Posting in Cities
A social demographer and urban historian explains in his new book how unprecedented growth will change our country in the next 40 years.
In Joel Kotkin’s new book, The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050, he explores how the United States will evolve in the next four decades. Kotkin, a social demographer and urban historian, explains in the book how this unprecedented growth will allow America to emerge by mid-century as the most affluent, culturally rich, and successful nation in history. I recently talked to Kotkin about the year 2050.
The “next 100 million.” How did you figure out this number?
That’s just Census projections. It’s really a conservative number. Could you get a much lower population projection? Yes, if you stopped immigration and if you had a 30-year recession. But I don’t think we'll have a 30-year recession, and I don’t think immigration will end.
How will this added population change the demographic make-up of our country?
We’ll be relatively younger, and we’ll have an expanding workforce. The country will probably be 40 to 50 percent nonwhite. That’s a huge change from 2000. Geographically, I think you’ll see a resurgence in some of the Great Plains states and some growth in more rural areas—like Des Moines, Fargo and Sioux Falls.
You say a large percentage of this new population will live in greenurbia. Explain that.
Greenurbia is the suburbs of the future. The suburbs of the 1950s were bedroom communities for people who commuted into the city. Today, there’s much more employment in the suburbs, and the big change is the number of people working full-time or part-time at home. Having people commute from one computer screen to another doesn’t make sense.
What will happen to our cities?
The central cities will be one of the many poles of a region--perhaps the most important one but not the only one. When I went to U.C. Berkley, San Francisco was the center of the Bay Area, without question. Whereas today it’s still a center, but Silicon Valley is the economic center. You’re seeing that transition in most American metropolitan areas. These business centers are also starting to develop their own downtowns. For instance, 30 or 40 years ago, Orange County was a suburb of L.A., and you drove to L.A. to see a play or go shopping. Now, Orange County has its own restaurants, shopping, its own ball team. So the central cities will emerge as a niche. Ten to 20 percent of the population will live there--it’ll be recent immigrants, young people, the very wealthy and those who serve the very wealthy.
Telecommunications, marketing, online companies, and businesses that serve local areas. Since more people will be working at home or close to home, they’ll be doing more in their local areas--whether it’s a restaurant, dance studio or local construction company. You’ll also see growth in the medical field and in international business.
So are we moving back to mom and pop stores?
Yes, but not to the early 20th century mom and pop. It’ll go back to 18th or 17th century where many businesses were run out of people’s homes. If you look back at old paintings, you see businesses downstairs and people living upstairs.
What inspired this book?
When we hit the 300 million mark, I was interested in where we’re going from here. The trends had become more pronounced. I was looking into the history of cultures that are losing population and aging rapidly. I didn’t sit in an office in Washington and read policy briefings. When I’m in Washington, I’m depressed. It’s divorced from reality. Inspiration for optimism and adaptability come from being out in the country. I spent time in the Southeast, the Rocky Mountains, the West Coast, the Midwest, just talking to people. I got the sense that what people want is not as much of a chasm as what is often associated with the country. The polarization of politics is much greater among the chattering classes than among the people in general. What people want is pretty simple--a better life for themselves and their kids.
Feb 28, 2010
Starting with the fact we do not need a 30 year recession to lower the population of the US. Minus immigration we were already losing population prior to 2008 because of low birth rates among US citizens. If you subtract just illegal immigration we still had negative population growth in 2008. I just want to point out that the US had one form or another of legal immigration for over 200 years and the country managed to survive and thrive. Various branches of my family immigrated to the US over a 150 year span starting in the late 1700s when one individual came over listed only as cargo. He was an indentured servant. Why do people think we have to allow illegal immigration to survive as a nation?
I plan on reading the book. It is the first I have seen, as an urban planner, that really addresses the reality of the cities that exist on the fringe. In Canada, few of these cities are truly suburban (bedroom communities) but are instead part of a conurbation - a situation that exists when distinct cities grow into each other. These cities have employment and always have - it tends to be industrial or more recently, big box commercial on industrial lands, rather than finance, insurance, real estate and services. Many urban planners dismiss these areas by either simply labeling them as evil or as 'something we can do nothing about.' (Even though so many of them choose single family houses themselves.) These areas simply need to be retrofitted. Sidewalks where there aren't any, some density around smaller commercial centres and strips, encouragement of secondary suites where appropriate, better local transit (instead of expensive high end transit linking local nodes to regional nodes), and improved energy efficiency through retrofits. And more employers who acknowledge that you can speak to your employees via phone if you need to; they do not need to be in the office everyday.
As a 55 year old I think the biggest problem we face in the near future is that us baby boomers are going to retire. For most all of us this will mean that will become government benefit collectors at the same time that we cease being tax payers. Leaving obvious question , who will pay the taxes. This is why an increase of one or two hundred million immigrants is welcome in my view. The drawback I fear is that we can almost depend on government to screw it up. I predict that for the usual political reasons they will do things like pit us against each other racially the way they have been for decades (neither major party being exempt form that one). Another one we can depend on is that they will get the new people dependant on government handouts ,the result being that will end up collecting more than they pay in . And the list goes on and on . Yes this will be another great idea destroyed by government.
I have not read the book but plan to. It sound interesting. According to a 2006 report on the Fertility of American Women (most recent available or that I found) Women 40 to 44 who will end their childbearing will have, on average, 1.9 children, a number below replacement level. However, Hispanic women will average 2.3 children, higher than that of White, Black or Asian women. The report goes on to say, "Overall, women 15 to 44 years old in June 2006 had an average of 1,169 births per 1,000 women. Hispanic women aged 15 to 44 had the highest number of children ever born (1,435 per 1,000 women), compared with non-Hispanic White women, who had 1,091 children ever born per 1,000 women; Black women, who had 1,288 children ever born per 1,000 women; and Asian women, who had 992 children ever born per 1,000 women." Given that the Hispanic population is the youngest group (fact - just look at census data) and most "fertile", stands to reason why some of the assumptions around the rapid growth by 2050 will occur. We are already seeing minority-majority states in Texas and California. Other states will be following closely. I don't envision that less white will necessarily translate to mean non-existent, but the tide is turning and we have to prepare for the consequences, both good and bad.
Demographics are numbers, but as in this case can be interpreted in many ways. First of all the US birthrate is at 1.68. That is below replacement level. FACT check it out. Combine this with illegal immegration and we are at 2.1. Just barely replacement level. The population is increasing though. Why? We are living longer. I do not know how this will play out in 2050 and NO ONE does. A lot can happen in 40 years. On the other hand, we can know that those who are no longer producing are not ofset by those who are producing in the present and into the future by at least one generation. This cannot be changed by politics or any other means available to us. These demographics are not reversable. We cannot create a generation of producing citizens out of thin air. This aspect is not even glanced at in the authors projections. " if you stopped immigration and if you had a 30-year recession. But I don?t think we?ll have a 30-year recession, and I don?t think immigration will end." A lot can happen in 40 years, but a lot has happened in the last 40 years that has placed us in the demographic crisis that is upon us. We do not have an overpopulation problem, we have a demographic problem and it will affect us all over the next 40 years or until we are that mound of dirt in front of a stone.
Wow it's nice to read all this optimism, we are short of it these days. However I think it would be even better if population growth slowed down more dramatically. By what means do you think it's going to become a younger country? The trend of living longer is probably not going to end.
jwlthe4th: I don't think a lot of concern was placed on the baby boomer group, given that 40 years from now, most of us will be nothing more than a mound in front of a stone, or some ashes blowing in the wind. I'm borderline on the last of the BB gen, and I'd be pushing 90 in 2050. Most simply won't live long enough to matter in the stats of the time.
Probably, for having an " accurate speculation " we would need to know allot and to create the "accurate speculation " we would need to have a team of many members to analyze every possibility that might happen in the next 40 years. Indeed there are allot of things worrying most of the people on earth such as : Global Warmth, Environment Destruction, Lack of Energy Resources, Depletion of Drinking Water. But probably, we might find a solution for each problem and we might even apply each solution for each problem, probably.
A lot of speculation went into the opinions in this article. One thing seems clear, demographics are changing, but are they changing to what the author envisions? The US birthrate has been below replacement level for decades. The flood of illegal immigration has been the only factor in keeping us close to replacement level. The speculation that the US demographics will shift away from a white majoity are evident to see. The problem is the increasing life expectancy and a retiring baby boom that is upon us. I dont see any mention of this in the optimism this Berkley-centric opinion piece conveys. I find it quite revealing that his projections ignore this.