When Detroit Stood Tall and Shaped the World


My recent post about how urban planning decisions helped lead to the Motown sound in Detroit was inspired by David Maraniss’ new book Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story.

The book takes a deep dive into Detroit 1963, a city that was, although in some ways already in decline, in others near its zenith.

It’s a great read, in particularly for the depth of characterization. Too often Detroit writing is a story of heroes, villains, and victims. Maraniss rejects that approach and provides mostly nuanced portrayals of Detroiters that allows them to be the actual real, red-blooded human beings that they are.  read more »

China’s Demographics at a Turning Point


For decades, the decline in China’s birth rate was a big boost for the economy. What now?

This week, schadenfreude could have been a word invented for China experts if you judge by some of the commentary surrounding the country’s lifting of its one-child policy. Most got it right that the legacy of the one-child policy is now a problem for the Chinese economy because of a rapidly rising old-age dependency ratio (green line in the first chart below). This was tacitly acknowledged by the lifting of the policy.  read more »


Too Many Places Will Have too Few People


The adage “demographics are destiny” is increasingly being replaced by a notion that population trends should actually shape policy. As the power of projection grows, governments around the world find themselves looking to find ways to counteract elaborate and potentially threatening population models before they become reality.  read more »

The Sociology of Fear


As part of its annual Survey on American Fears, Chapman University has tried to identify what Americans fear the most. A team of professors and students teamed up to retool last year’s survey tool and dig up American’s deepest horrors.  read more »


A Question of Values: Middle-Income Housing Affordability


This is the Executive Summary from a new report “A Question of Values: Middle-Income Housing Affordability and Urban Containment Policy" authored by Wendell Cox and published by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. Ailin He, a PhD doctoral candidate in economics at McGill University served as research assistant.  read more »

Report: Africa’s Demographic Transition, Dividend or Disaster?


A recent report published jointly by the World Bank and by Agence Française de Développement highlights the challenge of realizing Africa’s promised demographic dividend. The title Africa’s Demographic Transition: Dividend or Disaster? (see footnote 1) sums up the authors’ thesis that the dividend is not an automatic result of falling fertility ratios (TFR).

Instead, falling TFRs open a window of opportunity which can lead to a demographic dividend when governments and the public sector implement the requisite steps to capitalize on this opportunity. Lower child mortality usually leads to falling fertility ratios and improvements in women’s health. But most important among concurrent or subsequent initiatives are investments in education, and the provision of sufficient jobs to a booming working-age population.  read more »


So Much For The Death Of Sprawl: America's Exurbs Are Booming


It’s time to put an end to the urban legend of the impending death of America’s suburbs. With the aging of the millennial generation, and growing interest from minorities and immigrants, these communities are getting a fresh infusion of residents looking for child-friendly, affordable, lower-density living.  read more »

How Commuters Get Railroaded by Cities


With more than $10 billion already invested, and much more on the way, some now believe that Los Angeles and Southern California are on the way to becoming, in progressive blogger Matt Yglesias’ term, “the next great transit city.” But there’s also reality, something that rarely impinges on debates about public policy in these ideologically driven times.

Let’s start with the numbers. If L.A. is supposedly becoming a more transit-oriented city, as boosters already suggest, a higher portion of people should be taking buses and trains. Yet, Los Angeles County – with its dense urbanization and ideal weather for walking and taking transit – has seen its share of transit commuting decline, as has the region overall.  read more »

Auckland Tackles Housing Affordability Crisis


City of Auckland Chief Economist Chris Parker has called for establishment of a house price to income ratio objective of 5.0, to be achieved by 2030. The recommendation was included in a report commissioned by Auckland Mayor Len Brown and Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse.

Housing Affordability and Urban Containment Policy

The recommendation has been brought about in response to Auckland's severely unaffordable housing. Recent reports indicate a price to income ratio over 9.0, at least triple that of New Zealand to the early 1990s.  read more »

End Of One-Child Policy Is Unlikely To Solve China's Looming Aging Crisis


By finally backing away from its one-child policy, China would seem to be opening the gates again to demographic expansion. But it may prove an opening that few Chinese embrace, for a host of reasons.

Initially, the one-child policy made great sense. The expansion of China’s power under Mao Zedong was predicated in part on an ever-growing population. Between 1950 and 1990, the country’s Maoist era, the population, roughly doubled to 1.2 billion, according to U.N. figures. Deng Xiaoping’s move to limit population growth turned out to be a wise policy, at least initially, allowing China to focus more on industrialization and less on feeding an ever-growing number of mouths.  read more »