Demographics

America's (Sub)Urban Future

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Cities today have more political clout than at any time in a half century. Not only does an urbanite blessed by the Chicago machine sit in the White House, but Congress is now dominated by Democratic politicians hailing from either cities or inner-ring suburbs.

Perhaps because of this representation, some are calling for the administration and Congress to "bail out" urban America. Yet there's grave danger in heeding this call. Hope that "the urban president" will solve inner-city problems could end up diverting cities from the kind of radical reforms necessary to thrive in the coming decades.

Demographics and economics make self-help a necessity.  read more »

How Austin’s Rise Became a Tale of Two Cities

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Austin has enjoyed healthy growth during its 150-year history. As a rule of thumb, its population doubles every 20 years, and has done so since it was founded. It continues to grow at a healthy clip: from a population of 345,000 in 1980 to 656,000 in 2000; the Census Bureau estimates it had nearly 750,000 residents in 2008.

But if the city of Austin has grown briskly, its suburbs have exploded. Williamson County to its north was the sixth fastest-growing county in the United States between July 1, 2007 and July 1, 2008. Hays County to the south was the tenth.  read more »

New Towns and New Lives in the Country

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Back in the 1950s when I was growing up, pundits worried a lot about automation and the problem of leisure in a post-industrial society. What were the American people going to do once machinery had relieved them of the daily burden of routine labor? Would they paint pictures and write poetry? Armchair intellectuals found it hard to imagine.

It was the age of Ozzie and Harriet, when ordinary working and middle-class families could aspire to a house in the suburbs and a full-time Mom who stays at home with the kids. Today, of course, that popular version of the American dream is a thing of the past, especially the part about a full-time Mom who stays at home with the kids.  read more »

The Draw of Dhaka

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In recent centuries, the principal migration of the world’s population has been from rural areas to urban areas. As late as 1900, less than 20 percent of the world’s population lived in urban areas. That figure has now risen to more than 50 percent. Urbanization occurred earliest in the first world, as the increased wealth produced by the industrial revolution attracted people from the countryside. In 1900, 40 percent of the US population was urban, a figure that had risen to 80 percent by 2005. Trends in Europe, Japan and other first world nations are similar.  read more »

America's Four Great Growth Waves and the World Cities They Produced

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There have been four great growth waves in American history. In each case, there was an attractive new frontier, which not only drew migrating waves of people seeking new opportunity, but also developed large new bases of industry, wealth, and power. These waves have also created top-tier world cities in their wake. The first three of these waves were:  read more »

Millennials’ First Recession

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Each generation has been affected differently by the deepening global recession. Baby boomers have witnessed their retirement savings evaporate into oblivion. Generation X families who finally saved enough for a down payment on their first house find themselves deep underwater without SCUBA gear. And earnest Millennials fresh out of college are wondering where all those high-paying jobs promised by duplicitous corporate recruiters went.  read more »

Is the Census Now a Target for a GOP War On Science?

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The 2010 Census makes a convenient political target since its findings define so much of where federal aid – now the country’s one true growth industry – is apportioned as well as legislative seats in states and nationally. Yet after an abortive attempt to hijack the Census by narrowly focused Democratic groups, cooler heads have now prevailed in the White House.  read more »

A California Wedding

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My wife and I attended a wedding on a recent past weekend. It was a beautiful event in a beautiful setting: city of Atascadero, county of San Luis Obispo, on California’s central coast. We drove through spectacularly beautiful wine country to get there. The weather was beautiful. A beautiful young couple exchanged vows in the backyard of the groom’s childhood home, where his mom still lives.

Beautiful setting, wonderful people  read more »

The American Suburb Is Bouncing Back

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From the very inception of the current downturn, sprawling places like southeast California's Inland Empire have been widely portrayed as the heart of darkness. Located on the vast flatlands east of Los Angeles, the region of roughly 3 million people has suffered one of the highest rates of foreclosures and surges in unemployment in the nation.  read more »

Borderline Reality

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For years, economic and social observers have taken to redrawing our borders to better define our situation and to attempt to predict the future. Maybe you thought the global financial meltdown has raised anxiety levels in the United States quite enough. But a Russian professor’s decade old prediction of national disintegration suggests much worse on the way.  read more »