The Changing Demographics of America

Appearing in:

Smithsonian Online

Estimates of the United states population at the middle of the 21st century vary, from the U.N.’s 404 million to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 422 to 458 million. To develop a snapshot of the nation at 2050, particularly its astonishing diversity and youthfulness, I use the nice round number of 400 million people, or roughly 100 million more than we have today.

The United States is also expected to grow somewhat older. The portion of the population that is currently at least 65 years old—13 percent—is expected to reach about 20 percent by 2050. This “graying of America” has helped convince some commentators of the nation’s declining eminence. For example, an essay by international relations expert Parag Khanna envisions a “shrunken America” lucky to eke out a meager existence between a “triumphant China” and a “retooled Europe.” Morris Berman, a cultural historian, says America “is running on empty.” Read more

Millennial Surprise

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

The boomer’s long domination of American politics, culture and economics will one day come to an end. A new generation–the so-called millennials–will be shaping the outlines of our society, but the shape of their coming reign could prove more complex than many have imagined.

Conventional wisdom, particularly among boomer “progressives,” paints millennials–those born after 1983–as the instruments for fulfilling the promise of the 1960s cultural revolt. In 2008 the left-leaning Center for American Progress dubbed them “The Progressive Generation.”
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The Future Of America’s Working Class

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

Watford, England, sits at the end of a spur on the London tube’s Metropolitan line, a somewhat dreary city of some 80,000 rising amid the pleasant green Hertfordshire countryside. Although not utterly destitute like parts of south or east London, its shabby High Street reflects a now-diminished British dream of class mobility. It also stands as a potential warning to the U.S., where working-class, blue-collar white Americans have been among the biggest losers in the country’s deep, persistent recession.

As you walk through Watford, midday drinkers linger outside the One Bell pub near the center of town. Many of these might be considered “yobs,” a term applied to youthful, largely white, working-class youths, many of whom work only occasionally or not at all. In the British press yobs are frequently linked to petty crime and violent behavior–including a recent stabbing outside another Watford pub, and soccer-related hooliganism.

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The Broken Ladder: The Threat to Upward Mobility in the Global City

A Study on Upward Mobility, written for the Legatum Institute, London, UK

Since the beginnings of civilization, cities have been the crucibles of progress both for societies and individuals. A great city, wrote Rene Descartes in the 17th Century, represented “an inventory of the possible”, a place where people could create their own futures and lift up their families.

In the 21st Century – the first in which the majority of people will live in cities – this unique link between urbanism and upward mobility will become ever more critical. Cities have become much larger. In 1900 London was the world’s largest urban center with seven million people. Today there are three dozen cities with larger populations.
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Immigration Is U.S.

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

You can sing about sea to shining sea or amber waves of grain, but it’s immigration that provides America’s basic rhythm. Nothing distinguishes the American experience from that of other nations more than the mass migration of people from elsewhere to here. We are truly a nation of immigrants: Close to 90% of the population–excluding Native Americans and those who were forced here in shackles–moved here out of their own volition.

Not that this has made things any easier for immigrants. In the 1850s the nativist Native American Party–reacting to a wave of Irish Catholic and German immigrants–declared that America faced “an imminent peril” from immigrants “of an ignorant and immoral character.” California in the late 19th century tried to ban Asian immigration and land ownership. In 1924 immigration from everywhere outside northern Europe was severely restricted.

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So Much for Europe’s Superiority

Appearing in:

The Daily Beast

For much of the last quarter century, European pundits, particularly in France, have been promoting the notion that the old continent sat on the verge of a grand resurgence. The events of the past month—culminating in a trillion dollar rescue of the Euro—should, at least, put that dodgy notion to rest.

Although the financial crisis may have originated on Wall Street, it’s been Europe and the Euro that now represent the big threat to drive world markets back into recession. The show stealers are India, China and Brazil. Still the big boy on the block, the American economy is growing, albeit not spectacularly.

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Arizona’s Short-Sighted Immigration Bill

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

Arizona’s recent passage of what is widely perceived as a harsh anti-immigrant bill reflects a growing tendency–in both political parties–to focus on the here and now, as opposed to the future. The effort to largely target Latino illegal aliens during a sharp recession may well gain votes among an angry, alienated majority population, but it could have unforeseen negative consequences over time.

In terms of the Arizona law, this is not simply a case of one wacko state. The most recent Gallup survey shows that more Americans favor the law than oppose it, with independents and Republicans showing strong support. Despite the negative coverage in the media, the Arizona gambit could somewhat pay off in November. A weak economy tends to exacerbate nativist sentiments, something that has been constant throughout much of American history. Read more

Growing America: Demographics and Destiny

Appearing in:
Governing

Over the next four decades, American governments will oversee a much larger and far more diverse population. As we gain upward of 100 million people, America will inevitably become a more complex, crowded and competitive place, but it will continue to remain highly dependent on its people’s innovative and entrepreneurial spirit.

In 2050, the U.S. will look very different from the country in 2000, at the dawn of the new millennium. By mid-century, the U.S. will no longer be a “white country,” but rather a staggering amalgam of racial, ethnic and religious groups, all participants in the construction of a new civilization whose roots lie not in any one country or continent, but across the entirety of human cultures and racial types. No other advanced, populous country will enjoy such ethnic diversity. Read more

Beyond the Census: America’s Demographic Advantage

Appearing in:

Newsweek

As the nonstop TV commercials have made clear, the U.S. Census Bureau really hopes you’ve sent back your questionnaire by now. But in reality, we don’t have to wait for the census results to get a basic picture of America’s demographic future. The operative word is “more”: by 2050, about 100 million more people will inhabit this vast country, bringing the total U.S. population to more than 400 million.

With a fertility rate 50 percent higher than Russia, Germany, or Japan, and well above that of China, Italy, Singapore, South Korea, and virtually all of Eastern Europe, the United States has become an outlier among its traditional competitors, all of whose populations are stagnant and seem destined to eventually decline. Thirty years ago, Russia constituted the core of a vast Soviet empire that was considerably more populous than the United States. Today, Russia’s low birthrate and high mortality rate suggest that its population will drop by 30 percent by 2050, to less than one third that of the United States. Even Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has spoken of “the serious threat of turning into a decaying nation.” Read more

All In The Family

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

For over a generation pundits, policymakers and futurists have predicted the decline of the American family. Yet in reality, the family, although changing rapidly, is becoming not less but more important.

This can be traced to demographic shifts, including immigration and extended life spans, as well as to changes of attitudes among our increasingly diverse population. Furthermore, severe economic pressures are transforming the family–as they have throughout much of history–into the ultimate “safety net” for millions of people.

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