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    Expanding mass-transit systems is a pillar of green and “new urbanist” thinking, but with few exceptions, the idea of ever-larger numbers of people commuting into an urban core ignores a major shift in the labor economy: More people are working from home.

    True, in a handful of large metropolitan regions — what we might call “legacy cities” — trains and buses remain essential. This is particularly true of New York, which accounts for a remarkable 43% of the nation’s mass-transit commuters, and of other venerable cities, such as San Francisco, Washington, Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago. Together, these metros account for 56% of all mass-transit commuting. But for most of the rest of the country, transit use — despite often-massive infrastructure investment — has either stagnated or declined. Among the 21 metropolitan areas that have opened substantially new urban-rail systems since 1970, mass transit’s share of work trips has declined, on average, from 5.3% to 5%. During the same period, the drive-alone share of work trips, notes demographer Wendell Cox, has gone up from 71.9% to 76.1%.

    Meantime, the proportion of the labor force working from home continues to grow. In 1980, 2.3% of workers performed their duties primarily at home; by 2015, this figure had doubled to 4.6%, only slightly behind the proportion of people who commute via mass transit. In legacy core-metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs), the number of people working from home is not quite half that of those commuting by transit. In the 47 MSAs without legacy cores, according to the American Community Survey, the number of people working from home was nearly 250% higher than people going to work on trains or buses.

    In the greater Los Angeles area, roughly 1.5% of people worked from home in 1980; today about 5% do. Meanwhile, despite significant expenditures, the share of people using mass transit went from slightly over 5% to slightly less than 5%.

    The areas with the thickest presence of telecommuters — including cities such as Austin, Raleigh-Durham, San Diego, Denver, and Seattle — tend to have the greatest concentration of tech-related industries, which function well with off-site workers. In San Jose, the epicenter of the nation’s tech industry, 4.6% of people work from home, exceeding the 3.4% who take mass transit. Other telecommuting hot spots include college towns like Boulder, where over 11.6% of workers work from home, and Berkeley, where the share is 10.6%.

    Leading telecommuting centers tend to be home to many well-educated, older and wealthy residents. Communities such as San Clemente, Newport Beach and Encinitas in Southern California, as well as Boca Raton in Florida, all have telecommuting shares over 10%. Perhaps older, well-connected people are more inclined to avoid miserable commutes, given the chance to do so. As the American population skews older, the economy will likely see more workers making such choices.

    Another important demographic force contributing to the work-from-home inclination is Americans’ continuing move to lower-density cities, which usually lack effective transit, and to the suburbs and exurbs — where 81% of job growth occurred between 2010 and 2014. While most metropolitan regions can be called “polycentric,” they are actually better described as “dispersed,” with central business districts (CBDs) and suburban centers (subcenters) now accounting for only a minority of employment. By 2000, more than three-quarters of all employment in metropolitan areas with populations higher than 1 million was outside CBDs and subcenters.

    Home-based work could be the logical extension of this dispersal — and modern technologies, from ride-sharing services to automated cars, will probably accelerate the trend. A recent report by the global consulting firm Bain suggested that greater decentralization is likely in the coming decades. A 2015 National League of Cities report observes that traditional nine-to-five jobs are on the decline and that many white-collar jobs will involve office-sharing and telecommuting in the future. The report also predicts that more workers will act as “contractors,” taking on multiple positions at once.

    Some see these developments as ominous, but greens and urbanists shouldn’t: Telecommuting will, among other things, reduce pollution. It may be that the shift to home-based work will prove the ultimate in mixed use — albeit for workers in their pajamas.

    This piece originally appeared on the Los Angeles Times.

    Joel Kotkin is executive editor of NewGeography.com. He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book is The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us. He is also author of The New Class ConflictThe City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.

    Photo from Picjumbo.


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    This post will be continuously updated as we learn about new projects.

    On the three main vectors of wealth creation, African countries have lagged other developing nations for several decades. Sub-Saharan Africa is the poorest region of the world and suffers from poor infrastructure, uneven literacy, endemic corruption, political instability and war. While this is problematic for the present, improving conditions are pointing to a more promising future.

    In particular, sub-Saharan Africa could have a unique opportunity to realize a demographic dividend if its elevated fertility rate and dependency ratio decline in the same way as have those of other countries in the past.

    The experience of China shows that a significant dividend can be reaped if other conducive factors are also present. Most important among them are a growing workforce that is more literate and productive, and an institutional framework that is supportive of economic development.

    Innovation-based productivity gains as we understand them in the West can be scarce in the poorest developing countries. But productivity can be improved quickly through educational programs and through well targeted infrastructure projects.

    There is much to do given that Africa has a large infrastructure deficit. A World Bank Fact Sheet provides the following numbers:

      • Electricity: The 48 countries of Sub-Saharan Africa (with a combined population of 800 million) generate roughly the same amount of power as Spain (with a population of 45 million).

      • Roads: Only one-third of Africans living in rural areas are within two kilometers of an all-season road, compared with two-thirds of the population in other developing regions.

      • Water: Water storage capacity is currently 200 cubic meters per capita and needs to increase to at least 750 cubic meters per capita, a level currently found only in South Africa. Only six million hectares, concentrated in a handful of countries, are equipped for irrigation. Though less than five percent of Africa’s cultivated area, the irrigation-equipped area represents 20 percent of the value of agricultural production.

      • The cost of redressing Africa’s infrastructure deficit is estimated at US$38 billion of investment per year, and a further US$37 billion per year in operations and maintenance; an overall price tag of US$75 billion. The total required spending translates into some 12 percent of Africa’s GDP. There is currently a funding gap of US$35 billion per year.

      Below are some recently announced projects in sub-Saharan Africa that will likely have a large impact on nearby populations. (Some of the links are behind a paywall).

      Uganda-Tanzania pipeline

      Tanzania and Uganda signed on May 26 an intergovernmental agreement for the construction of the world’s longest electrically heated crude-oil export pipeline, which is being designed by Houston-based Gulf Interstate Engineering Co.


      The 1,445-kilometer East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project, which is being developed by France’s Total SA, China’s CNOOC and UK’s Tullow Oil, would enable the commercialization of the estimated 6.5 billion barrels of crude-oil reserves in Uganda’s Albertine basin. (link)

      Tanzania rail project

      A joint venture of Portuguese and Turkish construction firms has been awarded a $1.2-billion contract for a new 202-kilometer, single-track, 1,435-millimeter-gauge railway line, in Tanzania. The segment is part of the 1631-km Dar es Salaam-Isaka-Kigali and Keza-Musongati railway project connecting the country to neighboring Burundi and Rwanda. (link)

      Landlocked Ethiopia seeking stake in Somali port

      Ethiopia is in talks to acquire shares in a joint venture involving DP World Ltd. that will manage a port in northern Somalia, a Somali official said, a move that could give the fast-growing yet landlocked Horn of Africa economy its first stake in foreign docks. (link)

      Mozambique suspension bridge

      Chinese crews, with the help of German supervisors, are building what will be Africa’s largest suspension bridge, in Mozambique. Slated for completion in the third quarter of this year, the 3,003-meter-long, $725-million Maputo Bridge and Link Roads project will strengthen north-south connections and provide a new road link to South Africa and Swaziland. (link)

      East African Power Plant

      Two foreign-led consortiums have been awarded contracts to build the East Africa-sited, 80-MW Rusumo hydropower project, which is intended to reduce electricity costs and promote renewable power in Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. (link)

      Rwanda Airport

      The South African subsidiary of a Portuguese civil construction company has won a two-phase, $818-million contract to construct Bugesera International Airport in Rwanda under a build-own-operate-transfer model, with a view to turning it into central Africa’s premier air transport hub by 2018. (link)

      Tallest Building in Africa

      Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta recently laid the foundation stone for what will be the tallest building in Africa in the Upper Hill neighborhood of Nairobi. Construction is underway at the development site, and slated for completion by December 2019.


      The ambitious project will see twin glass-facade towers rise above the city, the larger standing at 300 meters tall, far surpassing the continent’s current leader — Johannesburg’s 223-meter Carlton Centre. (link)

      Zimbabwe Road Expansion

      Zimbabwe has signed an agreement with a Chinese-Austrian consortium to resume the delayed $2.7-billion rehabilitation and expansion of the 971-kilometer Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu highway, which links landlocked Zimbabwe and Zambia to the ports of Durban and Richards Bay in South Africa. (link)

      Dams in Ethiopia

      Italy’s Milan-based industrial group Salini Impregilo has been awarded a $2.8-billion hydropower project by the Ethiopian Electric Power Corp., a state-controlled company that produces, transmits, distributes and sells electricity in Ethiopia.


      The contract involves the construction, with financing from Italy’s credit agency Servizi Assicuative de Commerce Estero, of the 2,200-MW Koysha Dam on the Omo River in the southern part of the country.


      Salini currently is constructing Ethiopia’s 6,000-MW Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which, when commissioned in 2017, will be Africa’s largest and the world’s No. 11 largest hydropower project. The Italian construction firm last year completed the 1,870-MW Gibe III hydroelectric power project at a cost of $1.6 billion. (link)

      These are only a few examples of the new infrastructure in Africa. The need for new roads, power plants, rail connections, harbors, water and wastewater facilities, telecommunications etc. is very large and presents a significant opportunity for investors, under the proper governance preconditions.

      This piece originally appeared on Populyst.

      Sami Karam is the founder and editor of populyst.net and the creator of the populyst index™. populyst is about innovation, demography and society. Before populyst, he was the founder and manager of the Seven Global funds and a fund manager at leading asset managers in Boston and New York. In addition to a finance MBA from the Wharton School, he holds a Master's in Civil Engineering from Cornell and a Bachelor of Architecture from UT Austin.

      Photo: Al Gesh Road, Sahara. (Photo by KaiAbuSir via Wikimedia Commons)


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    As the country moves toward full employment, at least as economists define it, the quality of jobs has replaced joblessness as the primary concern. With wages still stagnant, rising an anemic 2.5% in the year to May, the biggest challenge for most parts of the U.S. is not getting more people into the workforce but rather driving the creation of the types of jobs that can sustain a middle-class quality of life.

    To that end, the key sector to watch is business and professional services. By far the nation’s largest high-wage sector -- including such fields as law, accounting, architecture, advertising, engineering, scientific research and development, and computer systems design – it employs 20.5 million Americans, roughly the same as the finance and manufacturing industries combined. Over the past decade, the number of people working in business and professional services has expanded by nearly 2.5 million, including an increase of more than half a million jobs in the last year.

    We decided to take a look at which metropolitan areas are gaining the most professional and business services jobs and the trends that are driving some to pull ahead while others fade. Our rankings look at employment in the sector over time— assessing short, medium and long-term job trends and adding in variables for persistence and momentum as well. The results of these trends, based on three-month averages, are normalized and each metropolitan statistical area is assigned a score based on its relative position in each area. The rankings this year produced some surprising results, as well as some familiar stories.

    The shift to affordable places

    Looking at the 70 largest labor markets in the country, the clear winners are affordable, business-friendly locales – and their momentum is growing. These span an array of regions, from the Midwest heartland to the Deep South, Texas and the Intermountain West.

    Our number one metro area for professional and business service jobs, Nashville, Tenn., epitomizes many of the characteristics that drive high-end employment today. Since 2011, Nashville’s job count in professional and business services has expanded a remarkable 42.6% to 160,300, easily the highest growth rate of any major metropolitan area. Management and technical consulting, architecture and related services have led this growth.

    The very forces that lead companies to Nashville -- low taxes and a pro-business regulatory environment -- also apply to several of our other top 10 places. These include No. 2 Kansas City, Mo., which has logged 28.4% growth since 2011. KC, better known in the rest of the country for barbecue and its music scene (though not quite Nashville), has grown a vibrant economy based in good part on service businesses in architecture and innovative administrative support models (especially for health care providers), accounting for some 100,000 jobs in professional and business services.

    But for the most part of the fastest-growing areas for business services are also the same areas that did best on our overall list. These include the Texas powerhouses of Austin-Round Rock (third), Dallas-Plano-Irving (fifth), and San Antonio-Braunfels (sixth), all of which logged 25% job growth or more since 2011. Salt Lake City, ranked ninth, has become a major magnet for business service, outpacing such hot spots as 21st-ranked Seattle and No. 28 Denver. Charlotte, another consistent performer, ranked eighth.

    The last big region for fast-growing high-wage service jobs is Florida, led by 10th-ranked Orlando, 11th-place Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater and No. 14 Ft. Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach. Better known for its huge hospitality industry, Florida cities like Orlando have become major lures to large companies seeking lower costs and taxes. Orlando is home to corporate or regional headquarters of Darden Restaurants, Tupperware, AAA, Deloitte, and the fast-growing auto service firm, Greenway Automotive. Over the last two years, the business services sector grew more than tourism, adding almost 24,000 jobs compared to 21,300 for tourism.

    Places Where Value Still Outpaces Costs

    Yet not all of the economies creating the most high-wage jobs are in the lower-cost states. There remains a handful of places with high taxes and strict regulation that are attractive to businesspeople. Perhaps the best example is San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, which is down two notches from last year to fourth place, but remains on a tear, with over 34% growth since 2011. This growth is driven in large part by the tech industry, which is increasingly integrated into business services.

    One prime example is Salesforce.com, a firm with strong tech assets, but whose customer relationship management tools are firmly in the business service space. The company has quadrupled its sales to $8 billion since 2012 and now employs 6,600 people at its San Francisco headquarters, making it the second largest private employer in the city after the venerable Wells Fargo.

    Seventh-ranked San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, the capital of Silicon Valley, has also been able to dodge the cost bullet, enjoying 34% business services job growth since 2011. Other high cost areas that have seen impressive growth in business services include No. 20 New York, with 21.2% growth since 2011 to 735,300 jobS

    the most of any metro area in the nation, as well as No. 24 Boston, with 17.1% growth over the same period. As competitive pressure in these tech-heavy metro areas has surged, it has driven up the local demand for professional services.

    Many other high-cost metro areas have not done so well. In Southern California, 32nd-ranked Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine, with a job growth rate of 19.3%, is the pick of the litter. Other parts of this heavily populated area do worse, including San Diego 49th ) and Los Angeles (53rd), where growth was 11.6%, way below the average of 16.5% for large MSAs. Riverside-San Bernardino, which did respectably in our overall job growth survey, ranked a poor 67th in business services, with a 6.9% drop last year.

    What the future may bring

    The future of business services presents a mixed picture. Areas with particularly strong technical expertise, such as the Bay Area and Boston, and financial talent, notably New York, continue to do well. Yet job growth is slowing in all three; San Jose and San Francisco posted the lowest growth among the top 10 metro areas in 2016, well below such places as Nashville, San Antonio and Kansas City.

    Does this suggest a developing trend? Certainly the ease of online communication may grease the skids for firms to locate people in less expensive regions. Although salaries for business professionals are higher in places like San Francisco or New York, the cost of living, particularly housing, cuts into the value of their salaries. Estimated median home prices in the City by the Bay hit $1.5 million in May, more than six times the national median price of $244,800.

    Further down the road, we may also see the shift of some business to small and mid-sized cities, which constituted 10 of the top 12 fastest growing areas for business service jobs, led by such diverse places as Wausau, Wisc., Monroe, Mich., and College Station, Texas. As companies look to cut costs and still offer a middle-class standard of living to their employees, such shifts could be in hand. If so, the much dismissed prospects for small cities may prove far brighter than many may expect.

    This piece originally appeared on Forbes.

    Joel Kotkin is executive editor of NewGeography.com. He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book is The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us. He is also author of The New Class ConflictThe City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.

    Dr. Michael Shires primary areas of teaching and research include state, regional and local policy; technology and democracy; higher education policy; strategic, political and organizational issues in public policy; and quantitative analysis. He often serves as a consultant to local and state government on issues related to finance, education policy and governance. Dr. Shires has been quoted as an expert in various publications including USA TodayNewsweekThe EconomistThe Sacramento Bee, San Francisco Chronicle, and LA Times. He has also appeared as a guest commentator on CNN, KTLA and KCAL to name a few.

    Photo by Peter Miller, via Flickr, using CC License.


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    Canada and the United States have lived together in peace for more than two centuries, since the War of 1812. Yet, it has not always been easy.

    Elephants provided one of the most graphic descriptions of the two nations living together. There are no elephants in Canada, at least not in the wild. But according to Canada’s third longest serving prime minister, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, there is a big one close by. The Prime Minister characterized Canada's relationship with the United States in his March 25, 1969 speech to the Washington Press Club (at 1:40 in this Canadian Broadcasting Corporation video clip):

    “Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt."

    Trudeau was the late father of Justin Trudeau, who today is Canada’s 23rd Prime Minister.

    I have always had great admiration for Canada. Perhaps that is because I lived there three years in my formative youth. This article contains some perspectives on Canada that may not be familiar to non-Canadians and perhaps to even some Canadians.

    Canada 150

    Canada is celebrating its 150th anniversary. Canada Day is July 1. On that day in 1867, the British North America Act came into effect. The Act created the Dominion of Canada, a union (confederation) between the province of Canada (which was divided into the provinces of Ontario and Québec) and the colonies of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, which became provinces. All of this could be traced back to a 1864 conference in Charlottetown, now the capital of Prince Edward Island, which itself did not join the confederation until 1873.

    Like the United States, Canada is a former British colonial holding. Yet there are significant differences. For example, the manner of its separation from the “mother country” could not be more different.

    For the United States, the break was complete and relatively quick. After the July 4, 1776 Declaration of Independence and a war that lasted from 1775 to 1783, the separation was complete.

    When Did Canada Become Sovereignty?

    There is no question today of Canada’s sovereignty --- it is a sovereign nation like the United States, China or Japan. Yet Canada seems to have evolved into sovereignty, over many years. Just when did Canada become independent? Opinions vary by 115 years.

    A poll by the Ottawa Citizen found considerable disagreement among Canadians. The majority, 74 percent said that it was 150 years ago, the effective date of the British North America Act (1867). The signing of the Canada Act by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and Queen Elizabeth in 1982 got the second most mentions, at 14 percent. And, other dates were mentioned.

    But both dates are unconvincing, according to Professor Jack Jebwab, formerly at one of Canada’s most prestigious universities (McGill University in Montréal) and now president of the Association for Canadian Studies, cites a 1967 Supreme Court decision of Canada, which stated that “sovereignty was acquired in the period between its separate signature of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 and the Statute of Westminster” (1931).

    Jebwab says that Canada became neither independent nor sovereign in 1867, noting that the meaning of “dominion” was a British Empire term for “semi-independent entities.” The British Parliament, he says, could legislate on Canadian affairs and “override” any local legislation.

    He says that “Identifying the precise date when Canada achieved its independence is not easy.” Jebwab cites a leading constitutional expert Frank Scott to the effect that “at no time prior to the Second World War was the full international personality of the Dominion, as distinct from Great Britain, established beyond equivocation.”

    The Statute of Westminster (1931), which was a “British law clarifying the powers of Canada's Parliament and those of the other Commonwealth Dominions. It granted these former colonies full legal freedom except in those areas where they chose to remain subordinate to Britain,” according to The Canadian Encyclopedia. This certainly seems to suggest that Canada could have been independent in 1931 if it chose to be. The Statute covered not only the Dominion of Canada, but also the Dominions of Australia, New Zealand, the Irish Free State, South Africa and Newfoundland (now Newfoundland and Labrador, one of Canada’s provinces).

    With respect to the 1982 act, Professor Jebwab notes: “Only with that act was a process introduced that permitted the amending of Canada’s basic constitutional laws without action by the British Parliament, and it declared that no British law passed thereafter would apply to Canada.”

    The Expansion of Canada

    From its beginnings with four provinces (Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia), Canada expanded to 10 provinces and three territories. Manitoba joined as a province in 1870. British Columbia, on the Pacific Coast, joined in 1871, with the promise of a transcontinental railway, which was completed in 1885 (the Canadian Pacific). Prince Edward Island, home to the founding Charlottetown conference, did not join until 1873. Saskatchewan and Alberta became provinces in 1905, bringing the count to nine.

    The province of Newfoundland and Labrador is a special case. Never before a part of Canada, Newfoundland became a dominion of the British Empire in 1907, with equal status with Canada and the other dominions. It, like the other dominions, received a substantial push toward sovereignty with the 1931 Statute of Westminster. Yet, by 1933, the Dominion of Newfoundland found itself in considerable financial difficulty and its legislature disbanded. This may have been the only instance of a former colony voluntarily returning to colonial status. Newfoundland was governed for a decade and a half directly from London. After referendums, Newfoundland became a province of Canada in 1949.

    Canada also assumed the huge territories of the North, now the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

    Prince Albert, Saskatchewan

    Then there is the city of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, which is not among Canada’s largest, with only 36,000 residents. No one from Prince Albert was at Charlottetown in 1864. Yet Prince Albert has been, in some ways, a cradle of Canadian leadership. The House of Commons (lower house of parliament) constituency of Prince Albert has been represented by a disproportionately large three of Canada’s 23 prime ministers. John A. Diefenbaker (1957-1963) grew up in the area and served Prince Albert during his premiership. William Lyon MacKenzie King, Canada’s longest serving prime minister (1921-1926, 1926-1930 and 1935-1948) represented Prince Albert through four of his six governments. Before he became Canada’s seventh prime minister, Wilfred Laurier held its provisional seat before Saskatchewan became a province in 1905 (when it was a part of the Northwest Territories). St. Albert has been represented by Prime Ministers for 30 of Canada’s 150 years, quite an accomplishment for such a small place.

    Celebrating Canada

    On the complex issue of sovereignty, Professor Jebwab concludes: “We’ve evolved enormously since 1867 and there is much to commemorate in the sovereign nation that we’ve become and that is today widely respected in so many parts of the world.”

    Indeed. Canada has emerged as one of the world’s most successful nations. According to the New York Times, Canada now has the richest middle class in the world. There is much in Canada to be celebrated, and enthusiastically.

    Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy and demographics firm. He is a Senior Fellow of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism (US), Senior Fellow for Housing Affordability and Municipal Policy for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (Canada), and a member of the Board of Advisors of the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University (California). He is co-author of the "Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey" and author of "Demographia World Urban Areas" and "War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life." He was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, where he served with the leading city and county leadership as the only non-elected member. He served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, a national university in Paris.

    Photograph: Centre Block, Parliament of Canada (by author)


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    Canada is one of the world’s most successful countries on quality of life and income indicators.  Among the reasons for its success are its foundation of laws, vast natural resources, access to the huge American market, and law abiding citizens.

    Canada was founded by the British Government at the height of the British Empire. French-speaking and English-speaking colonies agreed to join, and then spread west along the 49th parallel border with America.

    Britain bestowed two important advantages on Canada.  One being the rule of law. Canadians, while extremely law abiding, have common legal challenges: the length of time to reach trial, high court costs, and difficulties in prosecution of sophisticated white collar crimes. 

    Crime rates are a fraction of American levels and Canadian 'no guns allowed' cities are much safer than in America. Canada's culture of respect is reflected in law abiding citizens and, outside of Quebec, very little real government corruption. Canada regularly scores among the least corrupt counties in Transparency International’s corruption rankings. 

    The British also left their wonderfully simple parliamentary system.  In Canada, once your party is elected with a majority of the seats in parliament, as Prime Minister you are effectively a benign dictator for 4 years.  The same goes with Canada's equivalent of the State Governors – our Provincial Premiers.  Do a bad job and expect to lose the next election after 4 years – for the most part, almost all federal and provincial governments last two election cycles. 

    Unlike the USA, with its complex systems of checks and balances, the system in Canada affords its elected political leaders massive power, albeit subject to the robust rule of the English system of common law, which provides excellent and reliable property rights and contract enforcement. 

    After a federal election, the winning part's leader picks his/her cabinet, senior bureaucrats, and appoints Senators and federal judges to vacancies in the upper house and the judiciary. Appointments are long term, generally outlast two election cycles except for judges and Senators, who serve to the mandatory retirement age.

    As in the US, Canada has three levels of government - federal, provincial and municipal.  Its British constitutional framework, based on “Peace, Order and Good Government”, has produced strong regional and provincial level governments which control major policy areas like healthcare, education and welfare. While the federal government has superior taxation powers, the provinces benefit enormously by owning and controlling all natural resources. 

    The second largest country by land mass, Canada has massive natural resources with large gold mines and the third largest proven oil reserves in the world. Its small population (12% of USA's population) is made wealthy by vast amounts of oil and gas, minerals, water and forests. 

    Our proximity and close relationship with the USA – 90% of Canadians live within 100 miles of the border, has been vital to Canada’s success.  Not since 1812 have we had a major war with the USA. The 1812-1814 war and other occasions when America attempted to incorporate the northern part of North America helped drive the consolidation of separate British colonies into Canada in 1867.

    For the most part, Canada has recognized and lived peaceably with America. And, the USA has treated Canada better than it has any other country in the world, respecting its independence and providing Canada with massive military protection.  No other country would ever think of attacking Canada, for fear of the USA’s might and reprisal.  Our American relationship has brought great economic advantages – most importantly being almost unfettered access to the enormous US market.

    This reliance on American protection has allowed Canada to save massively on military expenditure.  The USA spends around 3.3% of its GDP on defense, while Canada spends well below 2%.  Although we do lose out on the amazing technologies and manufacturing jobs surrounding military expenditures, our lower costs allow a rich fabric of health and social programs.

    Both Canada and the USA lag well back in the most recent World Health Organization ranking of healthcare systems – Canada 30th in the world, the USA 37th.  The advantage for Canada is that our single payer universal health care system only costs us 11% of GDP, while in the USA the cost to the USA is 18% of its GDP. Canada's universal – all Canadians are covered – public system is   preferred by Canadians over the American system which leaves many families unable to afford full health coverage that  system's private insurers offer.

    Canada’s education system substantially outperforms its southern neighbor – scoring high in the top ten rankings in international math, science and reading. Canada’s strong knowledge economy is a great source of innovation and inventions.  The place that invented the telephone (inventor: Alexander Graham Bell) has a technological base that provides a valuable resource for the American tech sector. According to Canada’s National Post newspaper:

    “Silicon Valley technology companies continue to tap Canadian universities for talent. A 2014 report by Riviera Partners, a San Francisco  recruiting company, ranked the University of Waterloo (in Kitchener-Waterloo, Canada’s “Silicon Valley”) outside Toronto second behind only the University of California, Berkeley, in a list of schools that produce the most frequently hired students in the Bay area. Stanford, UCLA, and Cornell tied for third." (italics section added by author)

    We model ourselves as an European alternative to the USA – in terms of social programs and enterprise establishment – and that’s not always to the best.  Canada has opened its borders to an increasing flow of immigrants including refugees, putting pressure on government budgets called in to integrate the newcomers. As in the US, the public sector is a chattering class oasis of 1980s style social engineering.  High-priced and rules focused, our governments and media are increasingly fixated on gender and identity politics. Canada's state funded broadcaster, the CBC, dwells obsessively on grievance, race and victim politics.

    Canada's current Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, seems to be more interested in politically-correct platitudes, gender balance in his Cabinet and fighting climate change than in building an economy.  For all its evident faults, the Trump Administration promotes job creation, economic growth by reversing Obama’s regulatory assaults on the conventional hydrocarbon sector. In contrast Trudeau's Liberal federal government is thickening regulatory obstacles to more Canadian oil pipelines, banning oil tanker traffic along Canada’s west coast, and raising energy costs in a cold, widely-dispersed, resource based economy via a UN-approved carbon tax policy. 

    Like his father the late Pierre Trudeau, Canada’s Prime Minister from 1968-1984, before him, Justin Trudeau is trying to build a social legacy – not an economic one.

    Despite Canada's leftish drift under young Trudeau, it will remain one of the safest, kindest, and peaceful greatest countries in the world. Canadians believe in service to society more than service to their country, while abiding by the rule of law, and enjoying the value of high-quality and affordable education. Forty-two per cent of Canadians have university degrees (33% in the USA), and unlike some European citizens, Canadians are not afraid of either work or our large and growing immigrant population, who work even harder.   

    Our current glamorous Prime Minister is strong on EQ  (emotional quotient) , excelling at selfies, platitudes and foreign relations.  Back home in Canada he professes that “budgets will balance themselves” and “root causes” are the reason for terrorism.  But, Canadians are patient, and avoid any and all forms of radical change. 

    No democracy on earth has a more stable political environment something that allows us to avoid the massive political swings found elsewhere.  Decades long debates in Canada center around social issues, such as whether to have our provinces solely fund child care or rely in part on the Federal Government. Recently, a debate raged about changing three words in our national anthem to make the anthem fully Gender Neutral.  While the rest of the world focuses on terrorism, immigration and youth unemployment – Canadians worry about rising  house prices, protecting and improving a 'too slow' health care system, and whether our civil servants get a small raise.

    On a global scale, these are good problems to have. 

    Peter Holle is president of the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, an independent western Canada based think tank, www.fcpp.org

    Photograph: Flag of Canada


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  • 07/02/17--22:33: Why Socialism Is Back
  • Even as Venezuela falls deeper into crisis, and the former Soviet bloc nations groan under its legacy, socialism is coming back, and in a big way. Its key supporters are not grizzled pensioners yearning for Marxist security, but a whole new generation, most of whom have little memory of socialist failure.

    Although the trend is a-historic, it’s not happening in a vacuum. The primary driver is the global ascendency of neo-liberal capitalism, which in virtually all countries has accelerated inequality. This is particularly true in the United States and the United Kingdom, where the gaps between rich and poor are greatest among developed, democratic countries. In these nations, socialist politicians such as Sen. Bernie Sanders and British Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn (pictured) are now political rock stars among young people.

    In the 2016 presidential primaries, Sanders outpolled Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton put together among younger voters, and is now the nation’s most popular politician. His supporters are gradually taking over much of the Democratic Party, state by state. Corbyn, widely portrayed in the media as a walking time electoral bomb, secured for his party 61 percent of the vote among those under 40 in the recent parliamentary elections. It is increasingly possible that this once-marginal figure could someday occupy 10 Downing St. If the 75-year-old Sanders were a decade younger, he would also have an excellent chance of ascending to the White House.

    A Different Kind of Leftism

    Although neither Sanders nor Corbyn can be labeled classic Stalinists, they do represent a radical departure for their respective parties. Both adopt what are generally seen as far left positions, with Corbyn even suggesting that people displaced by London’s Grenfell fire occupy expensive, but unoccupied units, in the city’s rich precincts. Sanders has called for national health care, massive tax increases for the top income earners -- with rates upward of 90 percent -- and a ban on new fossil fuel development on federal lands.

    This marks a major departure from past progressive politics in both countries. Democrats and Labour have done best by adhering to the center, and calibrating reforms with the demands of the capital markets. Even President Obama, although revered by progressives, was hardly a radical on economic issues. He did little to stop the consolidation of tech industries -- which were also key supporters -- as his Justice Departmentfailed to press the anti-trust button. He also supported the expansion of free trade codified as Democratic Party orthodoxy during Bill Clinton’s presidency and which are favored by corporate and commercial interests. Tony Blair and his successor, Gordon Brown, also consistently embraced neo-liberal ideologies and courted support among London’s financial elite.

    In contrast, Sanders, a Senate “independent” for most of his career, is a committed socialist who took his honeymoon in, of all places, the communist Soviet Union. He has adopted positions on trade and special visas for tech workers that are closer to those of Donald Trump than Clinton’s. Corbyn’s leftism is even more extreme than Sanders’, embracing long discarded notions of nationalization of industries, massive re-distribution of income as well as a distinctly pro-Palestinian, pro-Third World view common among European leftists.

    The ‘Precariat’ -- the Modern Proletariat

    The “Bernie Bros” who made Sanders such a sudden and unlikely political force in 2016 were disproportionately young white voters who swelled the ranks of the precariat -- part-time, conditional workers. The numbers of such people is destined to grow with the emerging “gig economy” and the digitization of retail, which could cost millions of working-class jobs. Even university lecturers in Britain, notes the Guardian, fear that their jobs will be “Uber-ised,” a phenomena also seen at American universities.

    For most Americans, the once promising “New Economy” has meant a descent, as one MIT economist  recently put it, towards a precarious position usually associated with Third World countries. Even Silicon Valley has gone from one of the most egalitarian locales in the country to a highly unequal place where the working and middle class have, if anything, done worse (in terms of income) than before the tech boom.

    For its part, the precariat has rational reasons to embrace socialism, particularly if capitalism seems unlikely to meet their needs. The notion of getting a steady, well-paid, full-time job has vanished for an increasing number of young people. Most millennials are not doing as well as their parents did at the same age. The idea of buying a house -- once a sure sign of upward mobility -- has declined in much of the U.S. for the current generation, particularly on the coasts, and even more so in the U.K., where house prices are higher and incomes lower. The Grenfell fire was not just something that happens to the poor; it could be the future for many young people who may never live in anything much better.

    How Capitalism Is Failing

    “Capitalism,” Lenin noted, “begins in the village marketplace.” Yet Americans are increasingly loath to start a business. There are now more businesses failing than being born, very different than the pattern of the 1980s and 1990s. The dream of starting a business has often been the way out for people with modest educations and means. Without the societal steam valve of entrepreneurship, the alternative for many millennials is in blue-collar or service jobs, where wages have been falling over the past decade.

    Even in the tech world, which represents the largest opportunity for younger people, start-ups have become increasingly rare. This reflects the growing consolidation of the technology sector, which reduces opportunity even in new fields. As one recent research paper demonstrates, “super platforms” such as Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple depress competition, squeeze suppliers and drive down salaries, much as the monopolists of the late 19th century did.

    These tech behemoths assert that their success is based utterly on merit, but they have also exploited their structural advantages, as the most ruthless of moguls did. Companies like Amazon have been able to attract investors even with scant profits, an advantage not enjoyed by their competitors, as investors await the rewards of a near-monopoly. Apple and other tech companies have also become adept at avoiding taxes in a way almost impossible for a business on Main Street. As occurs in corrupted systems, insiders usually do best, almost no matter how well they perform; Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer earned $239 million over five years -- almost a million a week --  despite failing to revive one of the net’s earliest stars.

    Intersectionality: The Problem Facing Neo-Socialism

    On the surface, the analytics look good for a socialist revival, particularly in the wake of the almost certain failings of Trump’s ersatz populism. A large number of young people, in both Britain and America, have a more favorable view of socialism than capitalism. They never witnessed the failures of the past and they are reeling under present conditions. And given that many older people feel their children face a diminished future, building a majority for socialism is not inconceivable.

    Yet the neo-socialists face a challenge because their potential coalition is fraught. On numerous policy issues, modern progressivism’s interests diverge starkly from those of potential adherents. Corbyn’s multiculturalism and desire to allow more refugees into Britain may win praise on campuses and in left-wing media, but how attractive is this prospect to British working-class voters, many of whom supported Brexit to help cut back on immigration.

    Similar dynamics exists in the U.S. For example, in discussing politics at the Utah AFL-CIO (where I recently spoke), the local president, Dale Cox, suggested that many parts of the progressive agenda -- he specifically mentioned opposition to fossil fuel and mineral development -- directly threaten the livelihoods of union laborers. Similarly, police unions also feel alienated from progressives who embrace the agenda of groups like Black Lives Matter. Far better, Cox suggested, would be for progressives to focus on improving the lives of working people in ways that really matter, such as expanding opportunities for business and home ownership, health care, and tax reform.

    These economic positions could gain a majority, but not if the progressives maintain their   polarizing embrace of the most radical aspects of social identity and environmental policy. This in particular threatens to undermine working-class support, particularly in the interior states. The leftists’ thinly disguised distaste for how most Americans live in small towns and suburbs does not help make their case. Until the left decides to focus on the everyday issues that matter to people outside their bubble, the dream of the socialist revival will remain a fantasy.

    This piece originally appeared on Real Clear Politics.

    Joel Kotkin is executive editor of NewGeography.com. He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book is The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us. He is also author of The New Class ConflictThe City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.

    Photo by paulnew (https://www.flickr.com/photos/paulnew/28243001503) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


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    The Fourth of July is a good time to ask the question: what exactly are we celebrating when we celebrate “America?” Is it a set of ideals and principles rooted in the Enlightenment? Is it a blood-and-soil nation on the American continent, with unique institutions and culture? Is it an idea that happens to have a nation, a nation that happens to have an idea, or something else entirely?

    Another way to define it might be an empirical account of various American experiences. What follows, then, is a narrative litany of what this writer believes to have been the most influential historical experiences shaping Americanism in every epoch of our existence as a nation, from colonial days to the present. Together, in their creative tension, they contribute to the great American story and conversation, full as it is with contradictions and irregularities.

    Of course, in these polarized times, there’s the political question. Some of these experiences, for one reason or another, are distasteful to modern observers of whatever political persuasion. Some might willfully abandon their legacy, out of hopes to build “a better future.” But we cannot forget our own past, or our civilization will fail to thrive beyond its fourth century of existence.

    Ten Experiences that defined America.  

    1. The Origins.

    Americans came from somewhere- the first settlers were different groups of colonists from various parts of England. David Hackett Fischer’s magisterial study of American origins, Albion’s Seed, documents this brilliantly. At a foundational level, America remains and always has been an Anglo nation-state with a powerful yet flexible core cultural heritage. The English language, traditions of common law, and the Protestant influence on American individualism, philosophy, and civic culture and community are all undeniably components of the American identity at a very basic level.

    2. The War of Independence.

    It was the American Revolution that granted our nation its nationhood. Whereas the colonial experience had been a conservative affair of the transference of culture from one side of the Atlantic to the other, the American Revolution sparked the beginnings of American radicalism and universalism, the exuberance and triumphalism of a newly-awakened people firm in the belief that they had Providence on their side.

    3. The Constitution.

    The Revolution won but did not secure America’s liberty- that important work was done by the Framers of the Constitution, who through toil and conflict, reflection and compromise, designed the framework and foundations of a constitutional republic. The Constitution’s checks and balances and divisions of authority, the federal system of state and national sovereignty, a national government that was energetic and powerful, yet limited and constrained, and capable of addressing the great issues of the day and many days beyond, all contributed to the successful organization of the thirteen states and their western territories into a great new federal union. This federal union alone could preserve the liberty of the American people.

    4. The Rise of Jackson.

    The basically aristocratic culture of the early Republic would not outlive the Framers. The Jacksonian Revolution of the late 1820s and 1830s would forever change the culture of American politics, decisively shifting American legitimacy from a mere faith in institutions to something looking more like a democratic “common will.” It would infuse American politics with a common man’s ethos of simplicity, tradition, people’s wisdom, and folk culture, and would turn “democracy” from the dirty word of the Federalists into the litmus test for American statesmen for generations to come. By some measures, America was first truly “American” upon the onset of this democratic ethos.  

    5. The Civil War.

    Upon Abraham Lincoln’s election to the Presidency in 1860, America’s Iliad broke out and consumed the young nation. The Union cause in the Civil War was in some ways a radical affair- the erasure of Southern plantation culture, the expansion of freedom and franchise to more Americans than ever before, the coming hegemony of free-labor industrial capitalism- but in the eyes of the Republicans and the Union Army’s general staff, it was a conservative project. The preservation of the Union, and of American power over the Continent, was the crucial question. The Civil War’s conclusion ensured that the Union, which by now stretched across the American continent from sea to shining sea, would be preserved in whole and not in parts. It would remain the great power it was, positioned towards even higher greatness in the decades and centuries to come.

    6. The Western Migration.

    Long before Fort Sumter, the American people were being shaped by their expansion across the American continent. Americans pushed further and further West, in great numbers starting in the 1830s, and would continue to do so until they’d populated the entirety of American territory between the Mississippi and the Pacific in the late 19th century. As Frederick Jackson Turner argued in The Significance of the Frontier in American History, the land and its conditions left its mark on the culture and society of those who crossed it and settled it. The poet Sam Walter Foss, speaking as the American continent, asked for “Men to Match My Mountains,” and the American people obliged.

    7. The Industrial Revolution.

    Matching the individualist ethos cultivated by the experience of the Westward movement was an entrepreneurial ethos- a great knack for management and organization and innovation, a brilliance and genius rooted in benevolent acquisitiveness, all of which inspired and drove American inventors, investors, and captains of industry. Over the course of several great industrial revolutions, starting in the early 1800s and still ongoing, Americans built titanic industries, infrastructure, and cities, harnessed the power of every natural resource conceivable, and invented contraptions and machines that sent men to the moon and split the atom.

    8. The Progressive Era and the New Deal.

    The excesses and social dislocations of industrial capitalism precipitated a great social crisis, and by the turn of the 20th century, Americans clamored for major reforms in their governing institutions. Some of these efforts were quite radical- the great labor strikes, populist politicians, and socialist movements of the early 20th century have gone down into legend, and few remember today that between the 1880s and 1910s, a few Presidents of the United States were shot by anarchist terrorists. Conservative statesmen and radical reformers joined hands in compromise to reform institutions to quell the social crisis. Americans built up a federally-sponsored safety net and welfare state, a system of collaborative enterprise and regulation, and a government promising a better quality of life for all citizens. The notion that the government ought to serve its people in all ways possible, and marshal resources for national ends, remains integral to American political culture.

    9. World Leadership.

    These modernizing reforms bound the American people together at home just in time for the great Eurasian crises of 1914-1991. The crisis of imperialism in the First World War, and the rise of Fascism and Communism in the 1930s, and our subsequent involvement in the Second World War and competition with the Soviets in the Cold War, stretched our resources and our need to defend the homeland to degrees never before known.  The architects of post-1945 American foreign policy institutionalized the stewardship of international institutions, the maintenance of a navy that could command the seas and keep open the sea lanes of trade, and the preservation of a peaceful balance of power between the most powerful nations on the planet. The consummation of America’s role as a “city upon a hill” and a “light unto the nations” took its fullest form when America assumed the mantle of world leadership- and this has been integral to its self-image ever since.

    10. The Civil Right Movement.

    In the 1950s and 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement- building off of earlier antecedents including Temperance, Abolition, and Women’s Suffrage- successfully enshrined equality before the law, for people of all races and origins, into the American national identity. It paved the way for a fuller integration of people from around the world into the American experience. Its legacy is still felt acutely today, when questions on immigration, civil rights, and American identity frequently bubble up to the foreground of public discourse. More than any of the other American experiences listed here, this one is still ongoing.

    The Future

    We can imagine future “American experiences” that one hundred years from now may prove to be just as vital to the American identity as these ten listed have been. Perhaps the reform of the New Deal state towards a more localized, sustainable, and fundamentally workable system – something like the stymied “New Federalism” of the Nixon Administration, updated by the power of the Information Revolution – could transform American governance in the 21st century as did the Progressive and New Deal reforms of the 20th century. Another great quest with historic antecedents is the conquest of the Solar System: the rejuvenation of the American space program and the exploration and colonization of other worlds beyond the Moon. A great period of exploration can bring out the greatest facets of the existing American character and transform them into something new.

    One begins to notice a pattern, looking across American history: each of these experiences was in some ways conservative and in other ways radical, but distinctively one more than the other. The conservative transference of Anglo culture from the British Isles to the American continent; the radical universalism of the American Revolution; the conservative caution of the Framing of the Constitution; the radical experiments with Jacksonian Democracy; the conservative preservation of the Union in the Civil War; the radical egalitarianism and democracy of the Westward Conquest; the conservatism of culture and class wrought by the Industrial Revolution; the radicalism of the Industrial Age’s excesses, tempered into reforms in the Progressive Era and New Deal movements; the conservatism that went into building the Liberal International Order after the ravages of two world wars; and the fundamental radicalism and reformism of the Civil Rights Movement and its antecedents. Will all this be followed by a conservative reformation of American governance down to the localities? Will that be followed by the radical disruptive technological advancement of space colonization?

    In each case, a primarily radical historical experience was followed by a primarily conservative one, and so on and so forth. This should surprise no one, for America has always been a remarkably extreme nation with no less remarkable staying power. American schizophrenia has been a quality of our national existence for our entire experience as a people, and will surely remain with us until we’ve been extinguished from the Earth.

    Luke Phillips is a political activist and writer in California state politics. His work has been published in a variety of publications, including Fox&Hounds, NewGeography, and The American Interest. He is a Research Assistant to Joel Kotkin at the Center for Opportunity Urbanism.


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    The presidential election of 2016 occurred at the crest of a national debate over economic inequality,  deeply researched by economists and sociologists since the 1990s, widely perceived to have risen sharply since the 1970s, and a focus of the first serious left-wing insurgency the Democratic Party in four decades, that of Bernie Sanders. Can class and inequality help explain the election result?  The answer appears to be that they can, quite strongly, but in ways that may seem surprising.

    After Donald Trump's unexpected victory, Hillary Clinton notably blamed Vladimir Putin, Julian Assange and James Comey.  Clinton-friendly commentators fumed against sexism, racism and the other prejudices of the white working class. A book entitled “Shattered” by two journalists put the onus on the data-driven ineptitude of Clinton's campaign team.  The legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin called attention to vote suppression (through voter ID laws and by other means) especially in Wisconsin and Michigan, and an analysis of turnout by race, conducted by three political science professors and an analyst at Demos, confirmed that had the 2012 black turnout prevailed in 2016, Clinton rather than Trump would have been elected.

    The election was so close that any of these arguments might be considered valid, up to a point. Even so, simple calculations can put some of them into perspective.  For instance, a study showed that about nine percent of Obama's 2012 voters went over to Trump. If that is correct, then considerably less than five percent of all voters moved from Obama to Trump, when one considers new voters and those who were no longer voting in 2016, while   about half that proportion went from Romney to Clinton.  Another study of voter attitudes in 2016 found no reason even to measure the effect of late-breaking news on vote-switching from Obama to Trump, as opposed to the economy, immigration, “Muslims,” misogyny or perhaps simple dislike of Hillary Clinton. 

    Still, such a verdict begs two important questions:  Why was the election so close in the first place?  And, did economic inequality have anything to do with the outcome?

    To address these issues, two facts need to be borne in mind.  First, rising economic inequality is   subject to common forces across the entire land-mass and population of the country.  It's a national phenomenon, as most people perceive and measure it.   But American presidential elections are resolved through winner-take-all in the Electoral College, a constitutional confection of the states. So what happens at the national level in the economy is expressed – if at all – in politics at the level of the state.  So to find meaning in this relationship, we need to find a connection between levels or movement of inequalities and the election outcome at the level of the individual states.

    Coefficients of economic inequality across households within states have been available from the Bureau of Economic Analysis on an annual basis only since 2000.  Before that, sample sizes in the Current Population Survey made measuring inequality in small states problematic, since a state with population of (say) half a million might have as few as one hundred households represented in a national sample survey of 60,000 families.  So data at the required level of detail were available only from the decennial census.  This raised an issue of comparative measurement through time, especially since election years coincide with census years only once every two decades.

    To deal with this issue, Travis Hale and I used the detailed annual measures of the Employment and Earnings database of the Bureau of Labor Statistics to construct annual measures of pay inequality that could be calibrated to the Census measures of income inequality, and we showed that these measures generate reliable annual estimates of state-level income inequality back to 1969.  In recent weeks Jaehee Choi has extended Hale's measures by a decade to 2014, giving us an uninterrupted panel matrix of 2295 inequality measures for 51 states (including DC) over 45 years.

    There are two ways to look at this data.  One is to compare election outcomes to the current level of inequality in each state, and to ask: did the more egalitarian states have a tendency to choose one candidate over the other? The other approach, accessible only through a data set of the type just described, is to look at changes in inequality over time, and to ask, did states where inequality grew more have a tendency to choose one candidate over the other?  Economists are especially drawn to the second approach, because it washes out (“controls for”) differences in the level of inequality across states that may be due to some timeless historical factors. For instance, a state with large cities and wealthy industries (such as international banking) is likely to have a baseline of inequality quite different from a wheat- or corn-growing state on the Great Plains.

    In this case, both approaches generate a similar, striking result. A simple correlation between the level of inequality in each state and the vote share of one candidate in that state is 0.60.  And the correlation between inequality changes and vote share is even higher:  about 0.69 for the case of the changes from 1990 to 2014; depending on base year chosen the correlation fluctuates up to a maximum of about 0.71.  This means that a large share of the election outcome across the states can be explained solely by the relative degree of rising inequality within each state over a quarter-century, give or take.

    A somewhat surprising result

    Using our measure of pay inequality, which avoids any distortion associated with making a conversion to income inequality measures, the fourteen states with the largest increases in inequality after 1990 without exception voted for Hillary Clinton.1 These fourteen included almost all of the large states that Clinton carried, including California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Virginia and Illinois. The largest Clinton state below the top fourteen is Washington, and after that, Minnesota (which she carried by whisker); the others include Vermont and Delaware, small states embedded in regions (New England, the Mid-Atlantic) where the increase of inequality was much larger than it was in the states themselves. Vermont is not immune from economic change in New York or Massachusetts, nor is Delaware unaffected by events in New Jersey or Maryland.

    Conversely, the seven states with the smallest increase in inequality, and ten of the lowest twelve, all voted for Donald Trump.  These included Wyoming, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Utah, North Dakota, Montana, Alaska, Indiana, Nebraska and Kentucky, as well as the critical Obama-to-Trump states of Ohio and Michigan. In the middle range, we find a series of states that were (or, in the case of Georgia, might have been) competitive including Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, Florida, and North Carolina.

    The correspondence of inequality-change to the election outcome is almost uncanny.

    A plausible explanation emerges with a moment's thought.  Clinton-majority states are characterized by high-income enclaves of finance, technology, insurance and government contracts, which often exist alongside large low-income minority and immigrant communities, sufficiently separated by geography and political boundary lines to be almost autonomous from each other. Both of these communities vote Democratic, yet out of highly differing political and social interests; the former perhaps most of all for reasons of social liberalism and environmentalism; the latter out of economic interest and historical alliances on civil rights and immigration.  Where they together predominate, Democrats prevail.

    Trump-majority states are largely middle class, and in the swing states they have industrial communities that once employed unionized black workers but have been for decades in decline    increasing the relative weight of the rural, conservative and white.  Where (as in the South, but also Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio) these states are racially polarized, election manipulation and vote suppression may have accelerated the political and demographic trend. The shift to Trump, in this analysis, occurred in those states left behind by the takeover of the commanding heights of the national economy by finance and technology, and the shift away from manufacturing.  

    Meanwhile, across the South, a parallel shift is underway in the opposite direction – in Georgia, Arizona, North Carolina, and Texas. This shift is incomplete, and it is not yet very far advanced.  But it leans toward a new coalition of pro-trade business elites, an increasing socially-liberal professional class, and an expanding minority vote, strongly buttressed by the immigrant Hispanic community. While attention in the 2016 election focused on the states that defected to Trump, three of these states moved noticeably in Clinton's direction, relative to where they had been in 2012. 

    To the extent that this analysis can help foretell the future, the fate of the Democratic Party hangs on a strategic choice. Democrats can seek to recapture the decayed industrial states they lost last year, but might regain with a more populist program. That will be the Sanders strategy in 2020, and it will surely be the strategy of any populist competitor. If Trump falls flat and his working class supporters are disaffected in four years, this may be the quick road back to the White House.  But it may fall short, because the Democratic base in those states is eroding, and the challenge of mobilizing sufficient voters to overcome a growing demographic disadvantage will deepen as the years pass. 

    The other choice, is for the Democrats to ride the demographic drift in the South and Southwest, where inequality is likely to rise as the post-industrial economy shifts there. In that case, they can hope to make up for mid-western losses without dramatic change in the political orientation inherited from the Clintons. The party would then eventually return to electoral predominance on an arc of states running south from Virginia and east from southern California. 

    The problem with this strategy is that it will not work in the near term, because it will require a shift in the linchpin state of Texas, which gave Clinton just 43.2 percent of her vote.  This was a distinct improvement over 2012, and came with a Democratic sweep in Harris County, the nation’s third largest. But it’s too early to say it foretells a statewide tipping point in 2020, and perhaps not even in 2024.  And the dilemma is that the alternative, a move to full-throated populism– perhaps the only reasonable strategy for 2020 – could poison the well in the South and Southwest for later years.

    There are, of course, many reasons to be cautious about placing too much weight on any single variable; the political science literature has seen a fair number of forecasting models come and go. Still, the relationship of inequality change to election outcomes seems strong, and rooted in a certain amount of political common sense.  And it has the appeal of paradox:  as each party achieves its stated agenda, the political fortunes of the other party improve.

    Of course, we have already seen that Republicans have no real interest in delivering their promised manufacturing revival.  Sadly, a similar logic holds on the Democratic side.  Given even a slight hope that Hillary Clinton's political strategy was not wrong but premature, there is little doubt that the powerful forces behind the Democrats will opt for a perpetual coalition based on grotesque inequalities, and on the fostering of false hopes among the brown and the black.

    Figure:  Changing Inequality 1990-2014 and the Clinton vote share, 2016, by state

    Each state is weighted by its electoral votes.  Calculations by Jaehee Choi and James Galbraith.




    Change in Inequality 1990-2014 and the Election Outcome, 2016, by State.
    State Change in Pay Inequality 1990 to 2014 (Theil measure), Index Number, 1990 =100 Trump / Clinton Clinton Percentage
    Connecticut 186.4 C 54.6%
    New York 179.6 C 59.0%
    New Jersey 176.7 C 55.5%
    California 172.7 C 61.7%
    Rhode Island 169.4 C 54.4%
    Maryland 168.8 C 60.3%
    Nevada 167.6 C 47.9%
    Hawaii 161.3 C 62.2%
    Massachusetts 160.7 C 60.0%
    District of Columbia 159.4 C 90.9%
    Illinois 149.8 C 55.8%
    Virginia 149.1 C 49.8%
    Oregon 148.1 C 50.1%
    New Hampshire 147.5 C 46.8%
    Georgia 146.7 T 45.9%
    Mississippi 146.7 T 40.1%
    North Carolina 144.2 T 46.2%
    Florida 141.4 T 47.8%
    Washington 139.3 C 51.8%
    Pennsylvania 138.8 T 47.9%
    Louisiana 138.7 T 38.4%
    Wisconsin 138.5 T 46.5%
    Kansas 138.3 T 36.1%
    Alabama 137.4 T 34.4%
    South Carolina 137.3 T 40.7%
    Tennessee 136.2 T 34.7%
    Texas 135.1 T 43.2%
    South Dakota 134.7 T 31.7%
    Maine 132.2 C 47.8%
    Missouri 131.9 T 38.1%
    Colorado 131.8 C 48.2%
    Arizona 131.4 T 45.1%
    Idaho 129.6 T 27.5%
    Delaware 128.8 C 53.4%
    Arkansas 127.3 T 33.7%
    Minnesota 126.4 C 46.4%
    Ohio 126.1 T 43.6%
    Michigan 126.0 T 47.3%
    Kentucky 125.3 T 32.7%
    Nebraska 124.4 T 33.7%
    Vermont 124.3 C 56.7%
    Indiana 123.3 T 37.8%
    Alaska 123.0 T 36.6%
    New Mexico 122.1 C 48.3%
    Montana 121.5 T 35.7%
    North Dakota 120.3 T 27.2%
    Iowa 118.9 T 41.7%
    Utah 117.8 T 27.5%
    Oklahoma 116.2 T 28.9%
    West Virginia 116.0 T 26.5%
    Wyoming 114.5 T 21.9%
    Correlation: 0.687

    James Galbraith is an economist, who teaches at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, The University of Texas at Austin, and directs the University of Texas Inequality Project, at http://utip.lbj.utexas.edu.  His most recent book is Inequality: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford, 2016).

    Top image by DonkeyHotey (Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump - Caricatures) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

         Using the measure of income inequality gives a slightly different result:  the top eleven states are all Clinton states.

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  • 07/05/17--22:33: Shrinking America
  • The Census Bureau released its 2016 county level population estimates earlier this year. This gave us a window into the places that are gaining or losing total population.

    Here’s a map of all the counties that have lost population since 2010.

    The numbers in the legend are the percentage change in population (multiply by 100).


    But just last week the Census Bureau released the population estimates by age, sex, and race. I popped the age estimates into my database and mapped the counties whose child population (those under 18) is in decline. This is the demographic future of these communities apart from migration. Here’s that map:

    Yikes!

    I also rolled this up to to the metro area level – and there are even a number of major metropolitan areas in the US – 25 out of 53 – with a declining population under the age of 18.

    This is a very quick preliminary view for the blog. I’d definitely go dig into these numbers yourself before taking them to the bank. But this doesn’t look good for much of the country.

    This piece originally appeared on Urbanophile.

    Aaron M. Renn is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal, and an economic development columnist for Governing magazine. He focuses on ways to help America’s cities thrive in an ever more complex, competitive, globalized, and diverse twenty-first century. During Renn’s 15-year career in management and technology consulting, he was a partner at Accenture and held several technology strategy roles and directed multimillion-dollar global technology implementations. He has contributed to The Guardian, Forbes.com, and numerous other publications. Renn holds a B.S. from Indiana University, where he coauthored an early social-networking platform in 1991.

    Photo by Abe Kleinfeld, via Flickr, using CC License.


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    California’s economic revival has sparked widespread notions, shared by Jerry Brown and observers elsewhere, that its economy — and policy agenda — should be adopted by the rest of the country. And, to be sure, the Golden State has made a strong recovery in the last five years, but this may prove to be far more vulnerable than its boosters imagine.

    The driver of the latest California “comeback,” the Silicon Valley-San Francisco tech boom, is beginning to slow in terms of both job growth and startup activity. The most recent job numbers, notes Chapman University economist Jim Doti, show that employment growth in the information sector has slowed over the past year from almost 10 percent to under 2 percent. Particularly hard-hit is high-tech startup formation, which is down by almost half from just two years ago.

    This slowdown extends also to the professional business services sector, which has become increasingly intertwined with tech. In a recent survey of professional business service growth for Forbes magazine, economist Mike Shires and I found that last year Silicon Valley and San Francisco growth rates were considerably lower than those in boomtowns such as Nashville, Tenn.; Dallas, San Antonio and Austin, Texas; Orlando, Fla.; Salt Lake City and Charlotte, N.C. With the exception of Orange County, the rest of Southern California performed below the national average.

    The historical perspective

    Historically, California’s great strength was the diversity of its economy, stretching from high-tech and aerospace to finance, entertainment, energy, basic manufacturing and homebuilding. Yet, during the most recent boom, the growth of high-wage job growth largely took place in one region — the Bay Area — while other sectors generally stagnated or shrank.

    Silicon Valley and its urban annex, San Francisco, have brilliantly expanded the scope of the digital revolution. Google and Apple have become the world’s most valuable companies, and the Valley, along with Puget Sound in the state of Washington, account for four of the 10 wealthiest people on the planet, and virtually all of the self-made billionaires under 40.

    This success has masked greater problems in the rest of the state. Southern California, home to over half the state’s population, has seen only modest high-wage job growth, both in tech and business services, since 2000.

    Read the entire piece at The Orange County Register.

    Joel Kotkin is executive editor of NewGeography.com. He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book is The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us. He is also author of The New Class ConflictThe City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.

    Photo by Coolcaesar at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


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  • 07/07/17--22:33: Meet Marble
  • I’ve lived in this neighborhood for so long that I’ve grown used to tech start ups beta testing their schemes on my doorstep. I remember the first time I saw a car drive by with a huge furry pink mustache strapped to the front grill between the headlights. That was the start of Lyft. I have a clear memory from 2008 when a friend rented her apartment out on a new internet platform. That was Airbnb. Back in the late 1990s during the dot com bubble there was a start up that would deliver everything from milk to condoms via bicycle courier.

    Meet Marble. This little pushcart size machine is launching the next generation of tech based business models. It’s using fine grained real time lidar navigation so autonomous machines can learn to negotiate the city “on foot.”

    The initial concept is for robots to deliver Chinese food to your door. My guess is that Marble’s electronic pizza boy is just the first baby step to much larger and more lucrative contracts. The postal service, private package delivery systems, and utility meter readers will ultimately save billions on labor by switching to such machines. See also city parking enforcement. Meter maids will go the way of buggy whips. Humans and their endless need for salaries, medical insurance, pensions, and workers compensation will melt away.

    New jobs will be created around the production, maintenance, and management of these new systems of course. But there’s the tricky business of getting people who are qualified to deliver pastrami sandwiches or check VIN numbers to craft algorithms – especially when a lot of this work can be done remotely from anywhere on the planet. Don’t expect the people who clean and reload these machines to get paid enough to rent a studio apartment anywhere near the Bay Area. Oh, wait. There’s an automated system that will do that too…

    We don’t have a technology problem. We have a societal distribution problem. These trends are going to make an ever larger proportion of the population redundant. Wealth has not and will not “trickle down.” Instead it will continue to concentrate into specific hands in particular geographic locations. Focusing on the technology itself is a mistake. The challenge is to create a culture and a political framework where everyone has the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of these shifts. History tells us that existing institutions don’t self reform. They fail and are replaced by entirely new systems. From where I’m looking that process has already begun and it ain’t gonna be pretty.

    This piece first appeared on Granola Shotgun.

    John Sanphillippo lives in San Francisco and blogs about urbanism, adaptation, and resilience at granolashotgun.com. He's a member of the Congress for New Urbanism, films videos for faircompanies.com, and is a regular contributor to Strongtowns.org. He earns his living by buying, renovating, and renting undervalued properties in places that have good long term prospects. He is a graduate of Rutgers University.


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  • 07/09/17--22:33: Is California Anti-Family?
  • In its race against rapidly aging Europe and East Asia, America’s relatively vibrant nurseries have provided some welcome demographic dynamism. Yet, in recent years, notably since the Great Recession and the weak recovery that followed, America’s birthrate has continued to drop, and is now at a record low.

    Nowhere is this decline more marked than here in California. Once a state known for rapid population growth, and above-average fecundity, the state’s birthrate is also at a historic low. The results are particularly dismal in coastal Southern California. Los Angeles’ population of people under 17 already has dropped a precipitous 13.6 percent, with drops even among Latinos and Asians, while Orange County has fallen by 6 percent since 2000. The national growth, in contrast, was up 2.2 percent. Despite claims that people leaving California are old and poor, the two most recent years of data from the IRS show larger net losses from people in the 35 to 54 age group. Net out-migration is also larger among those making between $100,000 and $200,000 annually. This is your basic child-bearing middle class.

    Why are we eating our seed corn?

    Why is this shift to an increasingly child-free population occurring more in Southern California than elsewhere? One logical source may be housing prices, particularly near the coast, which present a particular problem for middle-class, middle-aged families. In contrast, the growth in the number of children under 17 is much higher in more affordable metropolitan areas such as Dallas-Fort Worth, Atlanta, Phoenix, San Antonio, and Charlotte and Raleigh in North Carolina.

    Housing affordability certainly drives migration. Major metropolitan areas where the cost of housing is at least four times that of annual incomes have seen a net out-migration of 900,000 since 2010. This compares to a net gain of 1.1 million in the more affordable areas.

    Hardest hit of all are the groups who will dominate our future — young people, minorities and immigrants. California boomers, as we discussed in a recent Chapman University report, have a homeownership rate around the national average, but for people aged 25 to 34 the rate is the third-lowest in the nation, behind just New York and Washington, D.C. The drops among this demographic in the San Jose and Los Angeles areas since 1990 are roughly twice the national average.

    It is no surprise, then, that places like Southern California have also seen a decline in the next demographic group: people between 35 and 49, who are generally the age of parents, and also tend to be at their peak earning years. The one population group on the upswing is seniors, particularly in Orange County, who bought their homes when they were much less expensive.

    Read the entire piece at The Orange County Register.

    Joel Kotkin is executive editor of NewGeography.com. He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book is The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us. He is also author of The New Class ConflictThe City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.

    Photo by Kat Grigg, via Flickr, using CC License.


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    The latest Statistics Canada data indicates that people are leaving Toronto and Montréal in large numbers since the 2011 census. Even so, both metropolitan areas continued to grow through the 2016 census as a result of net international migration and the natural increase of births over deaths (Figure 1). It turns out that Canada’s urban pattern is much more like that of the US, as well as other high-income countries, than many may suppose.

    Toronto

    Toronto lost 128,000 net domestic migrants, while Montréal lost 89,000 representing 2.3 percent of its total 2011 population.

    At the same time, the migration has been regional rather than national. In the case of Toronto, more than 90 percent of the net migration loss was to other areas of Ontario (118,000), as opposed to other provinces (10,000). The metropolitan area losses were concentrated in the city of Toronto, which lost a net 119,000 domestic migrants, while the suburbs lost 9,000. The city’s loss of 4.5 percent was nearly double that of the metropolitan area and 15 times that of the suburbs.

    Despite the late 1990s municipal amalgamation that increased the population of the city by three times, Toronto has become a majority suburban metropolitan area. The city of Toronto now has fallen to 46 percent of the population from 53 percent in 2001.

    Part of the metropolitan area loss is likely the result of Toronto’s higher house prices and shortage of single family homes that people prefer (see: Ryerson University Research Cites Urban Containment Policy as Major Factor in Toronto House Price Escalation), with nearby metropolitan areas experiencing strong net domestic migration gains. Up to one-half of Toronto’s loss may have been picked up by Oshawa (16,000), Hamilton (12,000), St. Catharine’s-Niagara (8,000), Barrie (7,000), Guelph (4,000), Brantford (4,000) Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo (1,000) and Peterborough (1,000), which are served by the commuter rail or bus services of Go Transit (Metrolinx).

    Moreover, with its highly dispersed employment patterns, commuters from exurban metropolitan areas can find employment much closer to home than downtown Toronto, with its less than 15 percent of metropolitan employment. A few years ago, it was reported that the largest employment center in Canada was the sprawling area around Pearson International Airport (Toronto-Missassauga-Brampton), rather than downtown Toronto. Meanwhile, the Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo area has emerged as Canada’s answer to Silicon Valley.

    Montréal

    Things were similar in Montréal, which lost 89,000 net domestic migrants, also representing 2.3 percent of its 2011 population. Unlike Toronto, Montréal’s loss was evenly split, with 45,000 moving out of Quebec and 44,000 moving to other parts of Québec.

    The concentration of net domestic migration losses were even more concentrated in the core than in Toronto. The ville de Montréal lost 117,000 net domestic migrants, while the suburbs gained 28,000. The ville’s loss of 7.0 percent was three times the rate of the total metropolitan area.

    Vancouver

    Vancouver, the third largest metropolitan area, also lost domestic migrants (12,000) at a rate of 0.5 percent relative to its 2011 population. Vancouver gained 10,000 net domestic migrants from other provinces, while losing 22,000 to other parts of British Columbia. Kelowna and Victoria appear to have prospered at Vancouver’s expense, both adding a 7,000 net intraprovincial migrants.

    Alberta: Calgary and Edmonton

    As has been the case for years, Alberta’s two largest metropolitan areas have led the national statistics. Calgary, the fourth largest metropolitan area added 55.000 net domestic migrants between 2011 and 2016. Much of this 4.6 percent gain was from other provinces (41,000). With the recent oil bust, which has hit Alberta hard, net interprovincial migration dropped from 7,000 in 2014-2015 to minus 1,000 in 2015-2016.

    Edmonton, Alberta’s second largest metropolitan area and Canada’s sixth largest, added even more net domestic migrants (72,000), for the strongest performance in the country. This 6.2 percent gain was also concentrated in people from outside the province (48,000). As in Calgary, net interprovincial migration fell strongly from 2014-2015 to 2015-2016, from 10,000 to 2,000.

    It remains to be seen how the recovering energy industry will impact the economy and migration trends in Alberta.

    Ottawa-Gatineau

    Ottawa-Gatineau (Ontario- Québec) has Canada’s capital and is the only major metropolitan area that spans two provinces. Ottawa-Gatineau is Canada’s fifth largest metropolitan area although likely to be overtaken almost at any time by faster growing Edmonton. Ottawa-Gatineau gained 14,000 net domestic migrants between 2011 and 2016 (1.1 percent). Most of the net domestic migration was from other parts of Ontario or Québec (10,000).

    Smaller Census Metropolitan Areas

    Among the other 27 census metropolitan areas that had been designated by the 2011 census, the largest percentage gain was in Kelowna, BC, at 8.4 percent. Saint John, New Brunswick had the largest net domestic migration loss at minus 3.5 percent.

    Overall Results

    Approximately two thirds of Canada’s population resides in the census metropolitan areas. Between 2011 and 2016, there was a net domestic migration of only 17,000 from outside the metropolitan areas(Table). Among the six major metropolitan areas, there was a net domestic migration loss of 89,000, probably driven in large measure by the “severely” or “seriously” unaffordability of housing virtually everywhere but Ottawa-Gatineau. While new metropolitan areas are likely to be designated (like Lethbridge, Alberta since 2011), it may be that there will be little additional net domestic migration to the largest metropolitan areas, and what will occur is largely in the suburbs.




    Net Domestic Migration: Canada Metropoltian Areas: 2011-2016
    Census Metropolitan Area 2016 Census Population Net Domestic Migration % of 2011 Population
    Toronto, Ontario      5,928,040         (128,432) -2.3%
    Montréal, Quebec      4,098,927           (88,913) -2.3%
    Vancouver, British Columbia      2,463,431           (11,928) -0.5%
    Calgary, Alberta      1,392,609             55,415 4.6%
    Ottawa-Gatineau, Ontario/Quebec      1,323,783             14,119 1.1%
    Edmonton, Alberta      1,321,426             71,620 6.2%
    Québec, Quebec         800,296               2,683 0.3%
    Winnipeg, Manitoba         778,489           (17,812) -2.4%
    Hamilton, Ontario         747,545             12,208 1.7%
    Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo, Ontario         523,894               1,390 0.3%
    London, Ontario         494,069               4,534 1.0%
    St. Catharines-Niagara, Ontario         406,074               8,030 2.0%
    Halifax, Nova Scotia         403,390               2,926 0.7%
    Oshawa, Ontario         379,848             16,028 4.5%
    Victoria, British Columbia         367,770             17,647 5.1%
    Windsor, Ontario         329,144                  (48) 0.0%
    Saskatoon, Saskatchewan         295,095               8,672 3.3%
    Regina, Saskatchewan         236,481               2,004 0.9%
    Sherbrooke, Quebec         212,105               1,792 0.9%
    St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador         205,955               7,949 4.0%
    Barrie, Ontario         197,059               6,943 3.7%
    Kelowna, British Columbia         194,882             15,171 8.4%
    Abbotsford-Mission, British Columbia         180,518               2,952 1.7%
    Greater Sudbury, Ontario         164,689             (1,285) -0.8%
    Kingston, Ontario         161,175               5,572 3.5%
    Saguenay, Quebec         160,980                (782) -0.5%
    Trois-Rivières, Quebec         156,042               2,721 1.8%
    Guelph, Ontario         151,984               3,384 2.4%
    Moncton, New Brunswick         144,810               2,425 1.7%
    Brantford, Ontario         134,203               3,603 2.7%
    Saint John, New Brunswick         126,202             (4,512) -3.5%
    Peterborough, Ontario         121,721               1,394 1.2%
    Thunder Bay, Ontario         121,621                (330) -0.3%
    Total    24,724,257             17,140 0.1%
    Derived from Statistics Canada data

     

    Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy and demographics firm. He is a Senior Fellow of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism (US), Senior Fellow for Housing Affordability and Municipal Policy for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (Canada), and a member of the Board of Advisors of the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University (California). He is co-author of the "Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey" and author of "Demographia World Urban Areas" and "War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life." He was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, where he served with the leading city and county leadership as the only non-elected member. He served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, a national university in Paris.

    Photo: Edmonton, site of largest net domestic migration gain in Canada, 2011-2016 (by author)


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    As a displaced Detroit Tigers fan who adopted the Chicago White Sox as my team, I often wonder how our city's other team, the Cubs, became an integral institution in the remaking of our city, while the White Sox have not. I published a piece at my Forbes site some time ago that detailed my thoughts on how the Cubs facilitated that transition. The Cubs' growth in prominence, particularly from 1969 until today, parallels the city's transition from Rust Belt to Global City. Conversely, the White Sox have diminished in prominence over the same span. I realized the Sox missed out on the locational advantages the Cubs enjoyed, and circumstances and mistakes have hurt them.

    Once again, readers may ask, "what does any of this have to do with cities?", so let me explain. Baseball, I believe, holds a special place as a sport that is an institution and amenity for the places they call home. As the nation's oldest professional team sport, it has an enduring history in many of our largest cities. In its early years, major league teams sought to establish close relationships with the neighborhoods that surrounded them; with 77 (and now 81) home games scheduled each year, that was just a good business practice. Teams in other sports have tried to replicate the institution/amenity feel, with varying degrees of success. Basketball and hockey are winter sports and played indoors. Football plays to much larger crowds and with far fewer games, and is far more likely to be viewed as a neighborhood intrusion than an amenity. But baseball is summer. It's (mostly) outdoors. It can be easily integrated into a neighborhood fabric. So, yes, I see baseball teams, baseball stadiums, as having an outsized impact on city revitalization that other sports teams can't compete with.

    What I tried to capture in my Forbes piece is that before the Cubs enjoyed their current baseball success, they have for some decades enjoyed that locational success, and parlayed that into a successful partnership with the surrounding neighborhood. From that piece:

    "Starting in 1969, the Cub mythology begins to grow, and television becomes a bigger part of it. Chicago kids would come home from school to watch day baseball games. Plays by David Mamet were being written about bleacher bums. At the same time, the economies of north and south were continuing to diverge. Institutions like DePaul and Loyola University, Children’s Hospital, and others, were attracting more of the Midwest’s best and brightest to study and work. And the Cubs became a very attractive amenity to people returning to cities exactly for that reason.

    It was in the 1980s that the real and enduring changes occurred. WGN became a cable television superstation, and now Cub games were broadcast nationally. Throughout the ’80s, especially with Harry Caray at the helm in the broadcast booth, every game was a celebration of what Chicago, and specifically North Side Chicago, had to offer. A jewel of a ballpark, day baseball, views of sailboats on Lake Michigan and a dramatic skyline nearby — all of this became not just a Midwestern phenomenon, but a national one. Suddenly, it wasn’t just Midwestern kids who dreamed of moving to big city Chicago. It became national."

    In other words, the heart of Cubbie fandom lies in its place: the old ballpark, the surrounding neighborhood, the bars and restaurants, the nearby lakefront, even the nearby eds and meds institutions that employ many of the neighborhood's residents -- they all blend together to create a unique and enviable environment.

    Conversely, over the last 50 years or so the White Sox lost whatever locational advantage they had. Deeply identified as the "South Side's Team", their fortunes diminished just as the South Side's:

    Meanwhile, as the Cubs became more popular in the late ’60s, the luster on the White Sox began to dim. The Bridgeport neighborhood that is home to the Sox is in many respects the polar opposite of the Cubs’ Lake View neighborhood. It’s working-class, with far fewer eds and meds institutions, and a Bronzeville neighborhood — also known as the Black Belt — that stood between it and the south lakefront. While Cubs fans sitting in the upper reaches could see sailboats on the lake, Sox fans could see a never-ending row of public housing towers.

    Beginning in the late ’60s and early ’70s the fortunes of the Cubs and White Sox diverged as dramatically as their respective parts of the city.

    First, Some Facts

    Let's try to establish a context for the Cubs and White Sox by using the most accepted measure of popularity in baseball, attendance. Since 2001 the Cubs have been in the top tier of MLB attendance, with an average annual rank of eighth out of thirty teams. The Cubs are regularly in the mix with the Yankees, Dodgers, Cardinals, Giants, Mets, Red Sox and Angels as a top MLB draw. Over this period the Cubs have averaged just under 3 million fans per season, or about 37,000 per game. Cubs attendance has proven to be remarkably consistent and impervious to big fluctuations in wins and losses. The Cubs paid a big price in 2013 when attendance dropped by 11.8% after disappointing seasons in 2011 and 2012, but overall the Cubs increased attendance at a rate of 1.2% a year over the last sixteen seasons. MLB attendance has grown at a rate of about 0.6% annually since 2001.

    The White Sox, however, are quite a different story. Since 2001 the Sox have consistently ranked in the bottom third in MLB attendance. They've averaged just over 2 million fans annually, or nearly 26,000 per game. That's enough to rank them 21st out of thirty teams in that span.

    I haven't been able to document this yet, but I suspect the Sox may be among the more win-sensitive teams in MLB. Attendance jumped 21.3% from 2004 to 2005, the year the Sox won the World Series, and jumped another 26.2% in 2006, in the World Series afterglow. The Cubs have no such huge year-to-year gains over the last sixteen seasons. However, subsequent poor seasons meant attendance has dropped for eight consecutive seasons before ticking upward again in 2015. The Sox have gained about 0.5% annually in attendance since 2001, just under the MLB average.

    Cubs fans, and Chicagoans in general, seem to accept the Cubs/Sox fandom differential as an immutable fact, but that's not the case. Historically speaking, as I wrote previously about this at Forbes, the White Sox regularly outdrew the Cubs following World War II and into the '60s. From the late '60s to early '80s, there was general attendance parity between the teams. Since the early '80s, the Cubs have regularly outdrawn the Sox. The Cubs have outpaced the Sox in attendance every year since 1992.

    Downtown, Neighborhood and Suburban Teams

    The Cubs are one of just a handful of major league baseball teams that have maintained a strong neighborhood identity and association. Out of 30 MLB teams, just nine are located in neighborhood locations today, with 18 located in downtown areas and three in the suburbs (including the Atlanta Braves, who moved to suburban Cobb County this season). Here are the nine so-called neighborhood teams, located at least two miles outside of the center of a city's CBD:

    • New York Yankees
    • Boston Red Sox
    • Chicago White Sox
    • New York Mets
    • Philadelphia Phillies
    • Washington Nationals
    • Miami Marlins
    • Oakland Athletics
    • Chicago Cubs

    Philadelphia, Washington, Oakland and Miami deserve special attention. By my eyes, the Phillies, Nationals and A's all play in stadiums that are beyond their cities' central business districts, but appear to be located in areas that are largely warehouse or former manufacturing districts, as opposed to residential or mixed-use areas. The home of the Miami Marlins opened in Miami's Little Havana in 2012, so one could argue it's had little time to develop -- yet -- a strong relationship with the surrounding neighborhood. (Kansas City -- the Royals' Kauffman Stadium, although within the city's limits, is so far from the city's downtown, and relies on interstate access to reach it, that it gets a "suburban" designation from me.)

    The Yankees, Red Sox and Cubs are each intimately connected with their surrounding neighborhoods. Yankee Stadium is in the Bronx; while it doesn't seem to have the same revitalization impact on its surrounding area, it is within easy reach affluent Manhattan. The Red Sox' Fenway neighborhood and Fenway Park might be the closest analogue to the Cubs' Lake View/Wrigleyville neighborhood and Wrigley Field in terms of vibrancy and impact on the city. I'm less familiar with the connection between the Mets and the nearby Queens neighborhoods.

    What Happened?

    The White Sox, however, seem to have far less impact than the others on the surrounding neighborhoods. In fact, the White Sox' home seem most similar to the Oakland A's -- beyond downtown, and in the less-favored area of a two-team baseball market.

    I don't know what happened with the A's and Oakland, but I think it's easy to figure out how the neighborhood fortunes, and subsequently the fan fortunes, of the Cubs and White Sox diverged. Keep in mind that prior to about 1950, the areas around Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park were more similar than they are today. But the area around Clark and Addison retained its neighborhood fabric, while the area around 35th and Shields mostly lost it. A few things factored into the divergence:

    Macro: the general decline of the South Side. A quick and easy way of seeing the difference between the North and South sides is looking at the median household incomes for the communities that house the respective teams, Lake View (Cubs) and Bridgeport (Sox). In 1970, the median household income in Lake View (in 2014 dollars) was $44,889. In Bridgeport, it was $48,548. In 2015, median household income in Lake View was $76,424, and in Bridgeport it was $42,951. This plays out more broadly as well; wealth has flowed into the north lakefront neighborhoods of the Near North Side, Lincoln Park, Lake View and Edgewater, and it flowed away from Bridgeport, Bronzeville, Washington Park and Woodlawn.

    Micro: Sox Park's hemmed-in geography. The home of the White Sox has long been hemmed in by two freight rail lines, about a third of a mile apart -- the Norfolk Southern line on the west and the Rock Island on the east. For much of its stretch on the South Side, the narrow corridor has been treated as a no-man's land with manufacturing uses, intermodal facilities, and poor quality housing strewn in. The intact Bridgeport neighborhood lies further west, and Bronzeville further east. A look at an aerial of U.S. Cellular Field highlights this:

    Lack of nearby institutions and amenities. Several key institutions are located near Wrigley Field -- DePaul and Loyola universities, several hospitals -- that make the area an attractive place to live. Near old Comiskey, the much smaller Illinois Institute of Technology and Mercy Hospital are still there, but their presence might not be felt in the same way in the community as those further north.

    Public housing construction. The year 1949 began a 20-year period where public housing was constructed just to the east of Comiskey Park. Dearborn Homes, Stateway Gardens, and Robert Taylor Homes were built within eyesight of Comiskey over that period, concentrating tens of thousands of low-income residents along the area's eastern edge.

    Dan Ryan Expressway construction. Between 1957 and 1962, the Dan Ryan Expressway was constructed just feet from Comiskey's eastern edge. Remember the narrow rail corridor? The 16-lane expressway, with a new public transit line in the median, made it even narrower.

    When you combine these with some management differences between the Sox and Cubs, like the spotty radio and TV presence the Sox had when compared to their Cub brethren, and the failed venture to showcase Sox as a pay-per-view attraction on CableVision in the early '80s, and it becomes clearer how the two teams took vastly different tracks.

    Paths to White Sox Success -- And Urban Revitalization

    That being said, I think there are ways the White Sox could reclaim the kind of locational advantage they once had and the Cubs currently enjoy. However, it would mean the Sox would have to view themselves as a city institution invested in the revitalization of its surrounding area and employ unconventional tactics. Otherwise, they may need to consider other options. Here's what they can do:

    Stay at 35th and Shields -- and partner with commercial and residential developers. In the late '80s, when the White Sox threatened to leave Chicago and received the public gift of U.S. Cellular Field in return, a counter-proposal was floated by Chicago architect Philip Bess to create Armour Field. It was to be a stadium that wouldn't just be firmly integrated into the fabric of the surrounding community -- it would create community where none currently existed. Take a look:



































    The oddly-shaped outfield harkens back to the New York Giants' Polo Grounds, and Bess took pains to re-create the outlines of old Comiskey. More importantly, Bess frames the stadium with mixed-use development to the east, west and south of the stadium, and includes a circle at 35th and Wentworth that creates a signature entrance into the area. I'm guessing this type of development would bring the same types of residents who live near Wrigley today. I've never heard an explanation from the Sox for why this proposal was rejected, but I assume costs had much to do with it. And yes, working on the commercial and residential sides of the project would be a challenge.

    This, of course, is just one redevelopment option. If the Sox are serious about staying at 35th and Shields, it would be in their best interest to lead the revitalization of the surrounding area.

    Find another neighborhood site on the South Side. There are likely other spots on the South Side that don't have the constraints that prevent Cubs-style community cohesiveness and neighborhood connection. One such site could've been the 49-acre site of the former Michael Reese Hospital on the Near South lakefront; it was formerly considered as the site for the Olympic Village in Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid, but is now being redeveloped as a major mixed-use development. I've also considered locations in largely manufacturing areas adjacent to the Southwest Side's Orange Line. I'm sure there are other possible sites out there. All, however, would probably come with some significant neighborhood resistance, and have the same cost challenges inherent in the above scenario.

    Find a downtown or near-downtown location. It's quite possible that in a two-team baseball market, only one team can be the "neighborhood" team. If so, the Cubs are it. The White Sox could find a site downtown or nearby (to be sure, very expensive) and begin to shed their South Side identity by becoming the team at the center of the metro area. Even though they're not in a two-team market, the Detroit Tigers invigorated their fan base by moving from antiquated Tiger Stadium to Comerica Park in 2000, leaving the city's Corktown neighborhood for a downtown locale. During the '90s the Tigers were among the lower rung teams in attendance, drawing 1.5 million annually. The Tigers vaulted into the middle tier with the new stadium (and some on-field success) in the 2000's, averaging 2.5 million a season. Of course, the last option would be to...

    Move to the suburbs. The White Sox flirted with suburban locations in the late '80s. However, suburban stadium locations are seen less often today, particularly for baseball stadiums (Atlanta Braves excepted). Perhaps it's because suburbs or suburban counties are less able to put together the public financing packages that team owners often demand (or extort?). If it were to happen, my guess is that the Sox would target relatively affluent south or southwest suburban communities like Orland Park or Bolingbrook, so that the team could easily attract fans from a broad spectrum of the metro area without completely compromising its South Side heritage. Honestly, I see this as highly unlikely, as the return-to-the-city movement is moving ahead in Chicago as much as anywhere.

    I couldn't fathom a move to another city now, so I won't explore it as an option.

    Bottom line, despite their on-field failures over the years, the Cubs have done a masterful job of taking advantage of locational opportunities presented to them. The White Sox have had a more difficult go of it for the last 60 years or so, but could turn it around with the right kind of thinking. Here's hoping the White Sox can become the kind of integral institution of South Side change that the Cubs have been up north.

    This piece originally appeared on The Corner Side Yard.

    Pete Saunders is a Detroit native who has worked as a public and private sector urban planner in the Chicago area for more than twenty years.  He is also the author of "The Corner Side Yard," an urban planning blog that focuses on the redevelopment and revitalization of Rust Belt cities.

    Top photo: U.S. Cellular Field, home of the White Sox. Source: sportingnews.com


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  • 07/12/17--22:33: Red State Conundrum
  • How do you raise incomes when your state’s economic appeal is based on low costs?

    That’s the basic conundrum facing a number of red states. They rightly talk about their cost climate, touting tax rates and such. But the biggest component of cost for many businesses is labor. Being a low cost state is tantamount to being a low wage one in many cases.

    A recent workforce survey from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce highlights this dilmmea. Some key findings:

    • Applicants not willing to accept pay offered (45% agree or strongly agree). Lack of minimal educational requirements was only 27% [problems in recruitment]
    • Only 26% very likely or extremely likely to add high-wage jobs in next two years

    Employers are having trouble finding workers. A big problem is pay, but not many employers plan to add higher wage jobs.

    The survey asked how firms dealt with positions they couldn’t fill. Here were the results:

    • 55% left unfilled until a candidate was found • 18% assigned duties internally to other workers
    • 11% hired an underqualified candidate
    • 16% other

    Notice what’s missing from this list: raising the wage on offer in order to attract qualified applicants. Maybe some of that is included in “other” but it’s clearly a small amount.

    The real question that needs to be asked is why these firms aren’t offering a market clearing wage.

    If they can’t afford to pay the going rate, then these firms don’t have a skills gap problem, they have a business model problem. The problem is with the companies, not the workforce.

    That’s not to say there isn’t some skills gap, training gap, etc. But when the pay problem is screaming at you loud and clear and you refuse to address it, something bigger is going on.

    It’s not government’s job to underwrite a highly skilled but poorly paid workforce.

    This piece originally appeared on Urbanophile.

    Aaron M. Renn is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal, and an economic development columnist for Governing magazine. He focuses on ways to help America’s cities thrive in an ever more complex, competitive, globalized, and diverse twenty-first century. During Renn’s 15-year career in management and technology consulting, he was a partner at Accenture and held several technology strategy roles and directed multimillion-dollar global technology implementations. He has contributed to The Guardian, Forbes.com, and numerous other publications. Renn holds a B.S. from Indiana University, where he coauthored an early social-networking platform in 1991.

    Photo by Bidgee/Wikipedia – CC BY 3.0.


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    Ohio has long been seen as a battleground state, up for grabs in most Presidential elections. The state supported winning candidates of both parties for decades. But as the state shifted back and forth, the Mahoning Valley (Mahoning and Trumbull Counties) in Northeastern Ohio remained a Democratic stronghold. If Democratic candidates could garner more than 62% of the vote in this region – as they often did -- they would win the state. In years when Republicans won, the Mahoning Valley still voted for the Democrats, but with less enthusiasm.

    Not this time. In the 2016 primaries, a number of Mahoning Valley Democrats changed their party affiliation to vote for Donald J. Trump. Last year’s big shift came from people who had sat out the past few elections but showed up to vote this year. In November, Hillary Clinton won Mahoning County but received less than 50% of the vote. She actually lost in neighboring Trumbull County. She lost Ohio by more than 8 points, the biggest loss of any candidate in the state since Michael Dukakis gave up the state to George H.W. Bush in 1988.

    That’s why political operatives and journalists are now paying even more attention to the Youngstown area. Even the Ohio Democratic Party (ODP), which has long counted on the Mahoning Valley, is taking notice of a region they didn’t think they needed to worry about.

    In what has become a familiar practice following a series of defeats in recent state-wide elections, the ODP sponsored a “Listening Tour.” On June 12, 2017, the tour came to Youngstown with National Democratic Party Chairperson Tom Perez, who reiterated that Youngstown was a political “bellwether.”

    The event was held at a local pizzeria, Wedgewood Pizza, and billed as “Pizza with Perez.” Approximately 75 attendees, mostly loyal Democratic Party supporters, including a number of local and state politicians, paid $25 to attend the midday event. I paid my $25 to find out whether Party leaders were seriously listening to the concerns of voters and to see how they would react.

    What I saw was a typical campaign event, with the audience doing the listening while Democratic operatives touted their positions. After brief introductions by state and local Party chairs David Peppers and David Betras, Perez explained his commitment to Democratic politics by recalling his father’s experience of moving to Buffalo from the Dominican Republic. Perez talked about how the community and especially the labor movement helped his family make a home there. He promised that Democrats could be counted on to speak to hopes and fears of the working class and to fight for working people.

    When someone asked about why Democrats had lost the election, Perez criticized Republican social and economic policy, but he also acknowledged several mistakes that the Democratic Party had made during the last campaign. “We could have done a better job of speaking more directly to the pocketbook issues that bring people to the ballot,” he said. Among other things, the Party should have recognized that NAFTA hurt working people and acknowledged its role in that trade bill.

    Perez noted that the Party’s “message got muddled,” but he quickly turned to typical campaign trail rhetoric: “I’m here to say very clearly that the Democratic Party is the party that’s fighting for the labor movement. The Democratic Party is the party fighting for quality public education and access to health care and the issues that matter most to the people in the Valley.” But there were very few questions and much of the time devoted to meet and greet. Clearly, no one identified themselves as crossover voters or first time Republican registrants. So much for this being a listening tour.

    The ODP’s misstep of charging admission for a fake listening tour was not lost on local Mahoning County Republican Party Chairman, Mark Munroe, who called it a “strange” event and organized a parallel gathering where he invited crossover voters to explain their positions. As Munroe commented, “If they want to find out why Democrats have become Republicans they need to talk to Republicans because the Dems who have crossed over are not going to be inclined to pay $25 contribution to a Democrat party event." One of the speakers, Geno DiFabio, explained his party switch: "Every 2 years, every 4 years, locally they'd come around and say, ‘oh, we'll fight for you and take care of you,’ and then they'd disappear. It was like an abusive relationship."

    Despite what the invitation promised, the ODP’s tour didn’t involve listening to local voters or even to their leaders, but that’s a familiar pattern for Mahoning Valley Democrats. Voters here remember how the national Party leaders dismissed former Congressman James Traficant when he bitterly criticized the Democratic Party for contributing to deindustrialization, making false promises, and prophetically warned that NAFTA would harm working people. But nobody listened.

    In 2015, Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan told a reporter that “a lot of bad things happened” in 2010 and 2014, and the Party needed “a new approach—a more grounded approach—to turning out voters.” Nobody listened.

    A year ago, after the Ohio primaries, local Party leaders wrote a widely publicized letter to the Clinton campaign and the ODP warning that they should pay more attention to working-class issues. Once again, nobody listened.

    A tone-deaf, let-us-tell-you-how-much-we-care faux listening tour won’t accomplish anything, But the ODP and the DNC should pay more attention to Northeastern Ohio Democrats. They might start by heeding Ryan’s recent critique that the Democratic Party brand has become “toxic.” He has called for a wholesale change, starting with the Party’s leadership in the House of Representatives.

    The Democrats should also pay attention to Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, who is the only statewide Democratic office holder and one of very few national Party leaders with a consistent pro-worker economic vision.

    If they don’t start actually listening to voters in places like Youngstown, the Democratic Party may well end out talking to itself.

    John Russo is the former co-director of the Center for Working-Class Studies at Youngstown State University and currently a visiting scholar at Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor.

    Photo by Lonnie Tague for the United States Department of Justice [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


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    As its economy bounced back from the Great Recession, California emerged as a progressive role model, with New York Times columnist Paul Krugman arguing that the state’s “success” was proof of the superiority of a high tax, high regulation economy. Some have even embraced the notion that California should secede to form its own more perfect union.

    Pumped up by all the love, California’s leaders have taken it upon themselves to act essentially as if they were running their own nation. In reaction to President Trump’s abandonment of the Paris accords, Gov. Jerry Brown trekked to Beijing to show climate solidarity with President Xi, whose country is by far the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter and still burns coal at record rates, but mouths all the right climate rhetoric.

    At the same time California’s Attorney General is spending millions to protect undocumented workers and there’s legislation being proposed to transform the entire place into a “sanctuary state.” Sacramento also recently banned travel by government workers to Texas and seven other states that fail to follow the California line on gay and transgender rights.

    Past performance and future trajectory

    When progressive journalists, including those in Texas, speak about the California model, they usually refer to the state’s economic performance since 2010, which has been well above the national average. Yet this may have been only an aberrant phenomenon. Since 2010, Texas’ job count has grown by 20.6 percent compared to 18.6 percent for California. If you pull the curtain even further, to 2000, however, the gap is even bigger, with employment growing 32.7 percent in Texas compared to 18 percent in California.

    The main problem is that California’s once remarkably varied and vital economy has become dangerously dependent on the Bay Area tech boom. Since 2010, the Silicon Valley-San Jose economy and San Francisco have been on a tear, growing their employment base by 25 percent. Job growth in the rest of the state has been a more modest 15 percent. “It’s not a California miracle, but really should be called a Silicon Valley miracle,” notes Chapman University forecaster Jim Doti. “The rest of the state really isn’t doing well.”

    Tech starts to slow

    Such dependency poses dangers. The tech economy is very volatile, and now seems overdue for a major correction. People tend to forget the depth of the tech bust at the turn of the century. If you go back to 2000, San Jose’s job growth rate is among the lowest in the state, less than half the state average.

    Now tech is clearly slowing – job growth in the information sector has slowed over the past year from almost 10 percent to under 2 percent. Particularly hard-hit is high-tech startup formation, down almost half in the first quarter from two years ago; the National Venture Capital Association reported that the number of deals in the quarter was the lowest since the third quarter of 2010.

    The growing hegemony of a few very large firms – chiefly Apple, Google and Facebook -- has created a very difficult environment for upstarts. As one recent paper demonstrates, these “super platforms” depress competition, squeeze suppliers and reduce opportunities for potential rivals, much as the monopolists of the late 19th century did.

    And as we found in our recent survey of the hot spots for high wage professional business services jobs, last year’s growth rates for this critical middle class sector in Silicon Valley and San Francisco lagged considerably behind those of boomtowns such as Nashville, Dallas, Austin, Orlando, San Antonio, Salt Lake City and Charlotte. Most other California metro areas, including Los Angeles, have languished in the bottom half of the rankings. These trends suggest that the state’s job performance will at least drop to the national average over the next two years and perhaps below, says California Lutheran University forecaster Matthew Fienup.

    Rising inequality

    California is home to a large chunk of the world’s richest people and particularly dominates the list of billionaires under 40. Yet, by one new measure introduced by the Census Bureau last year, the state also suffers the nation’s highest poverty rate; while a 2015 United Way study found that close to one in three Californians were barely able to pay their bills. No surprise then that as of 2015, the state was the most unequal in the nation, according to the Social Science Research Council.

    As of 2011, nearly half of the 16 counties with the highest percentages of people earning over $190,000 annually were located in California but denizens of the state’s interior have done far worse. A 2015 report found California was home to a remarkable 77 of the country’s 297 most “economically challenged,” cities based on levels of poverty and employment. Altogether these cities had a population of more than 12 million in 2010, roughly one third of the state at the time. Six of the ten metropolitan areas in the country with the highest percentage of jobless are located in the central and eastern parts of the state.

    What is disappearing faster than any state, according to a survey last year, is California’s middle class, a pattern also seen in a recent Pew study. One clear sign of middle class decline: California’s homeownership rates now rank among the lowest in the nation and Los Angeles-Orange County, the state’s largest metropolitan area, suffers the lowest level of homeownership of any major region.

    Jerry’s Jihad and its consequences

    State policies tied to Jerry Brown’s climate jihad have widened these divides. Inland Empire economist John Husing asserts that Brown has placed California “at war“ with blue-collar industries like home building, energy, agriculture and manufacturing. These jobs are critical for regions where almost half the workforce has a high school education or less.

    Richard Chapman, President and CEO of the economic development arm of Kern County, an area dependent on these industries, complains that most polices promulgated in Sacramento -- from water and energy regulations to the embrace of sanctuary status and a $15 an hour minimum wage -- give little consideration given to the needs of the interior. “We don’t have seats at the table,” he laments. “We are a flyover state within a state.”

    The recent legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour will have more severe ramifications for less affluent areas than San Francisco. As for climate policies, the state no longer even assesses the economic implications. Yet the state’s costly renewable energy mandates make a lot of difference in the less temperate interior when energy prices are 50 percent rise above neighboring states. A recent study found that the average summer electric bill in rich, liberal and temperate Marin County was $250 a month, while in the impoverished, hotter Central Valley communities, where air conditioners are a necessity, the average bill was twice as high. Some one million Californians, many in the state’s hotter interior, were driven into “energy poverty,” a 2012 Manhattan Institute study stated.

    Housing has arguably emerged as the biggest force accentuating inequality. Environmental restrictions that have cramped home production of all kinds, particularly the building of affordable single-family homes on the periphery. The ever increasing restrictions have made the state among the most unaffordable in the nation, driving homeownership rates to the lowest levels since the 1940s. New “zero emissions” housing policies alone are likely to boost the already bloated cost of new construction by tens of thousands of dollars per home.

    Demographic crisis looms

    In much of California, particularly along the south coast, the number of children has dropped sharply. Since 2000, there has been a precipitous 13.6 percent drop in the number of residents under 17 in Los Angeles, while that number has remained flat in the Bay Area. In contrast, there has been 20 percent growth or better in the under 17 population in more affordable metropolitan areas such as Dallas-Fort Worth, Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh, Phoenix and San Antonio.

    Housing prices, in part driven by state and regional regulation, are gradually sending the seed corn -- younger workers -- to more affordable places. Despite claims that people leaving California are old and poor, the two most recent year’s data from the IRS shows larger net losses of people in the 35 to 54 age group. Losses were particularly marked among those making between $100,000 and $200,000 annually.

    Young people particularly are on the way out. California boomers, as we discussed in a recent Chapman University report, have a homeownership rate around the national average but the state has the third lowest home ownership rate in the nation for people 25 to 34, behind just New York and Washington. The drop among this demographic in San Jose and the Los Angeles areas since 1990 are roughly twice the national average and a recent San Jose Mercury News poll found nearly half of all Bay Area millennials planning to move, mostly motivated by housing and costs. The one population on the upswing in the state are seniors, particularly in the coastal countries, who bought their homes when they were much less expensive.

    As long as home prices stay high, and opportunities for high-wage employment highly limited, the state will continue to suffer net domestic migration outflows, as it has for the last 22 of the past 25 years. Given that the state’s birthrate is also at a historic low and immigration from abroad has slowed, there’s a looming shortage of new workers. Between 2013 and 2025 the number of California high school graduates is expected to drop by 5 percent compared to a 19 percent increase in Texas, 10 percent growth in Florida and a 9 percent increase in North Carolina.

    And for what?

    Of course, many environmental activists generally prefer smaller families to cut greenhouse gas emissions; smaller families also serve the needs of developers of high-density housing, who might prefer that younger people remain long-term adolescents.

    Sadly, many of these climate policies, which cause so much damage, won’t have much of an impact on the actual climate unless the rest of the country adopts similar measures. This stems from the state’s already low carbon footprint and the impact of people as well as firms moving elsewhere, where they usually expand their carbon footprint. Nor does densification make sense as a climate antidote, given the rising temperatures associated with “urban heat islands.”

    The tech boom has been used to justify Sacramento’s crushing regulatory and tax regime. It has also made it possible for apologists to ignore some 10,000 businesses that have left or expanded outside the state, many of them employing middle and working class people.

    Ultimately California’s growing class bifurcation will demand solutions. Hedge fund billionaire-turned green patriarch Tom Steyer now insists that, to reverse our worsening inequality, we should double down on environmental and land use regulation but make up for it by boosting subsidies for the struggling poor and middle class. Certainly the welfare state in California -- home to over 30 percent of United States’ on public assistance as of 2012 -- will have to expand if the state stays on its present course.

    In the coming years the state’s business leaders fear an ever more leftist, and fiscally damaging, regime after the departure of the somewhat frugal Brown. There are increased calls in Sacramento for new subsidized housing, a single payer healthcare system as well as a big boost to the minimum wage already enacted.

    Ultimately California will pay -- demographically, economically and socially -- from its current surfeit of good intentions. Those who already own houses will not suffer immediately, but the new generation, immigrants and minorities will face an increasingly impossible burden. With its unparalleled natural assets, and economic legacy, California may be able to survive this toxic policy mix better than most places, but even in the Golden State reality has a way of showing its ugly face.

    This piece originally appeared on Forbes.

    Joel Kotkin is executive editor of NewGeography.com. He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book is The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us. He is also author of The New Class ConflictThe City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.

    Photo by Neon Tommy, via Flickr, using CC License.


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    Maryland has long had a state law requiring transit systems to collect enough fares to cover at least 35 percent of their operating costs. While it is admirable to set a target, this particular target is disheartening for two reasons.

    First, 35 percent is a pretty low goal. The 2015 National Transit Database lists 48 transit operations that cover between 100 and 200 percent of their costs, including New York ferries, the Hampton Jitney, several other bus lines, and a bunch of van pooling systems. No rail lines cover 100 percent of their operating costs, but BART covers 80 percent, Caltrains covers 72 percent, New York and DC subways cover 64 percent, and New York commuter trains cover 60 percent. On average, commuter bus and commuter rail systems earn half their operating costs. So 35 percent lacks ambition.

    Even worse, most Maryland transit operations don’t come close to meeting the target. Maryland commuter trains cover 45 percent of their costs. But Baltimore’s light rail only covers 17 percent, and its heavy rail covers a pathetic 13 percent. Standard bus service also covers just 13 percent of its costs, though commuter buses come closer to the target, reaching 28 percent.

    Maryland lawmakers have figured out a solution to the second problem, if not the first. They simply passed a bill abolishing the target. Now, transit advocates hope, the state can spend even more money building obsolete transit systems that won’t be able to afford to maintain because they can’t even cover a third of their operating costs.

    Transit is “not profitable,” said one advocate, “but it’s essential for an economically competitive region.” Just how economically competitive has Baltimore been since it sunk billions of dollars into light- and heavy-rail lines that don’t cover even a fifth of their operating costs? Maryland certainly won’t make itself more economically competitive by increasing the tax burden still further so they can build more obsolete transit lines.

    Failing to cover costs isn’t a symptom that you are economically competitive. It is a symptom that you’ve failed to provide things that people need and want. The Antiplanner can understand why people think we need to subsidize food stamps or other aid to low-income people. I can’t understand why people think nothing of throwing huge amounts of money towards marketable operations like transit.

    C. Northcote Parkinson, the author of Parkinson’s Law, said that organizations that set goals low so they would be easy to meet were suffering from a disease he called injelititis. The transit industry has been suffering from this disease since the mid-1960s, when it discovered it could live off the public trough rather than actually have to provide services that people want. Once this disease reached its late stages, he said, the only cure required “a change of name, a change of site, and an entirely different staff.”

    There’s still a chance that Maryland’s governor may veto the bill. Let’s hope he does.

    This piece first appeared on The Antiplanner.

    Randal O’Toole is a senior fellow with the Cato Institute specializing in land use and transportation policy. He has written several books demonstrating the futility of government planning. Prior to working for Cato, he taught environmental economics at Yale, UC Berkeley, and Utah State University.


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    Grub Street posted another installment in the decline of the New York diner genre.

    I’ve made the point before that many of these old line institutions are going out of business because their product simply isn’t very good. I’m a fan of diner food, but I’ve never had a good meal in a Manhattan diner.

    But there are many other forces at work, including changes in the structure of our society. One thing the disappearance of diners illustrates is the loss of shared social infrastructure spanning across social classes.

    Something I’ve always liked about diners is that they are the kinds of places that you could find people from all walk of life. There were cops and blue collar workers, college students, professionals grabbing breakfast, etc. It was the kind of institution that was broadly patronized across social groups.

    These kinds of institutions are in decline. There has a been fragmentation of the shared American common culture that existed as recently as 1990 into a multiplicity of niche markets.

    There’s also been a gulf that has opened between the consumption and cultural practices of the upper middle class (the top 20% by education and income) and everyone else. They shop in different stores, eat in different restaurants, drink different beers, etc.

    There are fewer of the spaces were classes intersect as they did in diner. There are still NYC restaurants where multi-class patronage does occur – pizza by the slice places and delis come to mind. Those are both great. But in my experience, in diners it’s more likely that people will actually strike up a conversation with others, and thus have real cross-class conversation, even if just idle banter.

    So the decline of the diner is not just about the loss of a restaurant format – those come and go – but also the decline of shared social space and the increasing alienation between social classes and groups.

    You might also like: The fact that you get to interact in a positive way with people of so many different backgrounds is why I love jury duty.

    This piece originally appeared on Urbanophile.

    Aaron M. Renn is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal, and an economic development columnist for Governing magazine. He focuses on ways to help America’s cities thrive in an ever more complex, competitive, globalized, and diverse twenty-first century. During Renn’s 15-year career in management and technology consulting, he was a partner at Accenture and held several technology strategy roles and directed multimillion-dollar global technology implementations. He has contributed to The Guardian, Forbes.com, and numerous other publications. Renn holds a B.S. from Indiana University, where he coauthored an early social-networking platform in 1991.

    Photo Credit: Coyote-mania, CC BY-SA 3.0


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    Today, useful demographic, real estate, and economic information is instantly accessed from your bedroom laptop. A few decades ago you would have to make a trip to city hall and wait for someone to go through hundreds of files.

    Information (data) is only as good as the source, hand entered from someone - subject to human error. Yet in reality, after 3 decades of use, mapping software --- used by virtually every city and county agency --- is actually getting worse not better.

    What is occurring

    To understand the decline of mapping data, let’s go back in time - three decades ago when GIS was first introduced. There were many players competing to be the leader in the industry, however, the graphic capability and speed of computers was pitiful back then. Yet even today, with much faster computers and infinitely more storage, the quality of mapping programs has declined.

    Today’s GIS industry leader, ESRI, a company from Redlands, California, overcame speed limitations by defining parcel of land into a single ‘polyline’ which is a series of straight lines along a boundary bypassing the need to draw curves. They coined these parcels (or lots): ‘shapes’, thus a GIS ‘shape map’ is essentially the parcel information of a city.

    How can a curve be represented by straight lines? By having a series of itsy-bitsy lines drawn along an arc so that it appears as a curve, requiring a massive number of additional points to be generated.

    The problem is that in the typical city with many curved streets, a shape map would add hundreds of thousands (likely millions) of inaccurate traced points.

    Take for example this small area in Pontiac, Michigan which took over 160,000 lines to define – none of which are precise:

    Today, ESRI pretty much controls the multi-billion dollar GIS industry. There’s no intent in this article to say ESRI provides bad or good software, but to hopefully reverse a very disturbing trend in the data in which maps are based upon and why it’s counter-productive to sustainable growth.

    Ask yourself:

    • With multiple billions of dollars invested in GIS technology and mapping – most by you - the tax payer, why is the very fabric of today’s growth worse, than that of the 1960’s - before any digital technology existed?

    • Why is it that at every city council and planning commission meeting are presentations and submittals materially no different today than in the past 6 decades?

    • Why is it that the regulatory system continues to produce (actually promote) the cookie-cutter mundaneness that plagues every city?

    Why we need to go back to surveying

    At this point to understand the problem in GIS mapping, you need a short lesson on land surveying. The person in blue jeans standing on the roadside looking into the scope of the transit is a land surveyor.

    Land surveying is more art than science. A proper boundary survey requires those in the field to find the corners along the streets and nearby. The land surveyor looks for differences between adjacent site dimensions of what is recorded, if any. Using judgments based upon extensive knowledge, the land surveyor can adjust the inconsistencies and set new corners.

    Why Accuracy is Critical

    Once the actual corners of a boundary are known, the land surveyor collects all man-made improvements (stuff) on the site to determine if fences overlaps onto the neighbor’s property, or their shed encroaches within the parcels boundary. Is the home set the required minimum 10’ from the side yard or is it less? This would be a violation. This is stuff lawsuits are made of.

    How can bad data be fixed?

    Those purchasing the GIS are told that they could quickly put a map in and then later on collect accurate control points which cold be ‘rubber sheeted’ (stretched). In other words, an inaccurate map that was traced decades ago, then rubber sheeted 10 or 20 feet (or more) to be made ‘accurate’, produces results in 4 good points and hundreds of thousand bad ones. Those GIS purchasers with no knowledge of surveying somehow saw logic in this false premise.

    Are there any accurate base maps?

    Yes! For example, decades ago, Gary Stevenson the County Surveyor in Dakota County, Minnesota decided to hand key in the plat dimensions of deeds and recorded plats (site plans of developments) into a coordinated geometry system upon which land surveying and civil engineering is based upon.

    The Dakota County Surveyors office created a map, complete with parcels of land and subdivision plats that conflict with each other showing overlaps and void areas. This precision map using recorded information adjusts each parcel and plat to a common angle basis (rotation). This way a land surveyor can use the information to determine problems in the adjoining property and can make an attempt to adjust conflicts and solve them ultimately fixing the map and creating a geometrically perfect city.

    Technology that changed land surveying

    Today’s Global Positioning Systems (GPS) has a much higher degree of accuracy for land surveying applications and has made exact measurements of control points along great distances without error possible. However, with all the technology, the skill and knowledge of the land surveyor is required to work the puzzle pieces of creating an accurate base map, as well as correctly defining any property – even yours!

    Can an inaccurate map be fixed over time?

    Absolutely, but only if a city or county wanted to pay far more to fix a bad map than starting over with a good map from scratch. Today, there are far better software technologies, based upon the future of mapping without data structures designed in the past when speed was the ball and chain.

    The ‘not good’, bad & ugly of today’s mapping

    The software our firm develops is designed the same way as we did nearly four decades ago – extremely efficient with data to let the lightning fast processor work, needing very little disk space for storage and access.

    The problem in particular with the leading CAD and GIS software developers is that they have access to a massive amount of memory and disk space. This allows programmers to work with less effort.

    Throwing excessive amount of information to the disk is a quick way to write software code – why not? - you got the space.

    Efficient coding is painfully long and expensive.

    The problem with monopoly

    Today’s mapping systems have essentially the same data structure as four decades ago because they have almost no competition that forces change. This is an increasingly common problem in a tech world increasingly dominated by an ever smaller group of increasingly giant companies.

    One thing about inefficiency: For those with overwhelming market share, it’s also potentially very profitable, as Microsoft, Google, Apple and Facebook can tell us.

    Back to Basics

    It was just few decades ago that contours showing the varied organic shape of the land surface was somewhat efficient and accurate.

    With just a few hundred points collected on the ground by a land surveyor an accurate representation of the ground surface could quickly be computed and drawn by software. You could clearly see where the elevation of the ground changed direction and where walls, curb lines, or drainage ditches were.

    In other words, in general, from a physical data structure perspective, there was little to be concerned with working with contours of the land. Below is an example from decades ago of an on the ground survey with all the boundary and improvements, created from a total 640 field collected points:
























    The depiction above is the exact land surface essential for reconstruction and earthwork calculations. Note the contours along the street which show the fine detail of the center of the street along with contour lines that adjust at the street curb line. Because of the digital terrain model is created with only 640 total data points, all calculations such as earthwork and street redesign will be instant.

    Modern laser-based remote sensing technology allows the creation of complete topographic maps without requiring any manual labor to create as was the case in the past, or at least in theory – but not in the real world use for using the data for design and 3D application.

    Essentially the industry was really efficient until modern computers effectively threw topographic efficiency into the garbage, and producing what can be best described as ‘spastic’ jiggly contour lines as shown on this typical LiDAR map:

    The Mayors and Administrators in charge of tax payer funded contracts approving contours such as the above are not aware that this information is pure garbage, because they, nor did their staff (who should have known better) did not have this knowledge.

    With all the information and technological abilities we have today, why are these contours so awful? Because software cannot think – it can only use math. When the land is relatively flat, as most land, streets, and parking areas are, to draw a contour line when points exist within a few feet of each other, it will need to create a short line a particular direction, a few feet in length. Then it needs to determine a direction for the next short line, and ignores a trend or path and simply goes ‘to and fro’ not ‘knowing’ where to go. This of course, is because software cannot ‘know’ anything – only a person can make such judgments.

    You take the person out of the equation, and bad things like this happen.

    Can this excess data be filtered?

    Why has nobody brought this up as a key issue?

    Well, the consultants serving cities – why should they give up all that continual updating of a map to reinvent their services offering accurate consulting requiring the services of a Professional Land Surveyor instead of CAD and GIS technicians? Virtually every convention, periodical, and blog that serves government agencies depend heavily of the advertising dollars of the current GIS and CAD leaders – they would never print a series like this which could damage their relationships with the enormous companies and cut their income stream.

    We can reverse the damage, but it will take key decision makers in government to stop writing tax payer funded checks for substandard, wasteful, and just plain bad – mapping data.

    Rick Harrison is President of Rick Harrison Site Design Studio and Neighborhood Innovations, LLC. He is author of Prefurbia: Reinventing The Suburbs From Disdainable To Sustainable and creator of LandMentor. His websites are rhsdplanning.com and LandMentor.com

    By Karen Capria (esri.com) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


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