The Kids Are Not Alright and the Center is No Longer Holding

Across the West, the young are losing faith in the future.

The recent French election provides a case study. In the first round vote, voters narrowly favored President Emmanuel Macron, the epitome of “enlightened” elite rule, over Marine Le Pen, the doyenne of French fascism. Read more

Red Dusk

David Goldman’s remarks on America’s challenges against China are, for the most part, spot-on. He is particularly on-target about two realities that may displease traditional conservatives: the failure of Trump’s China policy, and the need for some form of industrial policy.

Goldman may have voted twice for Trump (I did not), but he is no MAGA die-hard. He can read the numbers, which show growing dependence on China and an ever-widening trade deficit: imports from China rose over 30% more starting in January 2018, when Trump imposed tariffs. This 19th-century strategy simply did not work in the 21st.

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Texas Is The Future

In 1946, the American author John Gunther described Houston as “mostly ugly and barren, without a single good restaurant and hotels with cockroaches”. The only reasons to live in the city, he claimed, were financial; it was a place “where few people think about anything but money”.

This view was widespread at the time, and has lingered well into the 21st century. Forget Houston. New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles are the cities most frequently associated with the urban American dream.

Fast forward to today, however, and a new urban renaissance is taking shape — and this time, it’s in the heart of Texas. Never before in American history have two metros in one state — Houston and Dallas-Ft. Worth — been in the nation’s five largest. So much for its cockroaches; at its current rate of growth, Houston could replace Chicago as the nation’s third largest municipality by 2030.

What’s driving this Texan resurgence? Traditionally, American cities such as Detroit, Cleveland, and St. Louis all tried to copy the model set by New York and, to a lesser extent, Chicago, with high-rise offices crowded into central business districts. But Texas urbanism is different. They may wear cowboy boots, drive pickup trucks, and attend rodeos, but Texans have created a new model of American urbanity rooted in the demands of the consumer market — an idea deeply offensive to many planners and retro-urbanists.

Some observers lament the fact that the vast majority of Texas’s metropolitan growth — nearly 100% — has taken place in the suburbs and exurbs. But this has its benefits, not least the fact that its cities haven’t been turned into rabbit warrens that only provide high living standards to the rich. Over the past decade, Texas has built three times as much housing as California. This has allowed its cities, despite massive demographic and economic growth, to keep housing prices significantly lower than in coastal Californian cities such as San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego and Los Angeles.

But while affordability has been the secret sauce for Texan cities, its urbanism also thrives by embracing the realities of the marketplace. Over the past decade, Austin and Dallas have created jobs two to three times faster than New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago. And this growth is not all at the low end of the job market, as some like the New York Times’s Paul Krugman suggest. Over the past five years, for instance, Austin has displaced San Francisco as the fastest growing tech market. Indeed, Austin is now arguably the strongest rival to Silicon Valley, home to the headquarters of Tesla, and Oracle, as well as Apple’s engineering division and Meta’s latest expansion, 33 floors downtown.

But the most significant expansion has been in professional and business services, the core of the new urban economy. Over the past five years, Austin and Dallas-Ft. Worth have created more than twice as many new business service jobs as San Jose; all four big Texas cities have grown this sector many times the rate of New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago. The Dallas metroplex is now home to 24 Fortune 500 company headquarters, trailing only New York and Chicago by a small number; 40 years ago, the region had fewer than five.

Read the rest of this piece at UnHerd.


Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Homepage photo: from PxHere under CC 0.0 Public Domain.

America is Headed for Class Warfare

Nothing has revealed the class divide in the U.S. quite like runaway inflation and skyrocketing gas prices. But in addition to the economic impact the staggering incompetence of the Biden administration is having on the working class, there is a political one; it’s undeniably driving working class voters even further from the Democrats and toward the GOP.

But it’s not all good news for conservatives. The recent Amazon vote to unionize could be a precursor to something less appealing to the Right: a nascent rebellion among the vast armies of service workers who for decades have inhabited the lower economic rungs.

The truth is, the rising tide of class conflict is problematic for both parties. The Amazon vote challenges the GOP’s anti-union stance and its free market dogma. But Democrats, too, face an embarrassing conundrum, since the companies most likely to face continued union drives—Amazon and Starbucks among them—are themselves core funders and media stewards of the Democratic Party.

This is not the discussion either liberal oligarchs or Right-wing activists want. They would rather battle over media hot buttons like climate, race, and gender, than meaningfully address working conditions, wages or rapidly rising rents.

In other words, neither party has developed a program to boost proletarian aspirations.

And this despite the fact that the growing class divide could well be the dominant issue of the next decade. Middle- and working-class Americans are widely—and correctly—pessimistic about their economic futures. Even before the civil unrest of recent years and the pandemic, Pew reported that most Americans believed our country was in decline, with a shrinking middle class, increased debt, alienation from leaders and growing polarization.

Almost 70 percent of Americans told pollsters last year that the next generation will be worse off than their parents. And it’s not just the masses. Young people across the country are pessimistic as well: Most people 15 to 24 also think life will be worse for them than for their parents.

They aren’t wrong. The share of American adults who live in middle-income households has decreased from 61 percent in 1971 to 51 percent in 2019, and the pandemic appears to have accelerated this pattern, hitting low-income workers hardest while the recovery helped them least.

Meanwhile, those at the top are raking it in. CEO compensation reached record levels this year, investment bankers on Wall Street enjoyed record bonuses and the giant tech firms now boast a market capitalization greater than the bloated federal budget.

Read the rest of this piece at Newsweek.


Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Photo: Elvert Barnes via Flickr under CC 2.0 License.

The Most Dangerous Class

Twenty-first-century America may be dominated by oligarchic elites, but arguably the biggest threat to our economic and political system might be located further down the food chain. This most dangerous class comes from the growing number of underemployed, overeducated people. They’re what has been described in Britain as the lumpenintelligensia: alienated, angry, and potentially agents of our social and political deconstruction.

This is far more than an angry mob shouting in keystrokes, but the proto-proletariat of a feudalizing post-industrial society. Overall, notes one recent study, over the past 20 years we have created twice as many bachelor’s degrees as jobs to employ them. Instead of finding riches in the “new economy,” many end up in lower-paying, noncredentialed jobs. They then compete with working-class kids, often products of similarly dysfunctional high schools; an estimated one-third of American working-age males are now outside the labor force, suffering high rates of incarceration, as well as drug, alcohol, and other health issues.

Although they are not subject to the same pressures of the working class, the fate of those attending college and even graduating is far from bright. This is the most-anxious generation in recent history, and for good reason. Today more than 40 percent are working in jobs that don’t require their degree, according to a recent report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Another study notes that most may never ascend to the kinds of jobs that graduates have historically enjoyed.

This is a global phenomenon. Over a quarter of Chinese graduates are unemployed, and the number is increasing.

In India, one in three graduates up to the age of 29 is unemployed, according to a Labour Ministry report released last November, almost three times the country’s overall unemployment rate. A recent U.N. analysis also suggested that this huge bulge of underemployed educated people could undermine the country’s stability in the years ahead.

As Greta Thunberg and her legions remind us, young, discontented people have tended to push toward the extremes. In Latin America, underemployed graduates have long been a source of disruption. Today roughly half of all Latin American college students don’t graduate, and many never really see a payback for their time in college.

A similar pattern of disruption drove the Arab Spring. There, as well as in the Balkans, unemployed and underemployed college graduates have been a major disruptive force. In Africa, where youth unemployment is also high and the numbers are growing fastest, college graduates who compose barely 7 percent of the total workforce also labor in low-end jobs.

Read the rest of this piece at National Review.


Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Next California Migration: Video

By: USC Sol Price School of Public Policy

California poses many challenges for the middle- and working-class. As a result, there is a significant migration of people, jobs, and opportunities— both within and outside the state. Who is leaving California, and who is no longer seeking to move to the golden state? Are there incentives for job creation and how can the state remain competitive?

Dr. Jorge De la Roca, Joel Kotkin and Marshall Toplansky tackle these questions and more. This expert panel offers an overview of current demographic trends in California, followed by a discussion around future implications for the state and possible solutions to reinvigorate the California dream. The event concluded with audience Q&A.

Watch the full event:

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The Biggest Cities Are Past Their Prime

As the centers of media and political discourse, large cities, notably New York, have a unique ability to promote themselves, asserting that dense, core urban areas own the future. Yet in reality, even during good times, and well before the pandemic, Americans have been headed, in increasing numbers, to suburbs, exurbs and to smaller cities. Romantic illusions to past urban recoveries may make people feel better, but they ignore both long-lasting trends and new realities.

People vote with their feet, and today, only a small percentage of Americans live in or around the core urban counties. In 1950, the core cities accounted for nearly 24% of the U.S. population; today the share is under 15%. In contrast, the suburbs and exurbs grew from housing 13% of the metropolitan population in 1940 to 86% in 2017, a gradual increase of 2% a year. Despite all the talk of young people and families and others coming “back to the city,” suburbs accounted for about 90% of all U.S. metropolitan growth since 2010; over that time, suburbs and exurbs of the major metropolitan areas gained 2 million net domestic migrants, while the urban core counties lost 2.7 million.

Much the same can be said about the economy. During the last decade, roughly 80% of all job growth has been in the suburbs. Suburbs also generate the bulk of patents; in fact, three-quarters come from areas with less 3,500 people per square mile, less than half the density associated with urban centers.

The pandemic accelerated these already existing trends. New census numbers show that San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles led the population loss sweepstakes over the past year, while people headed to the Sunbelt, suburbs, exurbs or even small towns.

But the real issue now is not so much the pandemic per se but the rise of dispersed work. Midtown offices are still more than half empty — and that’s not just the pessimist’s way of seeing the glass. While they will recover some, they will likely not replace a large portion of what was lost. Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom suggests that remote workers will ultimately constitute at least 20% of the workforce, more than three times the pre-pandemic rate.

This leaves the large central business districts such as Midtown particularly exposed. As long-time urban booster Richard Florida notes, central business districts represent “the last gasp of the old Industrial age.” He adds, “This idea that you have to pack and stack these office workers and they have to commute in at 9 and leave at 5 and work in cubicle farms— it’s just silly. It is completely out of touch with the way people work.”

Read the rest of this piece at NY Daily News.


Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Photo:Steve Guttman via Flickr under CC 2.0 License.

Exurbia Rising

Perhaps nowhere is the gap between America’s cognitive elite and its populace larger than in their preferred urban forms. For nearly a century—interrupted only by the Depression and the Second World War—Americans have been heading further from the urban core, seeking affordable and safe communities with good schools, parks, and a generally more tranquil lifestyle. We keep pushing out despite the contrary desires of planners, academic experts, and some real estate interests. In 1950, the core cities accounted for nearly 24 percent of the U.S. population; today, the share is under 15 percent, according to demographer Wendell Cox. Between 2010 and 2020, the suburbs and exurbs of the major metropolitan areas gained 2.0 million net domestic migrants, while the urban core counties lost 2.7 million.

This is less a growth in “bedroom suburbs,” supplying workers to the urban core, but one that serves multiple employment centers and commercial development. The latest edition of Commuting in America estimates that almost 70 percent of metropolitan-area workers now live and work in the suburbs; trips within suburbs or suburb-to-suburb commutes constitute more than double the commutes with a central business district as the final destination.

The urban fringe is where the American dream is now being re­discovered. But these fringes remain widely disdained in academia, media, and the planning community. This was most evident during the financial crisis when there were widespread media accounts suggesting, among other things, that the exurbs would become “the next slums,” the equivalent of “roadkill” doomed by changing economics and demo­graphics. The New York Times even suggested how to carve up the suburban carcass, with some envisioning that suburban three-car garages would be “subdivided into rental units with street front cafés, shops and other local businesses,” while abandoned pools would become skateboard parks. Yet this is exactly what did not happen.

The Exurban Revolution

In the new In the new Urban Reform Institute report, we identified the fifty high­est‑growth large counties in terms of net domestic migration from 2015 to 2019. These areas grew their population at 7.5 times the rate of the country’s other 3,100 counties during this period and gained 1.8 million net domestic migrants. Out of the fifty, all but seven are located in combined statistical areas (CSAs) of more than 500,000 residents. And each of these outer counties are within or close to a two-hour commute time of a central core county. Key areas include Atlanta, Dallas–Fort Worth, and Orlando.

The key demographic headed to these places is young people in prime family formation years. From 2015 to 2019, these counties saw an increase in twenty-five- to thirty-four-year-olds of 12.8 percent, almost four times the 3.4 percent growth rate in the other counties. The high­est‑growth counties also have a far higher rate of school-age children (five- to fourteen-year-olds) per household than the rest of the nation—0.66 compared to 0.43 for the other counties. The highest growth counties have 3.5 times as many school-age children per household as, for example, Manhattan and San Francisco and 75 percent more school-age children per household than other counties in the United States.

This migration is not a repeat of the “white flight” that drove peripheral growth a half century ago. To be sure, during the great mass suburbanization of the mid-twentieth century, many communities—Levittown and Lakewood are well-known examples—excluded ethnic minorities, providing planners and “smart growth” advocates a rationale to claim that single-family neighborhoods are inherently racist ever since. This assertion is seriously out of date, however. Over the past decade, non-Hispanic whites accounted for less than 4 percent of growth in suburbs and exurbs, while Latinos accounted for nearly half, with Asians, African Americans, mixed race, and other groups making up the balance.

These areas tend to be particularly attractive to well-educated immi­grants. The wildly popular Woodlands planned community near Houston is roughly 30 percent Hispanic, African American, and Asian. In Irvine, California, arguably the most successful planned development, a majority of the population is nonwhite and over 40 percent Asian. In the Tres Lagos development in McAllen, Texas, three-quarters of all buyers are middle-class Hispanics, notes developer Nick Rhodes, for houses that average under $200,000. “We have a young population that is looking for larger homes and safety,” suggests the twenty-seven-year-old Rhodes. “These are people who cannot afford Irving or even Dallas but want parks and good schools.”

Read the rest of this piece at American Affairs Journal.

Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Homepage photo: Ken Lund via Flickr CC 2.0 License.

Here’s Why California is Losing Population for the First Time

California is suffering a major demographic reversal, one that threatens both the state’s economic future and the durability of its progressive model.

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The Left Doesn’t Own Minority Voters

Demographic transitions present political opportunities, but do not protect politicians from their own folly. The shift in most Western countries to a more racially and ethnically diverse demographic has been widely seen by left-wingers as an opportunity to cement their ascendancy.

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