Urban Housing: A Master Plan for the Few

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How we, as a nation, find bounty and beauty in the future depends upon how we react to two trends emerging from the recent difficult period in American urbanism. The first of these trends is the increasing lack of affordability in mainstream urban America, with the costs of maintaining a middle-class lifestyle at a level where distinct have/have-not lines are now drawn. The second is the increasing authoritarianism in mainstream urban America, where decisions about how our cities function are guided by a new array of authority figures that represent the common good.  read more »

America the Mostly Beautiful

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In the fall of 2010, as part of a book project, ex-newspaperman Bill Steigerwald retraced the route John Steinbeck took in 1960 and turned into his classic “Travels With Charley.” Steigerwald drove 11,276 miles in 43 days from Long Island to the top of Maine to Seattle to San Francisco to New Orleans before heading back to his home in Pittsburgh.  In “Dogging Steinbeck,” his new e-book about how he discovered “Charley” was not nonfiction but a highly fictionalized and dishonest account of Steinbeck’s real trip, Steigerwald describes the America he saw.

"Big."

"Empty."

"Rich."

"No change since 1960."  read more »

Central Banking's Hogwarts Syndrome

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Central banks—the US Federal Reserve is one—come with the mystique of Oz. While the Fed fiercely denies that it is powerful enough to cure recessions with a click of the heels, there are those who believe it's true. If, however, you look behind the velvet curtains and columned lobbies, you will find good men, but bad wizards. In mid-December, the bank’s Open Market committee pledged $85 billion a month until unemployment drops below 6.5 percent. Such policies are a long way from Kansas and prudent finance.  read more »

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America’s Baby Boom And Baby Bust Cities

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At this most familial time of the year, as recent events make us hold our children even closer, we might want to consider what kinds of environments are most conducive to having offspring. Alarm bells are beginning to ring in policy circles over the decline of the U.S. birth rate to a record low. If unaddressed, this could pose a vital threat the nation’s economic and demographic vitality over the next few decades.  read more »

A Volunteer Army's Attempt to Fill the New York Hurricane Response Gap

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On November 6, eight days after Hurricane Sandy’s surge waters flooded the streets, I started volunteering in the Rockaways, where I stayed for much of the next three weeks.

On that first day, I joined an ad hoc group of volunteers and took a school bus full of supplies donated by my Brooklyn neighbors out to a church on Beach 67th Street.  read more »

The Rise of Management Consultants

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The always-entertaining Freakonomics podcast recently devoted a full episode to the emergence of management consulting firms in the U.S. The podcast got our attention right away when Stephen Dubner rattled off labor market statistics — something that always piques our interest — for management consultants.  read more »

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Alleviating World Poverty: A Progress Report

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There has been a substantial reduction in both the extreme poverty rate and the number of people living in extreme poverty since the early 1980s, according to information from the World Bank poverty database. The World Bank maintains data on developing world nations, which include both low income and middle income nations. The analysis below summarizes developing world (low and middle income nations) poverty trends from 1981 to the latest available year, 2008 (Table and Figure 1).  read more »

Want to See Better US-Chinese Relations? American and Chinese Millennials Could Be Key

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While it is still fashionable for politicians in both China and the United States to prove their domestic leadership credentials by taking tough stances against their nation’s chief economic rival, the results of recent Pew surveys conducted in the two countries suggest that this type of rhetoric is a holdover from an earlier era. An examination of the beliefs among the youngest generational cohorts in each country shows a distinct lack of the ideological vitriol so common in the 1960s and 1970s.  read more »

The Gun Control Debate That Went MIA

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Intellectually -- despite the events in Newtown, Connecticut -- I can appreciate that the “right to bear arms” is a fundamental constitutional guarantee, inherited from both the Glorious (1688) and American revolutions. I still wonder, though, whether it applies to a society in which most people live in suburban condos and tract houses, which are largely absent of Redcoats or the Hole in the Wall gang. Why have guns in our lives? We know the status quo ante of the 18th century Second Amendment isn’t working. The issues surrounding guns failed to make even a cameo appearance in the recent election, and, when they have been raised in the recent past they certainly did not elicit the same tears that they did at the Newtown press conferences.  read more »

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Aging America: The Cities That Are Graying The Fastest

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Notwithstanding plastic surgery, health improvements and other modern biological enhancements, we are all getting older, and the country is too. Today roughly 18.5% of the U.S. population is over 60, compared to 16.3% a decade ago; by 2020 that percentage is expected to rise to 22.2%, and by 2050 to a full 25%.

Yet the graying of America is not uniform across the country — some places are considerably older than others. The oldest metropolitan areas, according to an analysis of the 2010 census by demographer Wendell Cox, have twice as high a concentration of residents over the age of 60 as the youngest. In these areas, it’s already 2020, and some may get to 2050 aging levels decades early.  read more »