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on February 7, 2010
Joel Kotkin estimates that by 2050 the United States will be home to 400 million people, about 100 million more than today. Looking at demographic trends, fertility rates, and immigration patterns, he predicts that the US will have the greatest population growth of all the advanced industrial nations. It has already been well-documented that Japan and European countries, with low fertility rates and restrictive immigration policies, will decline in population in the coming years. As an example, the Russian population will decline by 30 percent by 2050, not only because of low fertility rates and little immigration, but also because of high mortality rates.

The author argues that China, with its one-child policy, will find itself by 2050 with about 30 percent of the population over age 60. This policy will also hamper it from overtaking the US in terms of GDP anytime soon. This prediction illustrates one of the pitfalls of futurology: I have read elsewhere that China has abandoned its one-child policy due to "shortages" of factory workers. Take away the one-child policy and again China is an economic dynamo.

As in his previous book, The City: A Global History (Modern Library Chronicles), Kotkin is a champion of suburbia and the exurbs. This distinguishes him from Richard Florida who champions the creative class of the metropolitan areas. Kotkin believes future growth, both demographic and economic, will be in the lesser known heartland suburbias, where the standard of living is lower and regulations are fewer. Growth will not be as robust in "luxury cities" such as San Francisco and New York which are more attractive for young and single adults as well as childless couples. These bohemian types, according to the author, focus more on art and lifestyle, rather than creating jobs and families.

It is obvious from the trends that Kotkin outlines in his current book that most of the population growth and economic expansion will come from immigrant communities, most notably Asian and Hispanic. He points out that between 1990 and 2005 one in four venture-backed public companies was started by either Chinese or Indian diaspora.

Kotkin paints a rosy picture of the future: America will still be a preeminent superpower, sharing that position, however, with China and India. It is good to keep in mind that predicting the future is a shaky business. Projecting a few of the current trends far into the future can be an empty exercise when certain facts on the ground change or when others are overlooked.
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on June 27, 2011
Kotkin is upbeat about America's future supported by a robust demographic growth (+100 million by 2050). Since much of this growth is from immigration, it is akin to "voting with your feet." This "voting" is due to immigrants preferring the tolerant US culture vs the class conscious, xenophobic, and sexist cultures of Japan, China, India, Russia and Europe. None of those cultures integrate immigrants well. As a result, the US will not experience the challenges of an aging society to the same degree as its counterparts. By 2050, 31% of China's population will be over 65; 41% for Japan; in the high 30s for Europe, but less than 25% for the U.S. By 2050, the U.S. population is expected to be four times Russia.

Kotkin indicates that today 30% of the US population is nonwhite. By, 2050 this figure will reach 50% due to both fertility and immigration patterns.

A difference in immigrant integration can be observed between Muslims in Europe vs the U.S. In Europe they are marginalized, discriminated and unemployed. In the U.S. Muslims have education and income levels above the national average and 80% are registered to vote. America's culture better transcends religion or race.

Kotkin believes demography is destiny, and the more vibrant U.S. demographics insures it will remain a dominant power culturally and economically. This contrasts with everyone who has sold the U.S. short for decades. But, Kotkin indicates the recent history has not collaborated with any of those dire predictions. This is even true after this worldwide Great Recession caused by Wall Street, US regulators, Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac, rating agencies, and US borrowers. Yet, the US is on the rebound while Europe is tangled in a sovereign debt crisis lead by its weakest link: Greece.

Kotkin indicates that the US attracts and retains a rising percentage of skilled immigrants. Immigrants are a source of economic energy as between 1990 and 2005, they started one quarter of all US venture-backed public companies. Work ethic also favors the US. Americans currently work 300 hours more per year than Europeans. And, they appear much more content than their European counterparts. The fruits of their labor give Americans a greater sense of control over their lives and hope in a better tomorrow. By 2050, non-Hispanic whites will be in a minority within both the general population and the workforce.

Kotkin conveys that the competitiveness of China and India appears exaggerated. Both countries are not expected to generate GDPs per capita anywhere near the U.S. for decades if not over a century. Both countries have a large percentage of their populations whose lifestyle is barely above survival. And, many of their brightest come to the U.S. to succeed. Silicon Valley is crowded with both Chinese and Indian immigrants who have started successful hi-tech businesses, or are part of senior management, or are key computer programmers. Thus, any brain-drain between the three powers still strongly favors the U.S.

While Richard Florida as he expressed in Who's Your City?: How the Creative Economy Is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life thinks that the driving economic unit is no more nations but instead super cities, Kotkin feels nations do matter a lot. They are in a competition of culture and for the reasons mentioned above Kotkin states the U.S. is winning that race. Richard Florida has written an entire book on the creative class preferring the European capitalist model vs the U.S. Kotkin indicates that it is another case of selling the U.S. short while the facts (international immigration patterns) contradict the theory as far more Europeans members of the creative class have moved to the U.S. than the reverse. This makes sense. If you have an idea, it is easier to get it funded and start a business in the U.S. vs Europe.

When Kotkin turns to where the 100 million will locate in the U.S. he offers a vision that sharply contrasts with Richard Florida. While Richard Florida envisions a rise of a creative class clustering in super cities (London, Paris, NY, SF, etc...) Kotkin anticipates the growth and economic vibrancy will concentrate in the "cities of aspirations" modeled after Los Angeles such as Phoenix, Houston, Dallas, Denver, and Atlanta. Immigrants will cluster in the suburbs of such sprawling cities and others. Since 1950 the suburban share of the nation's population has doubled to its current 50%. Suburbs will be increasingly diversified. Over 27% of suburbanites are minorities. This percent could rise to 50% by 2050.

Kotkin advances that the suburb and urban sprawl offers an ideal lifestyle associated with affordable and expansive housing, low crime rate, and good public school systems. In the future, the health of cities will depend more on good schools and safe parks (Kotkin) than hip art galleries and music scene (R. Florida). Meanwhile, the dense constrained urban centers of Richard Florida super cities are challenged to compete on affordable lifestyle parameters. Kotkin refers to Richard Florida's super cities as "luxury cities." He acknowledges that for the time being they will maintain their position as managers of the world economy as they house the most powerful residents.

Kotkin calls the emerging, networked suburbs and sprawl "smart sprawl." He envisions that telecommuters, the Internet, home-based businesses, and satellite office centers will turn the suburbs into self-sufficient job centers that will rely less on traditional downtown job centers. He refers to demographer Wendell Cox when stating that by 2015 more people will work electronically at home than will take public transportation. In San Francisco and Los Angeles nearly 10% of workers are part-time telecommuters. He calls this process "de-clustering" [away from the super cities job centers]. Again this is the opposite of Richard Florida's vision of increasing clustering of his creative class around those super cities. According to Kotkin, this de-clustering will cause smart sprawl to become an economic and cultural force. At the essence, it is again "voting with one's feet" as people will move where they want to and can afford to; And, this means moving to lower-density neighborhoods.

Per Kotkin, the heartland will benefit from this de-clustering. He indicates that many small rural cities are benefiting from a "hidden tech" trend whereby software companies are getting established far away from the super cities in areas associated with great outdoors, low housing costs, and have little trouble attracting the creative class. Kotkin mentions Fargo, Boise, Sioux Falls as such places. Since 2000, hi-tech employment has risen faster in those small cities than in the San Francisco Bay Area and Boston.

Kotkin refers to Boise as a new model for Silicon Valley. The area benefits from a great quality of life, low cost, and plenty of talent. As a result, Boise and other similar cities are benefiting from an "onshoring' trend whereby hi-tech companies are moving operations to those lower cost domestic areas instead of off shoring them to India.

Kotkin anticipates a revival of U.S. manufacturing. This also contrasts with Richard Florida's vision of a creative service economy (see The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It's Transforming Work, Leisure, Community, and Everyday Life. On this one count it is challenging to side against Florida.

Ultimately, the future will likely capture nuances of both Kotkin and R. Florida's visions. R. Florida actually documents his theory far more thoroughly than Kotkin as he relies on his firsthand research building multivariate regressions and fascinating scatter plots demonstrating the relationships supporting his theories. Thus, as Florida says the future is likely to get increasingly spikier as the concentration of talent working within the super cities will continue to rise. But, this talent may very well live in the suburbs especially when starting a family as Kotkin suggests. In summary, they will both likely be right as people will continue to gravitate where the action is (super cities) but live where they can afford the best lifestyle (suburbs).
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on April 26, 2011
I have a category of books that I want my Dad to read. These books share the theme "the world is getting better, not worse - and the future is brighter than the past". My Dad begs to differ. He is wrong, but he is entitled to his misguided views. (The next book on this list will be The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves by Matt Ridley - other books include The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse by Gregg Easterbrook and The Birth of Plenty : How the Prosperity of the Modern World was Created by William J. Bernstein

Kotkin grounds his optimism in solid demographics (my Dad's profession - one reason why I'm so excited to hear from him where Kotkin gets it wrong). Kotkin's basic argument is that the United States will reap a demographic dividend of relatively high fertility and immigration rates, one that will result in growing demand for goods and services and an expanding pool of talent, energy and innovation. This growth will be centered in our increasingly vibrant and diverse suburbs, but even the old industrial cities will benefit as their low costs drive in-migration.

Kotkin takes the "anti-suburb and anti-growth" pundits head-on, noting (accurately) that people choose to move to suburbs for amenities such as good schools and good housing. Jobs and culture tend to follow the people, a cycle that increases both productivity and brings new opportunity. The description of Manhattan, Boston, and San Francisco has "luxury cities" is priceless - with Kotkin arguing that the new cities (concentrated in the South West spread all over) may get less cultural attention but will be the places of opportunity for our children and their immigrant neighbors.

Grade: A-
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on February 2, 2016
I found this book very interesting as I'm interested in the future of our country. It gave me some great insight for what we may expect the U.S. to look like in the next few decades and it was a very quick read with some great research and current trends discussed.
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on March 7, 2010
Joel Kotkin's The Next Hundred Million is going to be a frequently referenced classic. It's a must read for anyone interested in livability planning in our metropolitan areas, and not withstanding our somewhat limited success at drawing a large percentage of our population to community outreach planning workshops - that actually includes most of us.

Kotkin has made connections in the data that has been sitting out there available to us that we hadn't made before. He found patterns that had previously not been discernable to us before. We missed them. The reader will experience that wonderful reaction that occurs when reading any classic major commentary - the light bulb will go off, and you will turn around, look back, and start to make the connections and see the patterns yourself.

He says that suburbia will be reinvented. Well yes. We hadn't really focused on this but actually we are starting to see what he projects right here in our older suburbs. Most older suburbs were originally small towns, with town centers and main streets, and they are indeed being revitalized. We can project that they will begin to develop once again into cohesive communities, within connections to the larger metro area. We can see the beginnings of a trend towards good interactions between these suburbs and our urban downtown core. Our light rail is busy on weekends, well beyond initial projections, with people coming downtown to be entertained in one way or another. On weekdays we have a two way commute as employees go out to the land, available in the older suburbs, which now houses light manufacturing and tech businesses. We've got people out there walking and biking to nearby workplaces.

He says that immigrants will have a big hand in that revitalization. Well yes. I think we are beginning to see that as well - just hadn't really noticed it. There is a reason that even in this very foodie community, arguably the best Indian restaurant in the area, and perhaps even the best Vietnamese restaurant as well are out in the old suburbs. Those are the communities that are attracting immigrants. The prices are lower, the houses, while substantially smaller than the new McMansions in the single developer communities in the newer suburbs, are nonetheless larger than apartments downtown.

Throughout the history of this country the waves of immigrants have always generated small entrepreneurial ventures - they don't have the money, or the language skills to do anything other than bootstrap their way up - and they can hire their extended family to multiply the financial value of their ventures. There are parking lots out here that now house clusters of low cost start up ethnic food carts. The same as a mall's food court, only different. Much different.

Kotkin says that we will be doing more of our work from home now, because we have the technological capabilities. And not just start-ups. I visited a friend in an old suburb. His home is the northwest office of a substantial, albeit narrowly focused, European company. He spends 50% of his time working from his home office, 40% out on the road visiting clients, and 10% back in Europe at company headquarters. Next to him he pointed out, is a couple - both of whom work for IBM -that spend maybe 20% of their time in a company office, 40% out of home, and 40% on the road. Next to them, a similar home-road-office split for a Sony employee. Two more houses down - a former cook who now runs her own food cart a couple of blocks away. Across the street is a woman who was laid off from a state job in the previous financial crisis who is now a consultant, earning more than she ever made before, working out of her office at home. Isn't this going to grow as the technology gets better? Isn't that why more than 200 communities are now hustling with Facebook pages for Google's new hi speed connection project?

The book is impressively well researched and the analysis and arguments he provides for his very supportable conclusions are on solid foundations. There is no doubt that he knows the thinking in the field to date. There are no less than 46 pages of small print references and citations of everyone from Lewis Mumford and Daniel Yergin to Pat Riley! How can you not be impressed with this kind of effort? It's substantiated and rigorous scholarship. This book will be a well thumbed classic for those open minded enough to use it. It will help move planning out of the box of its present orthodoxy.

My major problem with it is that it offers real potential for a positive picture of America in 2050. I surely hope that doesn't cramp my ability to bitch and moan about pretty much everything anyone else ever does. Because I've got my "we're not doing it right" argument down pat by now. It's comforting to me to feel superior. I like figuratively placing little yellow stickies on everything - telling them they need to improve (i.e. do it my way). And Kotkin's effort says if the trends he has identified continue it may not be so bad here after all in a few decades. OMG. Now what will I do for an ego soothing hobby?
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on September 2, 2013
If you are tired of the same ol' new urbanism or bust reading then check this out. Im in my mid 30's and find this book refreshing. A future for all and not just the cram us in a small box crowd, even though theres plenty o room for them also.
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on May 16, 2010
Joel Kotkin is concerned about the prospects of the American middle class and threats to upward mobility, but he contends that America does not face inevitable economic decline. In The Next Hundred Million he suggests that the right patterns of urban development can support an "aspirational" society that continues to achieve economic growth. Many readers are likely to be provoked by his forecasts and recommendations (it is sometimes difficult to separate the two) because several are contrarian, against the grain of current thinking about "smart growth" and the desirability of urban density.

Kotkin sees a future with certain "superstar" cities like Manhattan, Boston, San Francisco, west Los Angeles, and possibly Seattle, Portland, and Austin. These will not be the primary engines of broad prosperity, however, but rather havens adapted to work and recreation for elites and young adults. These cities will be too expensive for most families. Instead, most people will prefer to live where they can afford it, with access to a good job, decent schools, and safe neighborhoods.

"Cities of aspiration" that offer these benefits include, according to Kotkin, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, Atlanta, and Charlotte, for example. Because the entry cost is more broadly affordable, it is venues like these that will drive upward mobility, he says. Revamped suburbs will also fulfill this role, places that are slightly denser than currently, accommodating work as well as residence. He sees a revival of "Heartland" small towns as well, enabled in part by the Internet and instant access to global information.

One attraction of this book is that it offers a palatable overview of much of the history of American city planning and land use and of current thinking regarding these issues. It is polished journalism: Kotkin succinctly and entertainingly covers his subject, acknowledging many different points of view.

The downside is that it lacks rigor. For instance, Kotkin makes no attempt to quantify how much land his model future will consume, even though he has the population forecasts and desired densities in hand to do so. Will enough high quality agricultural land remain to support food production for both local and global markets, as he envisions? We cannot tell for sure, because he does not do the math. Nor, apparently, has he sufficiently thought through the geometry of his advocacy of jobs redistribution to suburbs. Why will future commuting patterns be greatly different from currently, when significant numbers of suburban residents commute long distances to a place of employment in some other distant suburb, a trend that is exacerbated by increasing frequency of changes in employment?

Kotkin suggests that home businesses and telecommuting are part of the answer. Yet he thinks (unrealistically, in my view) that America can regain some of its lost ground in the manufacture of hard goods, an activity that generally requires workers to be in the same place at the same time.

Like others who forecast future economic and social life, Kotkin mixes assumptions that some things will remain the same (reluctance to use mass transit, for example) with assumptions that other things will change (family structures, for instance). His justifications for his assumptions are sometimes spelled out, though often not.

On one very important matter, however, I believe Kotkin has got it right. If America is to remain economically competitive it will in part be because of upwardly striving immigrants, just as it always has been. He notes the significantly more youthful population the United States will have compared to China and Japan by 2050, for example, a distinct economic advantage attributable in large part to continued immigration.

Kotkin says that our urban and land use policies must balance growth and opportunity with sustainability and aesthetics. While many will believe he tilts too far toward the former and too little toward the latter, all should find instructive his emphasis on how individual aspirations intermesh with urban development.

Just one small final observation: I generally do not look for typos, but here one in particular amused me. Kotkin tells us that Santa Clarita, California has an "ethically" diverse population. Does that mean it has its fair share of thieves, cheats, and scoundrels to go along with its majority of law-abiding citizens?
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on May 5, 2010
I found Joel Kotkin's book, The Next Hundred Million, to be well written and well organized. He provided an informed perspective on the advantages of the new suburbia and ethnic diversification.

However, what I found incredibly misguided in this book was its central theme of advocating population growth to advance our economy - from the front flap: " In stark contrast to the advanced nations in the rest of the world, the United States is growing at a record rate. This projected rise in population is our long-term indicator of our economic strength."

In embracing population growth, he ignores the current situation: that our economy has lost 7 million jobs since 2007, that we have 14 million unemployed workers, that in our search for energy we are pushing technological limits, that we are "mortgaging our children's future", etc.

Furthermore taking the long-term view: The author praises our population growing to an additional 100 million people by 2050 as a sign of national economic strength. If the population of the world would increase by 33% every 40 years for the foreseeable future - how would this be sustained? I submit that the advanced nations of the world that have been able to limit population growth and live with finite resources - be they Europe, Japan or China - are the nations that merit praise.

This book is well written and the scenarios of the new suburbia are interesting. However I find terribly misguided the author advocating a population Ponzi scheme to drive our economy. What makes an economy strong is productivity - output per capita - innovation - not a continual population pyramid - definitely not in a world of finite resources. As many have learned, and unfortunately many will continue to learn; Ponzi schemes do not end nicely. I cannot understand how this population Ponzi scheme would end well, much less benefit us or for the world.
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on February 17, 2010
Obviously some of the high-verbals above have not read this book. Pity. Joel Kotkin dares to posit a future US that differs from the rank and file urbanism of the professoriate. You may not agree with all of his intellectual jiu-jitsu, but here, I think, is one important key: Suburbia is the future, but not the wasteful lonely suburbia of the 1950s. Instead we must fashion a new kind of suburban landscape, one that selectively borrows the successful and vital elements of big city life and uses them to make a more vibrant small cities. The book is a classic urbanist polemic, one that may occupy a place on the right hand side of the same shelf as Jane Jacob's classic Life and Death of the American City. Get the book and read it. If you can handle it...
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on February 22, 2011
Visions of the future are always interesting. Sometimes the future is so far in the future that we can never tell whether something happened or not. Kotkin's book looks at the United States in 2050. And, he predicted we will have one hundred million more people AND they will be a plus!

Economic progress and social issues will benefit with this increase. Wow!

Four hundred million Americans! Better yet, 400 million United States citizens.
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