "urban containment” as well as other terms (such as growth management, smart growth, livability, compact city policy, etc.).

McCarthy notes that the housing shortage in Dublin is not caused by a lack of housing so much as it is by restrictions imposed by planners (planning permission), which slows the pace of home building. This policy environment drives house prices up, which reduces household discretionary incomes and results in a lower standard of living than would have occurred without urban containment.

Urban Growth Boundaries

As elsewhere, Ireland’s urban containment policies seek to minimize the urban footprint (urban land area) by rationing land for housing development, often by urban growth boundaries. Urban growth boundaries come in various forms, such as lines around cities that forbid new urban residential development on the outside, euphemistic "growth areas," usually small and  inadequate, outside of which building is not permitted. This includes the apparent intention very difficult to build new detached housing on the urban fringes in California metropolitan areas, with a strong policy preference for high density, transit oriented development. Urban growth boundaries may be urban containment's "killer app."

The problem is that restricting the supply of any good or service (such as land for housing) leads to higher prices as demand swamps supply (other things being equal). A similar relationship between supply restrictions and higher prices can be seen in the fluctuating price of oil, based especially on OPEC production decisions, the large increases in banana prices in Australia, when periodic cyclones produce shortates by devastating crops.

Urban growth boundaries and related land rationing strategies are associated with huge price differentials between land that may or may not be developed. In Auckland and Portland, virtual “across the street” land values vary on average by 10 or more times at the urban growth boundary. In the United Kingdom, differences of hundreds of times have been cited in the UK by London School of Economics researchers Paul Cheshire, Max Nathan and Henry Overman. The impact of urban growth boundaries on land within a metropolitan area is illustrated in Figure 2. The theoretical economic relationship is that land prices are forced higher within the urban growth boundary, while declining to the outside, where development is severely restricted (other things being equal, with the assumption that the urban growth boundary is “binding,” or strongly enforced).

Not surprisingly, urban growth boundaries are the most common feature of the severely unaffordable housing markets (where the median multiple exceeds 5,0) in the 12 annual editions of the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey.

The Next Housing Bubble?

McCarthy details rising land and house prices in the Dublin area that have largely driven first time home buyers out of the Dublin area. Many are being forced to buy housing that is affordable 70 to 80 kilometers (35 to 40 miles) away. This requires “a daily commute of up to two hours through the vacant countryside. “McCarthy refers to the "huge rolling prairies of land that can be found north and west of the ring road” (The M-50 belt route) on which new housing could be built as close as 10 to 12 km from the city center (6 to 7 miles).

The locations McCarthy refers to could easily shelter households in less expensive housing, without the necessity of long commutes, producing, ironically, perhaps  less of the dreaded “sprawl”.

Not surprisingly, rents in Dublin are now reported to be higher than at the peak of the property bubble. Further, the problem is spreading to other parts of the country. In Cork, with its burgeoning information technology growth, with firms like Apple and Pay Pal, there are concerns that the shortage of housing could limit further business expansion.

Needed Reform

A Dublin and an Ireland interested in not repeating the devastating economics of a decade ago would be wise to heed economist McCarthy's advice. He calls for cheaper housing, which requires “the zoning for residential development of the very large volume of derelict and undeveloped land in the Dublin area.” Ireland’s middle-class needs more jobs, but it also needs lower house prices to maintain its affluence.

Photograph: Dublin by Barcex (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international pubilc policy and demographics firm. He is a Senior Fellow of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism (US), Senior Fellow for Housing Affordability and Municipal Policy for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (Canada), and a member of the Board of Advisors of the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University (California). He is co-author of the "Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey" and author of "Demographia World Urban Areas" and "War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life." He was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, where he served with the leading city and county leadership as the only non-elected member. He served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, a national university in Paris.

Health and Class

Tue, 06/14/2016 - 22:38

Late last year, economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science documenting the rising morbidity and mortality in mid-life white men and women in America, especially for those with a high school degree or less.  They attributed this increase, a reversal of historic trends, to an epidemic of alcoholism, other drug use disorders, and suicide. Their findings are a wake up call for the US. Not only is something seriously wrong — it’s getting worse.

As a community psychiatrist (that is, one who works in the community providing publicly funded care) in Pittsburgh, I was not at all shocked to read the paper and the several others that followed and found essentially the same thing.  Working both in inner city black Pittsburgh and the more racially mixed Mon Valley, the primary site of Pittsburgh’s once vaunted steel mills, I have seen twenty years of increasing psychiatric burden and disability with what seemed to be a marked increase in mortality — all linked to increasingly fragmented, chaotic families, extraordinary work instability, trauma, violence, and alcohol and substance use.  While human services and health care were clearly in the picture in the lives of many (health care increasingly so with the Affordable Care Act), other critical institutions — steady work, solid education, high qualify day care, stable housing, organized communities – seemed to be less present, casualties of deindustrialization and neighborhood decline.  With the economic collapse of 2008 and the rise of the opiate epidemic, conditions have felt like they are in free fall, with tattered individuals and the remnants of families struggling to hang on.

My day-to-day job is to do what I can to help people find ways to overcome their distress and rediscover their capacities and capabilities to find a way forward. Of course, I don’t do this alone. It requires a team effort to help suffering people recover and manage their illnesses and organize the resources they need to put a life together.  We have some resources to do this, such as the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid in Pennsylvania.  But still the observation of Julian Tudor Hart, a renowned British physician working among the miners in Wales, rings true: the people with the greatest need generally have the least access to resources. Hart called this the “Inverse Care Law.”

For a long time and to this day, this has been the American approach to health care, though the ACA does a bit to address it.  Given this, some Americans may assume that the recent increase in mortality among white folks reflects a lack of access to needed care.

The work of two other Brits, Thomas McKeown and Michael Marmot reveals the inadequacy of this belief.  McKeown made the trenchant observation that it wasn’t health care that made people healthy, but rather the conditions in which they lived. Marmot pressed this observation and, in a series of famous studies of civil servants in the British Government, found that health status was tied in a step-wise fashion with class.  Poor working-class people had worse health then their middle-class colleagues who in turn were less healthy than the highly paid executives.  These findings created a fire storm around the world, but some thirty years later, the idea has finally begun to find its way to the US in the form a focus on the “social determinants of health.” Where people live, their income, the resources available to them, the web of social relationships they experience, all come under this rubric. Health isn’t just about people’s lifestyle — whether they smoke or drink — or about their access to health care. It is fundamentally about the kinds of lives people live and how they are socially structured. Health is profoundly ecological– it reflects the social habitat and physical environment people live in.

This new focus permits us to say that what’s happening to the health and well-being of poor white folks is clear evidence that the life worlds and social circumstances of their lives are falling apart.  Their social habitat is strained, and the strain is showing up in a looming body count.

We could do more to make it easier for people to access the resources they need beyond health care and by tapping into their capabilities and capacities to find ways to flourish.  Steps in this direction include concepts like the “medical home”, an expanded version of accessible team- based primary health care that focuses on people’s well-being over the life course, providing preventive and clinical services, promoting health and connecting people to the resources needed for healthy living. In psychiatry, the recognition that people with psychiatric challenges have untapped capacities to recover — to find meaningful ways to live — is reshaping clinical approaches so they connect with and build on those capabilities. These innovations are all good, but they are woefully insufficient given the scale and scope of what the nation faces.

To achieve what we need to achieve, our society needs to move the conversation about health and well-being upstream, away from a focus on health care alone, and link health and health care with general social policy.  The moves towards “the social determinants and processes of health,” “health in all policy,” “population health,” and “health impact assessments,” backed by a politics of social inclusion, are the ways forward to achieve health and social equity.

The country we create determines the patterns of life and death of the people who live here. It’s not a job just for doctors and other health care providers. We are all stewards of the health of the people of this country. Increasing numbers of people won’t thrive and will die young until we fully embrace this responsibility.

This piece first appeared in Working Class Perspectives.

Kenneth S. Thompson MD is a public service community psychiatrist in Pittsburgh whose career has been focused on improving psychiatric care and achieving health equity.

Ambulance photo CC BY-SA 2.5,

What Happens When There’s Nobody Left to Move to the City?

Mon, 06/13/2016 - 22:38

Following up on the Pew study that found many states will face declining work age populations in the future, I want to highlight a recent Atlantic article called “The Graying of Rural America.” It’s a profile of the small Oregon town of Fossil, which is slowly dying as the young people leave and a rump population of older people – median age 56 – begin to pass on.

Like the Pew study, this one has implications that weren’t fully traced out.

There’s a lot of urban triumphalism these days, as cities crow about Millennials wanting to live downtown and such.

But the dirty little secret is that a lot of these places have been growing their youth populations by hoovering up the children of their hinterlands. To the extent that urban population growth is dependent on intrastate migration in these states with declining working age populations, at some point there are just plain going to be a lot fewer youngster to move to the big city. That will start to crimp urban population dynamics.

Indianapolis is a poster-child for this.  About 95% of the metro area’s net migration has come from elsewhere in the state of Indiana since 2000, according to IRS tax return data.

Looking at the future, about half of the states counties (49 out of 92) are projected to actually lose population by 2050. Here’s the map from the Indiana Business Research Center.

Projected population change in Indiana counties, 2010-2050. Source: Indiana Business Research Center

The entire state is only projected to add 100,000 15-44 year olds by 2050. Even if 100% of them, or even more than 100% of them, are in Indianapolis, this still implies a fairly modest growth rate.

Given the projected demographics of its migration shed, we should expect Indianapolis to start seeing a falloff in migration. In fact, we are already seeing it. Indy was previously the Midwest champ in net domestic in-migration, but recent Census Bureau estimates show a fall-off.

Here’s what the IRS migration data says about net migration into Indy metro from the rest of the state.

Net migration into metro Indianapolis from the rest of the state, 1991-2014. Source: Aaron Renn analysis of IRS county to county migration data

There was a spike up starting around 1997, the dawn of the dotcom era. This more or less corresponded with the rise of the city talk. (Richard Florida’s Rise of the Creative Class came out in 2002).

During the 2000s, Indianapolis was the Midwest growth champ, and killed it on net domestic migration. This graph helps explain why.

But starting around 2010, inbound migration from the rest of the state has fallen off. I don’t want to claim this is entirely demographic related. Migration declined nationally during the Great Recession. And there were some methodology tweaks in this data during that time. But we can see already in the numbers what happens to metro growth if migration from the rest of the state slows down.

At some point, the decline of rural and small manufacturing counties is going to have to show up in the migration numbers to cities like Indy. Other cities that draw primarily from a national base – like Nashville or Dallas – will be less affected.

But cities that are dependent on a regional migration shed need to start doing the math on how the decline of their hinterlands will affect them.

The collapse of rural and small manufacturing economies may have been good for cities in the short term, but those cities might discover down the road that they ended up eating their seed corn.

Aaron M. Renn is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal, and an economic development columnist for Governing magazine. He focuses on ways to help America’s cities thrive in an ever more complex, competitive, globalized, and diverse twenty-first century. During Renn’s 15-year career in management and technology consulting, he was a partner at Accenture and held several technology strategy roles and directed multimillion-dollar global technology implementations. He has contributed to The Guardian,, and numerous other publications. Renn holds a B.S. from Indiana University, where he coauthored an early social-networking platform in 1991.

It Could Have Been Huge

Sun, 06/12/2016 - 22:38

With Bernie Sanders now dispatched by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party machine, Donald Trump has emerged as the unlikely populist standard-bearer. Not since the patrician Julius Caesar rallied the Roman plebeians, or the aristocratic Franklin Roosevelt spoke for the “forgotten man,” has someone so detached from everyday struggles won over such a large part of the working and middle classes.

Crass, superficial and materialistic to a fault, Trump, sadly, shares little of the virtues of either Caesar or Roosevelt, more resembling another creepy billionaire, the former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. Yet, like his wealthy political counterparts, Trump has crafted a message, however crude, that has demolished the Republican corporate establishment and turned conservative intellectuals into virtual irrelevancies.

The great tragedy for Trump is that the basis for a grass-roots-led Republican victory lay within his grasp. He could have been, like Ronald Reagan in 1980, the instrument of populist revolt had he shown the same wit, self-control and positive eloquence. Instead, his crudity, his barely disguised racial stereotyping and his obsession with himself has taken from the GOP, at least for this election cycle, the possibility of reaping an enormous windfall from the widespread alienation of the populace from the political and economic ruling class.

Race and Immigration

Racially tinged issues, notably immigration, propelled Trump’s rise. This reflects the sad reality that race relations in this country have been headed in the wrong direction the past several years. His opposition to illegal immigration – including his absurd, shock-jock-style advocacy of a southern border wall – resonates with a large part of the Anglo population, some African Americans and even some Latinos, a group whose mass desertion from the party may now seal its demise.

If negotiated with grace and some sensitivity, illegal immigration could have proven a winning issue this fall, as it was in the spring. The killing of Kate Steinle in San Francisco by an illegal immigrant felon, who was protected by that city’s “sanctuary” status, followed by terrorist massacres in Paris and San Bernardino, all played into this theme. Recent revelations about higher-than-reported criminal recidivism among undocumented felons aid the Trump cause.

Read the entire piece at The Orange County Register.

Joel Kotkin is executive editor of He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book, The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us, will be published in April by Agate. He is also author of The New Class ConflictThe City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.

Photo by Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The End of Job Growth

Fri, 06/10/2016 - 22:38

Pew Charitable Trusts recently posted an analysis of population projections that show several states with stagnant to declining workforces.

This means that for nearly 20 states, it’s basically impossible to add jobs in the future. How can you add more jobs with fewer workers?

That doesn’t mean there won’t be cyclical ups or downs or that some slack in the system might be taken up with some growth, but overall, stagnation to decline in jobs is going to follow.

Pew’s article mentions states fighting to retain a high skill labor force, but this doesn’t seem very likely. Most of these places are in the north and northeast and have been stagnant for a long time.

What’s going to change the migration of population to the South and West? While change is always possible, it’s not obvious what might cause it.

Cities and states need to think hard about what this means for them. It seems to me is that one effect will be to fuel intrastate divergence, as success pools into islands in an era of overall shrinkage. You can argue we’re already seeing this.

For most localities who aren’t among the favored winners, the reality is that they need to do what I advocated for Buffalo, and find a new psychology of civic improvement that isn’t rooted in growth – in population, jobs, or building stock. (I should add, Buffalo is in a far better position than most and could enjoy a relatively bright future – but it probably won’t be a big growth story)

This won’t be easy.

One of the great assumptions of the American worldview is the equating growth with success in our communities. Communities that are adding people, adding jobs, building new things, etc. are seen to be succeeding, whereas shrinking or stagnant ones must be failing.

Everybody believes this. Even those who talk about “growth without growth” or tout increasing per capita income as the real measure of economic development invariably tout growth if there’s a figure that shows it.

Lots of urbanists like to pooh-pooh Texas growth, but when 60,000 people move into downtown Chicago, or transit ridership soars in New York, or tech jobs explode in the Bay Area, they immediately tout and trumpet those figures as signs of success.

And good for them. The point is that we all view growth as the measure of success.

What would a new psychology look like?

One example would be the boutique model. Rather than trying to be bigger, you become more exclusive. This isn’t a model that’s applicable to these stagnant places however.

More realistically, these places need to focus on healing from or managing their problems (including managing decline in some places like rural communities).  Some areas of focus:

  • Pension and debt issues
  • Environmental remediation
  • Segregation
  • Raising educational attainment (to high school at least), even if that means the people subsequently leave
  • Infrastructure
  • Restructuring core services to be sustainable

Not easy, and realistically requiring outside financial and technical assistance.

What’s more, this is a to do list, not a psychology of success. How can one begin to articulate a positive, affirmational view of a place’s future that captures some program like this?

Perhaps there are other ways to think about this too. Please share thoughts in the comments if you have them.

The key is that with a shrinking working age population, there’s little prospect of job growth. So any governor in one of these places who has that as a long term economic objective is bound to be frustrated. This is a reality that will have to be faced.

Aaron M. Renn is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal, and an economic development columnist for Governing magazine. He focuses on ways to help America’s cities thrive in an ever more complex, competitive, globalized, and diverse twenty-first century. During Renn’s 15-year career in management and technology consulting, he was a partner at Accenture and held several technology strategy roles and directed multimillion-dollar global technology implementations. He has contributed to The Guardian,, and numerous other publications. Renn holds a B.S. from Indiana University, where he coauthored an early social-networking platform in 1991.

Top map image via Pew Stateline

The Evolving Urban Form: Detroit

Thu, 06/09/2016 - 22:38

Probably no city in the high income world evokes impressions of urban decline more than Detroit --- and for good reason. The core city of Detroit has lost more of its population than any developed world city of more than 500,000 since 1950. The city's population peaked at 1,850,000 residents in 1950 and at its decline rate since 2010 could drop below 650,000 residents by 2020 census.

It was not always this way. During the first half of the 20th century Detroit was one of the fastest-growing core cities in the United States. Among the 20 largest core cities in 1950, only Los Angeles grew faster, percentage wise, than Detroit. The city of Los Angeles grew from 102,000 in 1900 to 1,970,000 in 1950. The city of Detroit almost matched that, growing from 286,000 to 1,850,000.

The city's nearly 1.6 million population increase exceeded that of all other US municipalities except Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, which grew at an unprecedented pace over the period, adding more than 4.5 million residents.

The current defined area of the Detroit metropolitan area grew by 1950 to nearly 6 times its 1900 population, to 3,170,000 from 530,000. The growth of the metropolitan area from 1900 to 1940 closely tracked that of the fast growing Los Angeles metropolitan area, which widened its lead substantially through the end of the century (Figure 1). The Los Angeles area, which was only slightly larger than the Detroit area in 1940 reached a population of more than three times that of Detroit by 2010

The city of Detroit began to lose population after 1950. It lost 180,000 people between 1950 and 1960 and   approximately 155,000 between 1960 and 1970. The 1970s were a particularly bad time for the many large core cities, and Detroit lost more than 300,000 people, or 20% of its population by 1980. But if Detroit was exceptional, it was not alone; virtually all large US core cities that did not annex territory between 1950 and 1980 lost population.

In fact, Detroit's loss was not even the worst. During the 1970s, the city of St. Louis lost 27% of its population, dropping to little more than half its 1950 size, from 857,000 to 452,000. At this point and through 2010, St. Louis had the less than enviable record of the largest population loss for a major high income world municipality. As of 2010, the city of St. Louis had lost 62.8% of its population, more than the city of Detroit's 61.6% (Figure 2).

But things were about to change. Between 2010 and 2015 the decline rate in both cities was moderated. But city of Detroit's loss was large enough to wrest away the title for the largest decline from the city of St. Louis. According to the US Census Bureau's 2015 estimates, Detroit has lost 63.3% of its population since 1950 while St. Louis lost somewhat less, at 63.1%.

Having spent considerable time in both cities, however, one does not get the same sense of urban devastation in St. Louis as in Detroit. The urban decline of city of St. Louis has been far more graceful than the city of Detroit. A long-time Detroit and St. Louis resident and commentator writing in the St. Louis Beaconcalled the differences “quite striking,” noting that Detroit’s devastation was far wider spread and that neighborhoods continue to thrive in large parts of the city of St. Louis.

Obviously, Detroit has faced huge challenges and probably greater challenges than St. Louis or the Rust Belt cities of Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Buffalo. Indeed, one of Pittsburgh's strengths is its strong civic community downtown, with its large banks, its still strong neighborhoods and striking physical location. One of Detroit's banks moved its headquarters to Dallas.

Figure 3 graphically illustrates the population trends in the Detroit metropolitan area since 1950. The city of Detroit's massive loss is indicated by the first bar for each year. But despite the city's losses between 1950 and 1970, totaling more than 340,000 residents, the balance of Wayne county (of which Detroit is the county seat) nearly doubled in population, from 585,000 to 1,150,000. However, since that time, suburban Wayne County (outside the city of Detroit) has stagnated downward to 1,088,000 residents (Figure 3).

The other suburban counties have done far better. The largest of these are Oakland County to the northwest of the city and Macomb County, which is straight north from downtown. Since 1950, Oakland County has grown from 400,000 residents to nearly 1.25 million in 2015. Macomb County, famous for the “Reagan Democrat” blue-collar worker vote, grew from 190,000 in 1950 to 860,000 in 2015. The smaller counties of Lapeer, Livingston and St. Clair also expanded strongly. Overall, the suburbs outside Wayne County grew by 240%, from 735,000 in 1950 to more than 2.5 million in 2015.

Early on, the metropolitan area continued to add people strongly. Between 1950 and 1970, the metropolitan population rose by 40%, to more than 4.3 million. The population dropped in both the 1980 and 1990 censuses. But in 2000, a new peak of 4.45 million was reached. The metropolitan area losses resumed with lower figures indicated for the 2010 census and in the 2015 estimates (4.275 million). The "ups and downs" of the metropolitan population are illustrated in Figure 4.

Given my own experience, the decline of Detroit is particularly surprising. As a consultant to Oakland County Executive Daniel T. Murphy between 1985 and 1990, I had the pleasure of witnessing firsthand cooperative efforts between the suburban leadership and the city of Detroit (under then Mayor Coleman Young) on transportation issues. Murphy and Young had established a regional cooperative process referred to as the "Big Four" along with Wayne County Executive Bill Lucas and then Wayne County Executive Edward H McNamara (and current Detroit mayor Mike Duggan, who was Deputy County Executive), along with the leadership of the Macomb County Commission. It was clear to me that there was a very real commitment on the part of all four to deal with the pressing problems of the area.

The good news is that there are signs of a turnaround in Detroit. I doubt we will ever see Detroit return to a its peak population of 1.85 million or even 1 million. Even the lower figure would require a reversal unprecedented in developed world urban history, made far more unlikely by the slow population growth of the Upper Midwest and laggard fertility rates nationally. (Note). But, for the first time in decades, there are signs of hope out of the city and its leadership. Good luck, city of Detroit and Mayor Duggan.

Note: See Wendell Cox, “International Shrinking Cities, Analysis, Classification and Prospects,” in Harry W. Richardson and Chang Woon Nam, Shrinking Cities: A Global PerspectiveRoutledge, 2014.

Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international pubilc policy and demographics firm. He is a Senior Fellow of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism (US), Senior Fellow for Housing Affordability and Municipal Policy for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (Canada), and a member of the Board of Advisors of the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University (California). He is co-author of the "Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey" and author of "Demographia World Urban Areas" and "War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life." He was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, where he served with the leading city and county leadership as the only non-elected member. He served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, a national university in Paris.

Photo: downtown Detroit

The Cruel Information Economy: The U.S. Cities Winning In This Critical Sector

Wed, 06/08/2016 - 22:38

Arguably the most critical industry in the new economy, information is also often the cruelest. It is the ultimate disruptor of jobs and growth, blessing some regional economies but leaving most in the dust. Overall, the sector accounts for almost 3 million jobs, but it has only added a paltry net 70,000 jobs over the last five years. The overall numbers mask a loss of about 200,000 jobs in newspapers, book publishing, broadcasting and telecommunications, while employment in software publishing, data processing and other tech-driven information jobs has expanded by a modest 240,000 jobs (manufacturing, by comparison, has produced three times that amount in the same period).

Our rankings for the best cities for information jobs are perhaps the most skewed of any occupational category. With more traditional industries like business services, hospitality and construction, employment tends to rise across all the country’s metropolitan areas, if not at the same pace everywhere. In the case of the information sector, the vast majority of the metropolitan statistical areas for which we have data have lost information jobs since 2010 (204 out of 336 MSAs).

Yet there are clear winners in the information sweepstakes, with a handful of metro areas that have seized the initiative in the field and run with it.

Information, particularly its media segment, has shown a strong proclivity to concentrate in a handful of places. Whether it’s a matter of where venture funds are concentrated, or that cross-fertilization and creative flair are driving this, it’s hard to say. But in the emerging digital economy, notes a recent Neiman study, clusters industries in the places where creators of content live. For the most part, as of yet, blue collar metro areas need not apply.

Info-Age Winners

Our rankings are based on employment growth in the sector over the short-, medium- and long-term, going back to 2005, and factor in momentum — whether growth is slowing or accelerating. (For a detailed description of our methodology, click here.)

At the top of our list of the largest metropolitan statistical areas, not surprisingly, is San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco. Since 2010, led by the growth of such companies as Twitter, Facebook and, the metro area’s information employment has expanded 62% to 61,000 jobs. The pace of growth is slowing, to 6.85% last year, but still very healthy.

Right behind San Francisco is the larger information-based economy of its neighbor Silicon Valley. The San Jose metro area, home to such information economy titans as Google and Netflix, has 76,000 information jobs, up a none-too-shabby 57.4% since 2010; last year its 9.3% job growth rate outstripped even San Francisco. Together these two areas have emerged as the superstars of the information age, and no other large metro is really close in terms of growth.

Yet the information boom has other epicenters that have emerged over the past decade. Among the large metro areas, Seattle-Bellevue-Everett ranks seventh on our list. It boasts 98,000 information jobs, third most in the country behind much larger New York and Los Angeles. Since 2010 the Puget Sound powerhouse, home to Microsoft, Amazon and a host of start-ups, has seen its information employment expand a healthy 15.3%.

Seattle’s little brother, Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, Ore., ranks eighth. Since 2010 Portland’s information employment has grown over 12% to 25,500 workers.

Among the very largest of our metro areas, New York has managed fairly impressive growth in its media-dominated information sector, with employment expanding 12.1% since 2010 to 191,000 workers, second in total numbers, and with no sign of growth flagging.

It’s doing much better than the Big Apple’s two traditional rivals, Chicago and Los Angeles. The Windy City and its environs have expanded information employment by 5% since 2010 to with 73,100 jobs, placing it 19th. Los Angeles follows in 20th place. L.A. is home to the largest information sector in the U.S., with 203,800 workers, but despite its well-established base, much of it in entertainment, it has managed only 3.5% growth since 2010.

Will Information Jobs Head To The Sun Belt?

The growth of information employment in large, dense and expensive urban areas, notably New York and San Francisco, has been widely celebrated by advocates of traditional cities. Yet this same pattern also developed in the last tech bubble in the late 1990s, and then reversed as companies collapsed, and many of the survivors moved operations to less expensive regions.

Could we see a repeat now? High housing costs are putting homeownership out of reach even for fairly affluent families in San Francisco and New York. Already some tech workers are relocating to lower-cost areas. Many more may do so in the future, suggests a recent Beacon Economics study, or resign themselves to being permanent renters.

This year’s list may show some of the places both tech and information jobs may be headed in the next few years. The clear rising star is Phoenix, which ranks third. The desert city’s information workforce has expanded by 39.29% since 2010, the third highest increase of any metropolitan area, just behind the Bay Area twins. In recent years a growing list of Bay Area firms have expanded into the Valley of the Sun, including DoubleDutch, Gainsight, Uber, Prosper Marketplace, Yelp, Weebly, BoomTown and Shutterfly. Silicon Valley Bank set up shop there five years ago as well.

Other lower-cost locales are also doing well on our big metro list, including No. 4 Raleigh, N.C., No. 5 Austin-Round Rock, Texas,  and No. 10 Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. All have enjoyed double-digit information job growth since 2010.

Although information jobs tend to concentrate in bigger metros, there are several smaller metro areas that appear to be on the cusp of becoming key hubs for the industry. The fastest growth over the past five years has been in Provo-Orem, Utah, where information employment has expanded 43.8% to 11,400 jobs. Other fast-rising smaller stars include Flagstaff, Ariz.,  Durham-Chapel Hill, N.C.,  Madison, Wisc., Bend-Redmond, Ore., and Portsmouth, N.H. All these metro areas have enjoyed information job growth of 20% or more since 2010, albeit off small bases.

The Likely Future of Information Growth

Clearly information jobs cluster, although they do so in varied kinds of environments. To be sure, the biggest players likely will continue to be in the largest cities, notably in the Bay Area, New York, Seattle and, as long as Hollywood stays strong, Southern California as well. But the high prices in these areas seem to be leading to growth in a host of second-tier cities spread from Florida to Arizona, where tech workers can enjoy a combination of lower home costs and at least some urban amenities.

Similarly, while most smaller cities may never become information hubs, some clearly will. For the most part these will be either university towns such as Chapel Hill (home to the University of North Carolina), Provo-Orem (Brigham Young) and Madison (University of Wisconsin). Other will be located in amenity-rich, scenic areas like Flagstaff and Bend, Ore., where outdoor-oriented tech workers may find a way to work remotely from the big city hubs.

But under any foreseeable future, it’s unlikely that information job growth will be strong enough to help in a measurable way the fortunes of most communities. Traditional advantages in terms of taxes, location on rivers or the ocean, or access to cheap energy is simply not enough to lure these jobs to a wide array of locales. Information may be a stellar force in some areas, but it has very picky tastes that preclude it from being as transformative in job creation as it is in our daily lives.

This piece first appeared at Forbes.

Joel Kotkin is executive editor of He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book, The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us, will be published in April by Agate. He is also author of The New Class ConflictThe City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.

Michael Shires, Ph.D. is a professor at Pepperdine University School of Public Policy.

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