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    The plunging of birth rates has emerged as one of the most significant demographic trends. For the first time, there appears to be the prospect of nations that will become materially smaller in population as a result. For example, the latest projections from the Japan’s National Institute of Population and Social Security Research are that by 2115, the population will be only 50.5 million, down 60 percent from the present 126 million.

    Total Fertility Rates

    Perhaps the best measure of birth rates is the Total Fertility Rate (TFR), which estimates the number of births a woman of child-bearing age has over her lifetime. Broadly, a figure of 2.1 is required to maintain the population at a stable level --- slightly more than two children per mother. Overall, the TFR tends to be lower in higher income nations and higher in poor nations.

    The United States continues to have a higher TFR than other high income nations, yet has seen its rate drop to below replacement rate in recent years, according to annual data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2016, the national TFR was 1.821, down 5.7 percent from the 1.931 of 2010. Even so, the US TFR continues to be above those of nations, like Japan (1.41), Germany (1.45), China (1.60) and Singapore, which at 0.83 may be the lowest in the world (2017 estimates).

    Even nations with some of the highest historical fertility rates, like India (2.43 down from 5.83 in 1965) and Bangladesh (2.17 down from 6.88 in 1965) are not much above replacement rate.

    This article also summarizes the latest TFRs (2016) at the state level and makes short term comparisons back to 2010. The District of Columbia is not included in the rankings, because its demographic makeup is largely urban core, and lacks the range from urban core to rural that exists in the 50 states. As would be expected from such demographics (largely due to the high percentage of single person households), DC’s TFR is lower than that of any state, at 1.49.

    Lowest Total Fertility Rates

    There are important regional differences between TFRs among the states. In 2016, all of the six states with the lowest TFRs were in all of the New England states. Vermont had the lowest TFR, at 1.540, but nearby Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire were close behind, all at 1.55 or lower. Connecticut and Maine had the fifth and sixth lowest TFRs, at somewhat over 1.60. The regional concentration continues, with New York, which constitutes the western border of New England, ranking eighth lowest and Pennsylvania, which borders New York at 10th. Two western states are also included, with Oregon at 7th lowest TFR and Colorado at 9th (Figure 1). Low fertility New York and Pennsylvania are among the top ten states in population. All of the states with the lowest TFRs were in the East and West.

    Largest Total Fertility Rate Declines

    There is also a strong regional prescience among the states with the largest TFR declines from 2010. Eight of the 10 states with the largest reductions are in the West. New Mexico and Colorado have experienced declines of more than 10 percent in just six years. The next six states with the largest losses all fell more than eight percent, including Hawaii, Arizona, California, Alaska, Utah and Delaware. Oregon, the eighth western state among the largest decliners, and Massachusetts had declines just below eight percent (Figure 2).

    Highest Total Fertility Rates

    Only five of the 50 states had TFRs higher than the replacement rate. South Dakota had the highest TFR, at 2.26, followed by Utah at 2.24. This is a surprising development, since Utah has routinely had the highest TFR in the nation. The six Great Plains states North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas. Oklahoma and Texas were among the highest ten in TFR, as well as nearby Iowa. North Dakota, Alaska and Nebraska also had TFRs above the 2.1 replacement rate. Idaho was only slightly below replacement rate. Texas, Kansas, Iowa and Oklahoma rounded out the highest 10 (Figure 3). Among the 10 largest states in the Union, only Texas had among the highest TFRs. Seven of the states with the highest TFRs were in the Midwest and South.

    Most Stable Total Fertility Rates

    All but one of the 50 states experienced TFR declines since 2010. The one state with a gain was North Dakota, which had a strong 6.4 percent gain. North Dakota state has experienced its first important population growth in more than 100 years, as domestic migration has increased to staff the state’s growing petroleum extraction industry. This has led to a reduction in the state’s median age to 35.0 years of age, from 37.4 in 2010. By comparison the US median age has risen from 37.2 to 37.9 years. The state’s improvement in the TFR reflects the younger age of the population and its association with a higher birth rate. Nebraska experienced a minor decline in TFR. The other states with lower TFR declines were in the middle of the country, South Dakota, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Kentucky, Arkansas and Wisconsin (Figure 4). All of the states that gained or had the least loss in TFR were in the Midwest and South.

    Regional Concentration

    The regional concentration of the data is compelling. The states with the highest TFRs and the most fertility rate stability are nearly all in the Midwest and South, with only nominal representation from the West and none from the East. Among the states with the lowest TFRs, all but one are either in the West or East.

    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: By Claude Covo-Farchi from Paris, France (Une étoile est née) [CC BY-SA 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

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    Big cities have big responsibilities. Coming with that are big scale, scope, complexities, priorities, and challenges. Texas has growth and all the other `bigs. We are not shying away from the `bigs’ and building great communities. To get there requires numbers with lots of zeros behind them. A recent Strong Towns website entry challenged Colin County with road projections. Challenge is good and not something to shy away.

    The Strong Towns network is helping local government leaders plan and build better places. The facts about value and what gets produced with “traditional” land use patterns and not produced with acres of parking should make us all think about the habits and assumptions we currently have. I share the lessons with our City of Pearland team. For instance, the Building Resilient Communities (Public Management, ICMA, Sept 2018) by Charles Marohn, Jr. challenged the assumptions on value of the old and blighted block vs the appealing `shiny and new block’ from reinvestment.

    However, there’s a current Strong Towns blog entry leading up to a conference that’s hitting closer to home and overemphasizes some numbers while minimizing the important one. In `A Texas-sized Pavement Problem’ ( by Daniel Herriges, there’s a critique on Collin County, Texas pursuing bond authorization for mobility improvements.

    Ability to Pay mentioned, but the size of the immediate step dismissed

    The `Pavement Problem’ is concerned that Collin County says it needs to spend on new roads in the next 30 years, $12.6 billion. This is a large numbers with lots of zeros.

    However, there is not a $12.6 billion bond question being considered right now. There is a $750 million bond question being proposed. Big challenges usually are addressed incrementally. In Texas, we are used to $750 million in improvements and more moving forward. This incremental approach provides opportunities to assess and readjust.  

    Texas is Bigger (and it is getting better results)

    My wife and I have been living and working in Pearland, Texas for just over four years, moving from Michigan after 14 wonderful years there. We are not alone in relocating. The table shown here is to the left of `Net Domestic Migration. ‘ (from a presentation, `Clear Sailing Ahead,’ Dr. Mark Dotzour). The numbers for net migration over the first two decades of this century are stark.

    There’s more. Employment growth is logically tracking with that population growth (or vice versa). Texas has seen 2.7 million new jobs over the first one-fifth of the 21st Century. Once you get past California and Florida, the total drops off precipitously. Having lived in Novi, Michigan outside Detroit and in Elgin, Illinois outside of Chicago, I know the challenges of building alongside area of low employment growth. It is indeed a challenge. We face a much more desirable challenge in Texas – growth support/management/guidance.

    The numbers here in Texas are big, and there are corresponding investment needs for new infrastructure and public services required to meet them those needs. Such a big scale may not resonate to other parts of the country; however, deferred decision making can result in some eye-popping negative numbers down the road.

    A case in point from the north would be the new bridge connection between Windsor and Detroit. The additional crossing is an essential transportation link to supplement an existing private toll bridge whose owner goes to any length to protect his nearly-monopoly on this international transport market. The Windsor-Detroit bridge was talked about for a decade or more. The Canadians even generously offered to pay for its construction, and yet it is only now taking bids, estimated at $3.8 billion (billion!) to design and construct for its opening at the end of 2024 (2024!).

    Meanwhile, here in our corner of the Houston metropolitan area, there’s a new $1 billion public-private partnership to build new toll lanes and to reconstruct parallel freeway lane option that will open in September 2019 from Pearland to the massive Texas Medical Center and downtown Houston. There’s separate simultaneous new construction on the Harris County Toll Road Authority’s Beltway 8 on our northern city boundary. Generally, there’s investment in new capacity and reconstruction all over greater Houston and the vibrant core.

    Our City of Pearland has grown a little over 1/3 in population from 2010 to 2018, with 134,000 residents currently estimated. We’ve added rooftops and done so while maintaining affordable housing options, while contributing a light touch of regulations. Those new neighborhood subdivisions enhance the resilience of the housing stock, as demonstrated in their performance during the epic rainfall of Hurricane Harvey in August 2017. The new developments withstood that massive stress test. Older areas and parts, mainly developed originally outside of city jurisdiction’s development requirements, generally saw the significant flooding.

    I don’t know the specific needs in Collins County; what I do know is that grow communities must invest in transportation infrastructure. Examples include thriving cities in the DFW metroplex such as Plano and McKinney. It takes investment to build communities that are diverse, dynamic, and multi-modal. Companies and corresponding jobs are flocking to cities that invest. Ratings are high for their quality of life. Those places are not just myopically building roads upon roads, as Strong Towns implies, without considering and investing in alternative transportation choices and giving developers the chance to build dense developments for those that choose that.

    Maintenance does have to get its just investment

    The `Pavement Problem’ entry does make the point about once you build something, you have to maintain it. Moreover, where’s the money coming for that responsibility? Back to the beginning of this commentary, that fiscal accounting is a hallmark of the Strong Towns message. In our own community, we struggle with the reinvestment question for existing infrastructure. Our City budget discussions recognize there’s a gap between regular maintenance targets and the money we are actually putting towards that. However, the growth challenge requires adding to the maintenance budgets. Rest assured, with that Texas can-do track record, we will recapitalize our fleet, facilities, parks, sidewalks, pathways, and roads before they fall too far off the maintenance curve.

    When Strong Towns convenes later this week in Plano, don’t be too quick to throw out the success of the area while enjoying those Plano high-quality restaurants and retail areas. Keep in mind that Texas is bigger -- There are more “zeros.” Big numbers are essential for the investments growing major metropolitan areas that are growing and attracting people and private investment. The $750 million Collin County bond issue question for roads seems a reasonable and necessary start while leadership there continues to build great places to meet the needs of its increasing population.

    This piece originally appeared on Linkedin.

    Clay Pearson joined the City of Pearland, Texas as City Manager in March 2014. During his career, Pearson gained a broad overview and understanding for the varied operations of City government and has worked with the Mayor and City Council to outline and deliver a strong vision of what can be accomplished in Pearland’s future. Pearland’s opportunities towards being one of the premier diverse and dynamic cities around metropolitan Houston area being delivered with community not-for-profit/volunteer partners, Brazoria and Harris counties, regional partners, other government agencies and more than 700 employees and volunteers dedicated to Pearland. Pearland is a complex full-service local government.

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  • 10/05/18--22:33: The Mines
  • There’s a literary trope in which an ambitious young man goes to work in the mines for a few years to earn an income with which to go back home. In the US it’s bundled into narratives of the Wild West (where incomes were very high until well into the 20th century), but it also exists elsewhere. For example, in The House of the Spirits, the deuterotagonist (who owns an unprofitable hacienda) works in the mines for a few years to earn enough money to ask to marry a society woman. The tradeoff is that working in the mines is unpleasant and dangerous, which is why the owners have to pay workers more money.

    More recently, the same trope has applied in the oil industry. People who work on oil rigs, which as a rule are placed in remote locations, get paid premiums. Remote locations with oil have high incomes and high costs in North America, but even the Soviet Union paid people who freely migrated to Siberia or the far north extra. The high wages in this industry are especially remarkable given that the workers are typically not university-educated or (in the US) unionized; they cover for poor living conditions, and a hostile environment especially for families.

    Read the entire piece at Pedestrian Observations.

    Photo: Caroline Culler (User:Wgreaves) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], from Wikimedia Commons

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  • 10/07/18--22:33: The Communities Changing Now
  • A couple days ago I referenced Pete Saunders’ observation that Sunbelt cities in their growth phase need to take advantage of their day in the sun to put in place the foundations for future next level prosperity.

    I thought of this when I read a recent column by Bloomberg reporter Justin Fox. He was driving across the middle of the country. One of the suggestions I gave him was to check out Carmel, Indiana. He filed a story on their roundabouts:

    "It was late one weekday afternoon in Fishers, an affluent Indianapolis suburb with a lot of offices and retail as well as houses, and the traffic was starting to get irritating. There were long waits at lights. At one intersection, the line of cars waiting to turn left blocked the main traffic lane.

    Then I crossed over into Carmel, another affluent suburb with lots of offices and retail as well as houses, and everything changed. Instead of traffic lights, there was roundabout after roundabout after roundabout. There also weren’t any long waits or backups at intersections. I can’t say that I breezed through all of the roundabouts — the signage at the bigger ones was a little confusing for a first-timer — but all the other drivers seemed to know what they were doing. Traffic flowed, but it didn’t flow too fast. When a couple of pedestrians showed up at one roundabout, cars had no trouble stopping for them."

    Carmel has more roundabouts than any other city in the United States, around 120 I believe. Fishers has 15 according to their web site. I’m not going to say that roundabouts are the ultimate in infrastructure, but clearly Carmel has invested heavily in its streets compared to Fishers and it shows, even to an out of town reporter from New York.

    Discussion of Carmel tends to focus on its debt levels, which are very high. But the debt isn’t monolithic. I sort it into three major buckets: 1) traditional infrastructure, 2) developer subsidies, and 3) non-standard amenities.

    Developer subsidies are frequently decried but are ubiquitous – even Hudson Yard in NYC got them. The non-standard amenities – like a $175 million publicly-financed concert hall – draw much of the ire.

    But even if you reject all of those, a significant chunk of Carmel’s debt is for very standard, traditional infrastructure like water and streets. For example, a couple years ago the city issued a $250 million bond backed by property taxes to finance drainage improvements in older subdivisions, trails, and street improvements that include, to my count, 32 new roundabouts.

    This is a lot of money to be sure – but it surfaces an important point. All the infrastructure needed to support a new suburb – streets, sewers, schools, parks, libraries, water, streets – is expensive. Frankly, when you add it all up, often it’s just plain unaffordable.

    The traditional approach to this was to simply not build it. But as we discovered, in those places, as soon as the growth era is over and the houses, strip malls, etc. get old, the place quickly loses its attractiveness and abandonment and blight set in.

    We’ve learned some lessons from this. Suburbs generally mandate that developers build full infrastructure in their developments now. They often charge impact fees to build parks, etc. But candidly most of them are still under-investing in infrastructure, especially streets.

    Carmel, to their credit, has actually tried building out real infrastructure. I’m not even sure a wealthy suburb like them can afford to really upgrade all their streets to urban standards. But at least it’s a different strategy. Next door Fishers has done a lot with their major arterial streets. But otherwise not so much. There’s a sort of Tiebout sorting effect between these two going on right now.

    In the immediate term, Carmel has better traffic than Fishers. In the longer term, we’ll have to see if Carmel’s debt creates problems vs. Fishers, or if Fishers’ unwillingness to make similar infrastructure investments ends up sending it down the same trajectory at earlier era suburbs of northern Indianapolis into decline. Both communities have over 90,000 people and buildout is not that far away for them.

    This is the story that’s going to play out at the micro and macro level over time. Some places are going to find a way to assemble the political coalition necessary to make moves. Others are not. Some of those moves will work. Others won’t. As Pete showed, the cities that make the right moves are the ones that will differentiate themselves and perform over the longer term.

    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,, and numerous other publications. Renn holds a B.S. from Indiana University, where he coauthored an early social-networking platform in 1991.

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    Long a hotbed of new technologies, California insists on seeing its transit future in the rear mirror. Rather than use innovative approaches to getting people around and to work, our state insists on spending billions on early 20th century technology such as streetcars and light rail that have diminishing relevance to our actual lives.

    California’s roads may be among the worst in the country, but the state seems more than anxious to spend billions on transit systems that are losing market share. Despite spending over $15 billion on trains since 1990, Los Angeles transit market share and ridership have dropped. As one member of the California Transportation Commission notes, the state’s planners largely ignore the role of technologies — including home-based work, ride hailing and autonomous vehicles — that offer the best hope for resolving our transportation woes.

    Part of the problem lies in geography: the state refuses to address transportation needs within the reality of continued suburbanization of jobs and people. In major metropolitan areas since 2010, more than 90 percent of the population growth in the six largest metropolitan areas has been in the suburbs and exurbs, and less than 10 percent in the urban core favored by California’s policies. As growth heads to places such as south Orange County, the Inland Empire and northern L.A. County, the relevance of traditional transit — which works largely for downtown locations — continues to weaken.

    Getting beyond the transit fantasy

    Rather than hop on the rails, more residents are addressing traffic woes by simply staying home. By 2015, more Los Angeles-area residents were working at home than were taking transit, something also true across the country. Since 1990, the number of people working at home increased eight times as rapidly as the number of people using the transit system. The number of people driving increased even more rapidly compared to transit.

    Promoting home-based work is one way California can develop a transit future that addresses the actual needs of of our people, who overwhelmingly live and work in suburban locations. The state really has one traditional functioning downtown — San Francisco — but most residents everywhere else favor personalized transportation because they commute to dispersed and diverse location. Already the convenience of driving keeps most of us in our cars and, for those who don’t want to drive, Uber and Lyft, both California companies, have become the carrier of choice.

    We need a new vision

    California government justifies its policies on environmental grounds, but increasingly the state’s priority is to reduce driving in order to produce its utopia of ever more crowded, densely packed cities. Yet these policies so far have not made the state a leader in GHG reduction but, as a new Chapman report reveals, actually behind the pack of most other states.

    As the state emphasizes transportation that most people won’t use, it has favored a “road diet” to keep the freeways clogged. Against all market signals, it is determined to force people into “transit-oriented” areas, even as ridership falls. This approach ignores strategies that address mobility in ways both environmentally friendly way and also in touch with human realities. They largely ignore, for example, the potential of the ultimate, low-GHG technology, which is home-based work, a mode of work access that already is more widely used in the state, including the dense Los Angeles and San Jose areas, than transit.

    But the biggest change, perhaps unfolding over the next two decades, will be the autonomous vehicle. MIT’s Alan Berger suggests this new technology will free up huge amounts of space in cities that now go for wide roads and garages, while finally liberating the overwhelmingly suburban majority from dependence on traditional cars. These new vehicles, Berger suggests, could be powered by solar power, stored in special garages, and be on call when needed. They will also likely drive a new dispersion to the outer suburbs as commutes become more tolerable, according to recent Bain study.

    Streetcars, bullet trains and other waste needs to stop

    Intoxicated with their transit obsession, our political leaders continue to fund ill-conceived projects such as Jerry Brown’s high-speed rail system with costs that have more than doubled since initial planning. Despite considerable scaling back, it is more than 10 years behind schedule. As many as two-thirds of Californians no longer want to fund it.

    Possibly even more boneheaded are streetcar lines, which almost everywhere in the county are performing well below projections and losing riders. The construction of a 4.5-mile, $400 million trolley between Santa Ana and Garden Grove follows a route that promises few riders and seems doomed to a long money-losing career. Atlanta’s disastrously under-performing trolley has been nicknamed by some locals “a streetcar named undesirable.” Maybe we can do the same for the Santa Ana line — how does “a streetcar named stupidity” sound?

    All this is all the more unconscionable at a time when more efficient, less costly technologies — electric cars, work at home and autonomous vehicles — all beckon with promise of better environmental results and greater mobility and efficiency. California may have developed many of these technologies, but our leaders have been maddeningly slow to even consider how to adopt them.

    This piece originally appeared in The Orange County Register.

    Joel Kotkin is executive editor of 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 Conflict, The City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.

    Photo: Ed and Eddie, via Flickr, using CC License.

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  • 10/09/18--22:33: Curated Diversity in Chicago
  • I came across a very intriguing premise several months ago that's stuck with me ever since. I think I've had a subconscious acknowledgement of it for some time, perhaps years, but it was only when reading an interview in the Atlantic with New York Times investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones about school segregation that the notion clicked. The interview was conducted with The Atlantic's editor-in-chief Jeffery Goldberg, and offered a revealing and enlightening view of how segregation works today:

    "Goldberg: What do you call “curated diversity”?

    Hannah-Jones: I never talk about school inequality in terms of “diversity” because I think it’s a useless word. I think it’s a word that white people love. When I say “curated diversity,” it means white parents like a type of diversity so they’ll still be the majority and there won’t be too many black kids.

    White Americans, in general, are willing to accept about the ratio of black Americans at large: 10 to 15 percent.

    Goldberg: But you get into the 20s...

    Hannah-Jones: When you get into the 20s, white folks start to exaggerate how large the percentage is. So in New York City, one of the most segregated school systems in the country, if you’re a white parent in the public schools, you don’t want all-white schools.

    Goldberg: Because you’re a liberal?

    Hannah-Jones: Yeah. But what you want is a majority-white school with a small number of black kids and a good number of Latino, a good number of Asian. That makes you feel very good about yourself because you feel like your child is getting this beautiful integrated experience. The problem is that the public schools in New York City are 70 percent black and Latino. So, for you to have your beautiful diversity, that means that most black and Latino kids get absolutely none.

    The tolerance for increasing particularly the percentage of black kids is very low, and even lower if those black kids are poor. No white parents in New York City mind having my kid in their school because they feel like I’m on their level. But if you get too many of kids like mine who are black but poor, there’s very little tolerance."

    What I'm finding is that in many cities, especially in Chicago where I am, there's a real desire to curate the diversity of the city. And the result is that it leads to widely varying views on actual diversity, and ultimately on economic and social inequality and mobility.

    How so? Let's use Chicago as an example. In 1970 Chicago had a population of just under 3.4 million people. The Great Migration that brought hundreds of thousands of African-Americans to the city had essentially come to a close, and the wave of Latino growth driven by Mexican in-migation had yet to fully start. Chicago's demographic breakdown at the time fell approximately in this way:

    White: 58.2%
    Black: 32.7%
    Latino: 7.3%
    Asian: 0.9%
    Other: 0.7%

    In Chicago, as in many cities, you'd never find a geographic unit of any type that had the kind of demographic breakdown seen above. Most census tracts, neighborhoods, community areas, zip codes -- whatever unit of geography -- are overwhelmingly one group or another.

    I borrowed a map from the DePaul University Institute of Housing Studies to illustrate this point. I colored in Chicago Community Areas (CCAs, which are the city's long-standing community units for small area data collection) by their concentration of white or minority population. Here, green CCAs had a population that was 80 percent or more white in 1970, blue CCAs had a population that was 80 percent or more minority in 1970 (in this case, black, Latino, Asian and "other"), and purple CCAs had a population that was between 20 percent and 80 percent white:

    By 2015, the demographic characteristics of Chicago shifted dramatically. Overall the city's population dropped by almost 650,000 people, roughly equivalent to the current population of Portland, OR, or Memphis, TN. But decades of white population loss, enormous Latino population growth, substantial Asian population growth and moderate black population loss have created a very different demographic profile:

    White: 32.2%
    Black: 29.1%
    Latino: 30.9%
    Asian: 5.9%
    Other: 1.9%

    And here's a map of how concentrations of white and non-white populations, using the same categories as the 1970 map, are distributed in 2015:

    My guess is that many readers look at this and see the loss of green areas and the increase in purple areas and interpret the change as progress; a more integrated Chicago. Indeed, in 1970, 39 of Chicago's 77 CCAs had a white population in excess of 80 percent. Twenty-one CCAs fell into the middle category (20%-80% white), and 17 had minority populations in excess of 80 percent. In 2015 only four CCAs had a white population greater than 80 percent, and 30 had white populations between 20 and 80 percent.

    But just as noteworthy is the spread of blue on the 2015 map, indicative of the growth in the number of CCAs with minority populations greater than 80 percent. There were 17 in 1970 and 43 in 2015.

    And that's where the notion of "curated diversity" comes in.

    Chicago's North Side CCAs are more diverse than they've ever been. The North Side CCA of Lincoln Square (#4 on the map) was 94 percent white in 1970; in 2015 it was 65 percent. Irving Park, #16 on the map, was 96 percent white in 1970, and 40 percent in 2015. To the extent that those communities have become open to minorities, it is progress. There are many Chicagoans who are committed to, and just as importantly feel, that Chicago is a more tolerant and welcoming city.

    By contrast, Chicago's West Side and South Side CCAs are nearly as segregated as they've always been. The Grand Boulevard community (#38 above), was 99 percent black in 1970. By 2015 it was 91 percent. Woodlawn's black population in 1970 was 96 percent; in 2015 it was 85 percent.

    Moderate changes, yes. But it's clear that "diversity" is happening in the places where it's being curated.

    How is this accomplished? It appears it's a matter of moving the goalposts in for many former supermajority white neighborhoods. In other words, Chicago neighborhoods that previously had overwhelmingly large white populations have been traded in for one that have a simple majority or plurality. There are neighborhoods that have indeed welcomed in greater numbers of minorities, particularly the rapidly growing Latino and Asian segments of the population. It's somewhat less true for African-Americans in Chicago, but there has indeed been a significant increase in the number of African-Americans in former supermajority white neighborhoods. However, there's been little corresponding movement into supermajority minority neighborhoods, particularly supermajority African-American neighborhoods.

    What remains is a Chicago that, despite dramatic increases in the numbers of Latino and Asian residents, consistent numbers of African-American residents over time, and a substantial loss of white residents, is virtually as segregated today as it was nearly 50 years ago.

    Why does this matter? Where we live vastly impacts our perceptions of how we live. It sets the stage for huge differences in how we view our schools, our police protection, how infrastructure investment decisions are made. It reinforces deep divides within a shared space.

    I'll close with this quote from the Nikole Hannah-Jones interview, again spoken in the context of school segregation in New York City but certainly applicable to neighborhood segregation everywhere:

    "I hear this all the time: “You can’t integrate schools in York City because there’s not enough white kids.” But that's only based on the premise that you can’t expect white kids to be in the minority. The demographics of the New York City public schools are about 40 percent Latino, almost 30 percent black, 15 percent Asian, 15 percent white. If you picture a classroom like that, that's a beautiful school. That’s a beautifully diverse, integrated school. You could have that if you chose. We just don’t choose it, because we automatically say, “You can’t expect that a white parent will put their kid in school with all those black kids.”"

    And finally, this:

    "We have a system where white people control the outcomes. And the outcome that most white Americans want is segregation. And I don’t mean the type of segregation that we saw in 1955. I don't mean complete segregation. I don't think there are very many white Americans who want entirely white schools. What they do want is a limited number of black kids in their schools."

    The rigid lines of segregation have softened somewhat, but there's still quite a way to go.

    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 caption: From a citywide perspective, Chicago does indeed look like this. At more local levels, it doesn't. Source -

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    American cities have long been known for their dispersion of employment, moving from mono-centricity, to polycentricity (and edge cities) to, ultimately, dispersion. This transition was documented by Bumsoo Lee of the University of Illinois (Champaign-Urbana) and Peter Gordon of the University of Southern California (USC) using 2000 Census data (Figure 1). Even before that, in a 1998 Brookings Institution paper, Gordon and USC colleague Harry W. Richardson observed that employment dispersion to the suburbs helped cities adapt to growth, with “most commuting now takes place suburb-to-suburb on faster, less crowded roads."

    Employment Dispersion in Australia

    Employment dispersion in Australia’s metropolitan areas is one of the principal messages of a new report by Marion Terrill and Hugh Batrouney of the Grattan Institute (See: Remarkably adaptive Australian cities in a time of growth). The researchers relied upon work place data from the 2016 Census, conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), to estimate the total work day population in the central business districts, sub-centers and all other employment, which is dispersed. Sub-centers are generally synonymous with the “edge city” concept developed by Joel Garreau in his 1999 book Edge City: Life on the New Frontier.

    This is despite the fact that Australian cities are well known for their strong central business districts (CBDs or downtowns). Every one of the five major metropolitan areas (over 1,000,000 population) has more CBD jobs than all but 11 CBDs in the United States (out of 53 major metropolitan areas).

    Generally, however, all of the CBDs in Australia’s largest cities are losing market share except in Sydney. Even in Sydney, more than 75 percent of the new jobs have been outside the CBD. In Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide, all of the new jobs have been outside the CBD (Figure 2). In fact, the CBD skyscrapers mask the reality that metropolitan employment is characterized far more by the dispersion of employment than centralization.

    Australia’s five largest cities (Note) are defined by employment dispersion, with a minimum of 74 to 79 percent of employment outside the CBD and sub-centers (Figure 3). This analysis uses the maximum sub-center estimate developed by the Grattan researchers, with the balance being a minimum estimate for dispersed employment.

    Sydney: Sydney, capital of New South Wales, Australia’s largest state, has been Australia’s largest city since overtaking Melbourne before the 1911 census. With a 2016 Census count of 4.8 million, Sydney has about the same population as Boston and is halfway between Toronto and Montréal. Sydney has a strong CBD, with 321,000 jobs, between the sizes of the Washington and San Francisco CBDs, which are the third and fourth largest in the US. It is nearly as large as Toronto (Canada’s largest CBD). Yet, the Sydney CBD has under 15 percent of Greater Sydney’s employment.

    Terrill and Batrouney estimate Sydney’s sub-center employment at no more than 10 percent of the Greater Capital City Area employment. The remainder, at 77 percent, is dispersed throughout the metropolitan area. This is comparable to that of US metropolitan areas over 3,000,000 population in 2000 (Figure 1, above).

    Melbourne: Melbourne is capital of the state of Victoria and Australia’s second largest city, with 4.5 million residents according to the the 2016 census (Melbourne was the largest city from at least 1861 through 1901). This is about the size of Phoenix or Riverside-San Bernardino (though growing faster than both) and somewhat larger than Montréal. According to demographer Malcolm McCrindle, Melbourne could again become Australia’s largest city by 2026. Like Sydney, Melbourne has a large CBD, with 221,000 jobs, nearly as many positions as in the CBDs of Boston, Philadelphia or Montréal. Melbourne added 21,200 jobs in the CBD between 2011 and 2016.

    The Grattan Institute report also places sub-center employment at no more than 10 percent of Greater Melbourne. The result is that Melbourne has the most dispersed employment of the Australia’s largest cities, at 79 percent.

    Brisbane: Brisbane is the capital of the state of Queensland and is Australia’s third largest city, with 2.3 million residents. This is about the size of Sacramento, Las Vegas or Vancouver. Brisbane’s CBD has 122,500 jobs, about equal to the CBDs of Denver or Ottawa. Approximately 12 percent of Greater Brisbane’s employment is in the CBD. The sub-centers have 10 to 15 percent of metropolitan employment. From 73 to 78 percent of Greater Brisbane’s employment is dispersed.

    Perth: Perth is the capital of the state of Western Australia and Australia’s fourth largest city, with 1.9 million residents. This is about the population of Indianapolis or Nashville and between that of Vancouver and Calgary. The Perth CBD has 137,400 employees, about the same size as the Los Angeles CBD and twice that of Edmonton. The CBD has just under 17 percent of the metropolitan area’s employment. The sub-centers have 10 to 15 percent of Greater Perth’s employment. From 69 to 74 percent of employment is dispersed.

    Adelaide: Adelaide is the capital of the state of South Australia and the nation’s fifth largest city, at 1.3 million residents. This is about the size of Raleigh, Edmonton or Ottawa. Adelaide’s CBD has 107,600 jobs, This is about equal to the jobs in downtown Minneapolis and slightly less than the Ottawa CBD. Adelaide has the highest CBD employment share in Australia, at 19.2 percent. Its CBD is so large that, it in the United States, Adelaide would rank 12th in employment. By comparison, Adelaide has less than one-half the population of any US metropolitan area with greater CBD employment.

    Sub-centers are estimated to have between 10 and 15 percent of employment in Adelaide. The dispersion of jobs outside the CBD and sub-centers accounts for from 66 to 71 percent of Greater Adelaide’s employment.

    Sub-center Stagnation Despite Planning Preference

    The authors also cite evidence that larger sub-centers, long popular with planners, may add to the dispersion trend. The Greater Sydney Commission indicates that three centers, the CBD, Parramatta and the yet to be constructed Badgery’s Creek (West Sydney) Airport should contain 50 percent of the metropolitan area’s employment by the middle of the century. Today, the CBD and Parramatta combined have less than 17 percent of the employment. Parramatta, site of the 2000 Olympics stadium, has long been considered Sydney’s second downtown and is well served by Sydney’s large urban rail system. Yet Parramatta is not growing in employment share. The authors further note that Melbourne’s less remote Tullamarine Airport has attracted less than one percent of Melbourne’s employment, which may not bode well for Badgery’s Creek.

    For policy makers, the implications are clear. As Terrill and Batrouney put it: “Despite governments’ longstanding plans, major suburban employment centres have not in fact been a significant source of jobs. Rather than being located in CBDs or employment sub-centres, the overwhelming majority of workplaces are widely dispersed across metropolitan areas. This characteristic is one reason Australia’s cities are managing to adapt to growing populations.”

    Note: The Grattan Institute report also covers Canberra (Australian Capital Territory, the federal capital), Hobart (capital of the state of Tasmania) and Darwin (capital of the Northern Territory), which are not included in this analysis.

    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: Flinders Street Station, Melbourne (by author)

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    According to the 2017 American Community Survey, about 7.6 million Americans, or 5.3 percent of commuters, take transit to work. However, the actual question on the survey asks, how do you “usually get to work last week.” If someone took transit three days and drove two, then transit gets checked. So how many really use transit on any given day?

    Fortunately, table 26 in the 2017 Summary of Travel Trends from the National Household Travel Survey helps answer this question. This survey asked both how people usually got to work and how they actually got to work on a particular day. The above table is a crosswalk showing that people who say they usually drove to work actually drove about 98 percent of the time, but people who say the usually take transit actually took transit only about 71 percent of the time. Carpooling was the big winner because people who say they usually took another mode most often carpooled when they didn’t use that other mode.

    After accounting for how often people who usually used other modes sometimes took transit, the share of people who actually take transit on any given day is only about 76 percent of those who say they usually take transit. However, while 5.3 percent of commuters told the American Community Survey they usually take transit, 6.9 percent of commuters told the National Household Travel Survey they usually take transit, and 75 percent of that is 5.2 percent, almost exactly the same as the American Community Survey.

    So, which is it: 5.2 percent or 76 percent of 5.3 percent (which is just under 4.0 percent)? I’m inclined to say closer to the latter number. The National Household Travel Survey results were based on answers from 26,000 households. The American Community Survey was based on answer from 3.5 million households, so it is likely to have a much smaller sampling error. (The National Household Travel Survey also surveyed another 100,000 households, but only in eleven states that paid for the privilege of having more detailed answers, and they weren’t likely a representative sample of the nation as a whole.)

    So it seems likely that, on average, fewer than 6 million commuters, out of about 145 million, ride transit on any given day. While I wouldn’t say this reduction is reliable in any particular city (it is probably more reliable in, say, San Jose than in New York City), it is useful to keep in mind that transit commuting numbers in the American Community Survey are probably overestimated.

    This piece first appeared on The Antiplanner.

    Randal O’Toole ( is a senior fellow with the Cato Institute and author of the new book, Romance of the Rails: Why the Passenger Trains We Love Are Not the Transportation We Need, which will be released by the Cato Institute on October 10.

    Photo: Gillfoto from Juneau, Alaska, United States (CBJ Transit Center) [CC BY-SA 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

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    Here’s the ubiquitous American landscape with a dash of central New Jersey local color. It’s not the rain and dark skies that make it look so bleak. No amount of sunshine can brighten this much asphalt, synthetic stucco, and vinyl siding. There’s no point in complaining about any of it. It exists and will continue to do so for the duration. Shrug.


    But pass through these columns and enter a little Victorian era town trapped in amber that reminds us that we used to build better places. Ocean Grove was established as a Methodist revival summer camp in 1869. In the aftermath of the Civil War people were hungry for faith, fellowship, and order. The (then) remote seashore location offered fresh air, tranquility, and escape from the smokestacks, heat, congestion, and disease of industrial cities like New York and Philadelphia.

    The street grid was measured out and small lots were leased with 99 year terms to members of the church. The town began with tents pitched on simple wooden platforms. There were 200 tents for every solid home in the early years. Religious services were held in larger tents and tabernacles. 114 tents still remain in use after a century and a half and are inhabited from May to September each year.

    Over time cabins were added to the back of each tent to provide sanitary facilities and kitchenettes. At the end of the season the tents are folded away inside the cabins. Because the people who choose to live here are all self selecting members of the same community with common sensibilities the tent city is remarkably safe, clean, and well maintained. People come to Ocean Grove intentionally to be together. That’s the whole point of the town.

    The first iteration of church building was the natural landscape itself along the beach. The current pavilion is inscribed with Psalm 24:1 “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”

    It’s important to recognize that the most valuable real estate in Ocean Grove is not built upon or commercialized – unlike nearly every other inch of privatized beachfront property up and down the Jersey shore. Nature was revered, celebrated, and preserved as part of God’s creation. The boardwalk is a gift to the public maintained at some expense by the Methodist community, but you’ll find no amusement rides, cotton candy, tourist trinkets or pay-per-view beach passes. Only free musical events sponsored by the Methodist community are on offer. The lack of privatized commercial activity has a powerful effect on property values and desirability (as well as what might be called social equity or social justice) ten blocks away from the water. Since everyone in town has physical access to the waterfront the value isn’t concentrated in a handful of expensive homes. That value is distributed throughout the entire community.

    Open air pavilions were gradually supplemented by more substantial church buildings meant for seasonal use. In pre-air conditioning days the buildings were self ventilating with high ceilings, cupolas, and large doors and windows around the periphery as seen here at Bishop Jane’s Tabernacle.

    With 6,250 seats the granddaddy Methodist church in Ocean Grove is the Great Auditorium built in 1894. It was the fourth iteration of the same basic building as each successive version was larger and more substantial than its predecessor. Remember, this church began as a tent. Notice the high ceilings, upper windows and cupolas for natural passive ventilation like Bishop Jane’s Tabernacle. Also notice the huge barn style doors along the side walls that keep the church open to sea breezes during services, but secure the building when closed. The iron framework that made a building of this size practical and affordable – it was built in just 90 days – was a product of the same heavy industry that made a remote meeting camp site so desirable. That’s always the irony of new technology. It solves one set of problems while creating others.

    Again, the generous use of public park space connects the Great Auditorium to the beach pavilion in a way that elevates the spirit, contributes to a better environment for everyone in town, and coincidentally makes properties more loved and valuable. As with many other places (Central Park in New York for example) the most prestigious buildings are clustered along the public parks. That land could have been carved up into private back gardens, but the sense of community would have been compromised. This development style intensionally prioritizes shared interaction rather than insularity.

    The quiet side streets of town are a study in incremental urbanism. These modest lots originally held tents. The tents were upgraded to cabins. The cabins were replaced by proper homes. The dirt roads, shared water wells, and outhouses were incrementally replaced by paved roads, sidewalks, and town services. First many small private investments were made, then collective funds were pooled to install more complex infrastructure with cash on hand. This is in contrast to current practice when all infrastructure is supplied up front and paid for with enormous amounts of debt.

    This one group of homes speaks to the organic nature of growth in Ocean Grove. A tiny cottage remains next to an unassuming two story house on one side, with a significantly larger three story building on the other side. This is a snapshots of how the town evolved over decades. We don’t see this type of development anymore. Instead, entire subdivisions and master planned communities are built instantaneously and then prevented from changing in any way.

    Ocean Grove has plenty of commercial activity along its Main Street (Main Avenue actually) and demonstrates that if the surrounding town is compact and walkable the need for parking is greatly reduced. So is the need for super wide streets or special bicycle infrastructure. Most people can and do walk or bike to the hardware store, dentist, grocery store, ice cream parlor, restaurants, and post office. It’s not that people here don’t have cars or don’t buy things elsewhere. They simply have the choice of walking and participating in a more local economy. Notice how many buildings have a mix of commercial and residential uses. This flexibility allows the town to bend and adapt easily as the economy and culture shift over time. Yes, Ocean
    Grove has a tourist element, but it’s first and foremost a town for residents that happens to have a broad popular appeal that coincidentally attracts outside visitors.

    Like nearly all older towns in America Ocean Grove endured a period of decline from the early 1960s to the 1990s. The Methodist community preserved the town through that dark time when most other places razed their historic buildings and urban fabric in a rush to install parking lots and Jiffy Lubes. In opposition to the overwhelming trends of the time Ocean Grove made it illegal to drive or park within the town limits on Sundays, although that practice is no longer in effect. One of the reasons the town endured intact and was able to be rediscovered and reinvested in by a new generation was the presence of a religious community that had a higher calling and a longer event horizon than the dominant secular culture. There are lessons to be learned here by people who may not identify with the church.

    This piece first appeared on Granola Shotgun.

    John Sanphillippo lives in San Francisco and blogs about urbanism, adaptation, and resilience at He's a member of the Congress for New Urbanism, films videos for, and is a regular contributor to 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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    In the imaginations of its boosters, and for many outside the state, California is often seen as the role model for the future. But, sadly, California is also moving backward toward a more feudal society.

    Feudalism was about the concentration of wealth and power in a relative handful of people. Historically, California created fortunes for a few, but remained a society with enormous opportunity for outsiders, whether from other states or countries. One of Pat Brown’s biographers, Ethan Rarick, described his leadership as having made the 20th century into “The California Century,” with our state providing “the template of American life.” There was an American Dream across the nation, he noted, but here we had the California Dream.

    This proud legacy is threatened, as we point out in our study to be released Monday. Today California is creating a feudalized society characterized by the ultra-rich, a diminishing middle class and a large, rising segment of the population that is in or near poverty. Overall our state now suffers one of the highest GINI rates — the ratio between the wealthiest and the poorest — among the states, and the inequality is growing faster than in almost any state outside the Northeast, notes liberal economist James Galbraith. The state’s level of inequality now is higher than that of Mexico, and closer to that of Central American banana republics like Guatemala and Honduras than it is to developed states like Canada and Norway.

    California, adjusted for costs, has the overall highest poverty rate in the country, according to the United States Census Bureau. A recent United Way study showed that close to one in three of the state’s families are barely able to pay their bills. Overall, 8 million Californians live in poverty, including 2 million children, a number that according to a recent report, has risen since the Great Recession, despite the boom.

    California’s poverty, and the loss of a middle class, is most profoundly felt in the interior counties. California, according to the American community survey, is home to a remarkable 77 of the country’s 297 most “economically challenged ” cities, utilizing a scoring of poverty and employment data by the National Resource Network. Los Angeles, by far the state’s largest metropolitan area, has among the highest poverty rate of largest U.S. metros.

    Even in the Bay Area the current boom is creating what the Japanese philosopher Taichi Sakaiya has called “high-tech feudalism.” In the last decade, according to the Brookings Institution, among the nation’s large cities inequality grew most rapidly in San Francisco; Sacramento ranked fourth.

    Urban website CityLab has described the Bay Area as “a region of segregated innovation,” where the rich wax, the middle class wanes and the poor live in increasingly unshakeable poverty. Once among the most egalitarian places in the country, Silicon Valley has become extraordinarily divided between rich and poor, and with a diminished middle class. Some 76,000 millionaires and billionaires call Santa Clara and San Mateo counties home but nearly 30 percent of Silicon Valley’s residents rely on public or private assistance; the real wages of the largely Latino and African-American working class actually have dropped in the midst of the “boom.”

    In this dispiriting election year, no prominent California politician, left or right, has addressed seriously the collapse of the state’s dream of upwardly mobility. A problem this complex can’t be addressed by the party bromides — lower taxes by conservatives and more subsidies by progressives. The real problems lie with policies that keep housing prices high, an education system that is a disgrace, particularly for the poor, and a business climate so over-regulated that jobs can be created either in very elite sectors or in lower-paying service professions. Even in the Bay Area in coming decades regional agencies predict only one in five new jobs will be middle income; the rest will be at the lower end.

    Of course, this increasingly class-bound society could survive, as long as the economy stays on an even keel, so that the rich can pay the bulk of taxes. But this feudal California is neither economically or socially sustainable over the long term. A recent poll found that only 17 percent of Californians believe the state’s current generation is doing better than previous ones. More than 50 percent thought 18-30-year-old Californians were doing worse. Our research finds that a large percentage of Californians have virtually no discretionary money available, after taxes and reasonable living expenses are taken into consideration.

    This situation should be unacceptable no matter what one’s politics. There is no reason why Californians need to endure a crumbling infrastructure, pay outlandish housing and energy prices while paying high taxes, all to maintain an education system that is failing all too often. Rather than posture and scream, it would be better if California’s leaders focused instead on what is happening to our state and address aggressively the prospects for improving things for the next generation.

    Read "California Feudalism: The Squeeze on the Middle Class" here.

    This piece originally appeared in The Orange County Register.

    Joel Kotkin is executive editor of 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.

    Marshall Toplansky is Clinical Assistant Professor of Management Science at Chapman University. He is co-principal investigator, with Joel Kotkin on “The Orange County Model”, a demographic and econometric research project to identify growth strategies for that region. He is formerly Managing Director of KPMG’s national center of excellence in data and analytics, and is co-founder of Wise Window, a pioneer in sentiment analysis and the use of big data for predictive models. He lives in Orange, California.

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    A Manhattan Institute paper that I wrote earlier this year and presented in Akron is on the dos and don’ts of civic branding and is now available online. It’s part of our Urban Policy 2018 book as well. Here’s an excerpt:

    "This paper will use a traditional definition: At its most basic, a brand is a promise. Branding, by extension, is the act of managing that promise. Branding is a management practice.

    This deceptively simple statement is actually quite powerful. For example, when you make a promise, you promise something to someone. You don’t promise everything to everybody. You commit to delivering something specific. If you want your promise to have value, it has to be something at least relatively distinctive, something that everybody else isn’t already promising the other person. And when you make a promise, you have to keep it or else suffer a huge loss of credibility.

    The challenge of promising something unique is extremely difficult for cities. We see this from the observed fact that while most companies are trying their hardest to convince you of how much different and better they are than every other company in their industry, most cities are trying their hardest to convince you they are at least equal to the peer communities they most admire. Cities often promote the same basic assets their competitors promote, sometimes even with similar language. Thus, despite often touting their unique qualities, cities fail to differentiate themselves.

    Cities are not start ups. They already have residents, businesses, a history, a culture, a set of values—a brand, if you will. The attempt to radically shift a city from its existing brand to something else will appear inauthentic and fail. It will also send a subtle message to existing residents that there is no place for them in the future—that they are of less value than a new class of people the city wants to attract.

    So in addition to being distinct, brands need to be authentic. They need to speak to the people who already live in a city as well as to potential newcomers. They need to be an expression or a reflection of the history, heritage, and reality that already exist. To be sure, a city’s reality needs to continue to grow and evolve, and, at times, corporate brands need to be reinvented. But successful reinventions and evolutions generally try to stay true to the authentic core of the brand.

    This is even true in the fashion industry. When fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld revived Chanel in the early 1980s, he did so by drawing on inspiration from the firm’s archives. This became a model that others followed. As the New York Times stated, “Lagerfeld’s wildly successful echoing of Chanel’s history has become the blueprint for labels across the world. Today, designers use archival styles to anchor their individual aesthetics to a brand’s past.” By contrast, “New Coke” was one of the great rebranding flops in history. Coca-Cola is as American as apple pie. Changing such an iconic product was a betrayal of its brand promise. The company swiftly backtracked.

    In short, cities too often have decided that they need to replace their existing brand to copy another’s that they think is necessary in order to compete. This typically fails because a brand needs to promise something distinct. Harvard business professor Michael Porter puts it thus: “Competitive strategy is about being different. It means deliberately choosing a different set of activities to deliver a unique mix of value.”

    There’s nothing wrong with having bike lanes or coffee shops. But today, these things aren’t going to sell a city to businesses or potential residents.

    Yet these places almost certainly have characteristics that make them unique, though it may be difficult to identify and articulate what they are. Consider the state of Ohio. What is its identity, its brand? It isn’t easy to create characteristics that other midwestern states wouldn’t likewise claim for themselves. But visit Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland: it is immediately obvious that these are three very different cities, though it may not be easy to determine what exactly it is that makes each one unique.

    Unearthing that unique character requires digging deep into a place and its history, a task perhaps more suited to historians or journalists than to the corporate branding consultant. Consider the late sociologist E. Digby Baltzell of the University of Pennsylvania, who wrote an in-depth comparison of Boston and Philadelphia. As the title of his book, Puritan Boston and Quaker Philadelphia (1979) implies, Baltzell traced the identity and culture of each city back to the character of the religious groups that founded them. This deep historical analysis is something branding consultants rarely do."

    Click through to read the whole thing.

    Be sure to check out the end, where I include a list of various city marketing videos.

    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,, and numerous other publications. Renn holds a B.S. from Indiana University, where he coauthored an early social-networking platform in 1991.

    Photo: Akron, Ohio by Sleepydre, Public Domain

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    The USA is now a net exporter of crude oil, with crude oil exports exceeding imports. This oil boom is beneficial to 49 states, but not to California. The American shale boom has important security implications as well, as America is now less dependent on crude oil from the turbulent Middle East, again, except for California.

    Even more impressive is the fact that the U.S. has now overtaken Saudi Arabia in recoverable oil reserves.

    California however is an “energy island” to its almost 40 million citizens, bordered between the Pacific Ocean and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The State has no pipelines over those mountains to access the oil shale boom, thus any crude oil needs from the rest of the country for California must to go through the Panama Canal to reach California ports. There are other options of crude oil by trucks or by railroads, but both have been overwhelmingly ruled out environmentally.

    This energy subject is about finding a workable, sustainable balance across equally important concerns for our economy, our shared sense of social equality, our impact on the environment, and a truly sustainable energy future.

    The state’s daily need to support its 145 airports (inclusive of 33 military, 10 major, and more than 100 general aviation) is 13 million gallons a day of aviation fuels. In addition, for the 35 million registered vehicles of which 90 percent are NOT EV’s are consuming DAILY: 10 million gallons a day of diesel and 42 million gallons a day of gasoline.

    Additionally, the crude oil is needed in California to support the other “stuff” of chemicals and by-products from crude oil that are the basis of 6,000 products from petroleum that are part of every infrastructure and virtually everything in our daily and leisurely lifestyles.

    With both California’s in-state production and imports from Alaska on a steady decline, California now relies on nine major foreign countries for the majority of its crude oil. Shockingly,California increased crude oil imports from foreign countries from 5% in 1992 to 56% in 2017.

    Many in California are working hard to produce hydrocarbon energy efficiently, reliably, and safely, and many others are working hard to develop alternative energy sources that will efficiently, reliably, and safely produce carbon neutral energy, but despite those appreciative efforts, our energy needs continue to grow with the growing populations of people, vehicles, and businesses.

    The latest data from the California Energy Commission (CEC), shows that California fuel consumption is at the highest level since 2009, thus continuation of the state’s dependency on foreign countries for the states’ energy needs seems to be the states future.

    In 2017, California imported crude oil from foreign countries at the rate of 354,119,000 barrels annually. The price that refiners are paying in California for that oil is the Brent Average Crude Oil Spot Price which was recently $75.36 per barrel for September 2018.

    Importing more than 354 million barrels of crude oil from foreign countries is costing California more than$26.6 billion annually at the current Brent spot price for oil.

    On a DAILY basis, importing more than 354 million barrels of crude oil annually costs California more than $73,000,000 per day. Those California dollars are being “EXPORTED” on a daily basis from California to Saudi Arabia, Ecuador, Columbia, Iraq, Kuwait, Brazil, and Mexico and others.

    The volume of imported crude oil for 2018 is expected to be higher than 2017 because of the constant decline in California crude oil production, and the constant decline in imports from Alaska, thus, both the imported numbers of barrels from foreign countries and costs are increasing to fill the void.

    The 1,700 square-mileMonterey Shale, from the state’s central coast to its San Joaquin Valley, holds roughly 60 percent of the country’s estimated shale oil reserves. Yet, even though California is sitting on one of the largest shale reserves and ocean crude oil reserves in the country in the Monterrey Shale and Pacific Ocean, California’s reliance on crude oil imports from foreign countries is at 56% and increasing each year.

    In lieu of sending that money abroad to countries that are already oil rich, that money could have stayed in the state to be earned by hard-working, tax-paying Californians by accessing the huge reserves in-state.

    Rather than obtaining oil from foreign countries with less stringent environmental regulations than California, via air polluting ships delivering the crude oil, the State could be contributing to lessening world GHG emissions by increasing in-state production from the most environmentally regulated location in the world, from one of the largest crude oil reserves in the country.

    Oil from in-state reserves could provide Californians with affordable and reliable energy, and jobs, but California seems to be on a continuous path of importing crude oil from foreign countries and sending more than $73,000,000 of its dollars to oil rich nations on a DAILY basis.

    This piece originally appeared on

    Ronald Stein is Founder and Ambassador for Energy & Infrastructure at PTS Advance, a technical staffing agency headquartered in Irvine.

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    America is becoming less mobile than in the past, but there are some major metropolitan areas --- and areas within them --- that have fewer people move in and out than others. US households tend to live longer in their present residences where population growth has been more modest. The data also indicates that across all major metropolitan areas, households tend to have lived longer in suburbs and exurbs than in the urban core.

    The Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) reports on the length of time that residents have been living at their current address. This article describes the length of residence tenure data, focusing principally on the 53 metropolitan areas with more than 1,000,000 residents. This includes the latest data (for 2017) at the metropolitan area level as well as the latest data at the small area level using the City Sector Model (Figure 12). This permits examination of length of residential tenure within major metropolitan areas.

    As of 2017, the median period of residence (tenure) in the United States was 7 years (Figure 1). Among those living in owner-occupied housing (those with and without mortgages), the median was 12 years, while among renters the median tenure was below two years (See Note 1, “Note on the data”).

    Major Metropolitan Area Data: All Households

    Among the major metropolitan areas, the longest median period of residence was in Pittsburgh, at 11 years. Pittsburgh’s long lengths of tenure are not surprising, in view of its lack of population growth. As presently defined geographically, the Pittsburgh metropolitan area had two percent less population in 2017 as in 1930 (See Note 2: Pittsburgh Population). This declining population base denied the metropolitan area the new residents that would have reduced its median residency period.

    Outside Pittsburgh, Buffalo had the slowest growth rate, at 25 percent from 1930. Buffalo is among the metropolitan areas with the second longest median residency, at nine years. Slow growing New York, Philadelphia and Hartford, also had medians of nine years. All of the 10 metropolitan areas with the longest residence medians were in the Northeast or the Midwest (Figure 2).

    The shortest median residence periods were all in the faster growing metropolitan areas of the South or the West Census Bureau regions. The shortest medians were in Las Vegas and Austin, both at four years. These two major metropolitan areas have been the fastest growing over the last two decades (Figure 3).

    Major Metropolitan Area Data: All Households

    As in the all households data, Pittsburgh has the longest median owner occupied residence periods, at 16 years. The home ownership data, unlike that of households, is not monopolized by the Northeast and Midwest, though the slow growing metropolitan areas of the Northeast and Midwest have 11 of the 14 longest medians. Los Angeles is in a five-way tie for second longest, at 15 years (Figure 4). It is also notable that San Jose, which has had 85 percent of its growth since 1950 and no pre-World War II urban core, ranks a seven way tie with a median of 13 years.

    The longest rental median was in New York at five years. Los Angeles and San Francisco each had a median of four years (Figure 5). All of the other 50 major metropolitan areas had a median rental tenure length of three years or less.

    City Sector Data

    The length of residency varies considerably, as indicated by the City Sector Model analysis (Figure 12). The ACS 2012/2016 survey (taken over five years, one-fifth in each year, with a middle-year of 2014) indicates a population weighted median of 7.0 years for all major metropolitan area residents. The shortest periods of residency are in the Urban Core, with 2.4 years in the CBD and 4.6 years in the Inner Ring. The suburban and Exurban residency periods are longer, ranging from 6.9 years to 8.8 years (Figure 6).

    These differences are largely driven by the ownership data, since the rental tenure lengths are fairly stable across the city sectors. The shortest median period of residency is among owners in the Urban Core: CBD is 6.8 years, well below the other four sectors (from 10.8 years to 13.4 years). Overall, home owners have been in their houses for a median of 12.1 years. Among renters, the medians are all between 2.0 and 2.2 years, except in the Exurbs, where the median reaches 2.5 years (Figure 7). This suggests that as people continue to move from the urban cores, where renting is more common, to the suburbs and exurbs, they are more likely to transition to home ownership. This is despite the popularity of substituting renting for buying among academics, urban planners and others.

    As is so often the case, New York stands out as an outlier. With a median residential tenure of 7.0, New York’s CBD is well above that of San Francisco (3.1) and Los Angeles (3.8) and more than double that of the other 50 major metropolitan areas (Figure 8). New York’s median tenure is also higher in each of the other city sectors, but the differences are less. (Figure 9).

    In the balance of the Urban Core, the Inner Ring, all of the longest medians in the Urban Core are in the East and Midwest, except for San Francisco (Figure 10). In the suburbs and exurbs, Pittsburgh has the longest residential tenure median, at 11.8 years, closely followed by New York (11.4) and Buffalo (11.2). All of the 10 longest suburban and exurban medians are in the East and Midwest (Figure 11).

    From the Transitional Urban Core to the Longer Tenures in the Suburbs and Exurbs

    Generally, residential tenure tends to be longer in metropolitan areas with slow growth and shorter in fast growing metropolitan areas. Within metropolitan areas, residential tenure tends to be shorter in the urban cores and especially in the central business districts. This reflects the greater incidence of renting in the urban core, a phenomenon that does not follow households to the suburbs.

    The Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey has long shown that people tend to move less frequently as they become older. The ACS data shows that residential tenures are the longest in the suburbs and exurbs, where most people live (86 percent) and which account for an even greater percent of the population growth since 2010 (91 percent). Residential tenures tend to be remarkably shorter in the urban core, particularly in the CBD. With households living only a median of 2.4 years in these areas, communities are necessarily more transitional. The opposite is true in the suburbs and exurbs, where people stay in their homes (and neighborhoods) longer.

    Note 1: Note on the data: The median is measured the middle, the point at which one-half of the residents have lived at the same address longer and the other half for a shorter period. ACS reports whole years, not differentiating periods within years. ACS does not differentiate among periods less than two years, which are simply shown as less than two years (as in Figure $$$).

    Note 2: Pittsburgh population: The Pittsburgh metropolitan area, as currently defined by the Office of Management and Budget, had 2.382 million residents in 1930 and 2.333 million in 2017. During the period, the area’s population rose to 2.769 million in 1960, and, concurrent with the virtual death-spiral of its signature steel industry, lost 300,000 residents by 2000.

    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: Neighborhood in city of Indianapolis

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    The Middle East may well be the birthplace of cities, and maybe capitalism itself, but for the most part, it continues to lag in developing a modern, workable urbanism. Yes, the region has produced high-tech hubs (e.g., Tel Aviv) and postmodern cities (e.g., Dubai), which can be regarded as rising international business centers, but it’s also home to megacities afflicted by mismanagement, poor planning, and some of the world’s highest unemployment rates. In some countries, like Saudi Arabia, and many of the Gulf States, there is also a chronic shortage of homegrown labor willing to work.

    Yet for all their underperformance, Middle Eastern cities possess some things—rich histories, large working-age populations, and, in some cases, vast resources of energy and money—that could produce successes, much as we see already in China and India, which have risen from poverty in recent decades. What these countries have, and much of the Middle East lacks, is strong engagement in the global economy and openness to diverse cultures.

    In our report for Chapman University and the Civil Service College of Singapore, we placed only Tel Aviv, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Cairo among the top 50 global cities. In contrast, North America, led by New York, put 11 cities on the list, as did Europe (with London and Paris in the lead); the Asia-Pacific region, led by Tokyo, added 13 cities. No other Muslim Middle Eastern city—including Bagdad, Damascus, and Tehran—comes close to making the grade as a significant global city.

    The Middle East doesn’t lack the trappings of global cities: by 2020, the region will boast three of the world’s five tallest towers—the Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and the Makkah Royal Clock Tower (Abraj Al-Bait Mall) in Mecca. Dubai is home to the world’s biggest airport and one of its largest port complexes. Nor does the Middle East lack for money; Qatar has the world’s highest per-capita income, while Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates also score above the United States. Per-capita incomes in Saudi Arabia and Israel exceed the European Union average.

    In some senses, the Middle East’s problem has been less one of underdevelopment than of lack of vision—putting greater emphasis on the aesthetics of modernity than on the practical aspects of what we call the human city. The region’s leaders—most notably Saudi Arabian Prince Mohammed bin Salman—seek to develop great cities that would challenge Dubai as world capitals and appeal to Westerners. Yet despite their bravado and intentions, cities like Medina (home to the Prophet’s mosque), which has been targeted by the central Saudi administration for development, have only the bare-bones necessities, such as airports and a new train system, but virtually none of the amenities that would encourage outsiders to work there for any period of time.

    Getting off the plane in Medina, Saudi Arabia’s fourth-largest city, one feels more like a time traveler than a visitor. New industrial and technology parks are going up, but one wonders how many skilled foreign workers would migrate to a region with virtually no good hotels or restaurants, and one not yet ready to accommodate non-Islamic residents—not to mention a political culture all too often rooted in authoritarian brutality, as the reported savage torture and murder of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi has once again demonstrated.

    To become a center of successful urbanity, the Middle East needs to rediscover two great legacies from its past: marketplace culture and tolerance for outsiders. The earliest great cities—and empires—emerged as early as 5000 b.c. in places like Sumer and Babylon. The latter can reasonably be said to have grown by 1800 b.c. into the world’s first great city. It is in this glorious past that the roots of resurgence lie. The Middle East not only invented urbanism but also became the first place to experience capitalist innovation, notes author Nima Sanandaji in his new book, The Birthplace of Capitalism: The Middle East. He traces the world’s first capital markets, banks, artisanal industries, and long-distance traders to the region’s first great cosmopolitan cities. As Sanandaji notes, commerce led these cities to develop the world’s first accounting systems and written language, largely to keep records of trade.

    In classical times, Greek and Roman aristocrats held their noses about trade while Syrian and Jewish traders played dominant roles in imperial commerce. They continued to do so even after the Roman Empire fell, and well into the Middle Ages. “Iranians, Arabs, Turks, Jews, Kurds, Armenians and the myriad of people who inhabit the Middle East have widely different cultures,” Sanandaji notes. “Yet they are all dealers and hagglers, with market exchange almost encoded into their cultural DNA.”

    Sadly, this entrepreneurial orientation today is more evident outside the region than inside it. Wherever people from the Levant and North Africa settle, they shine as entrepreneurs. In the United States, Middle Easterners traditionally register among the highest start-up rates. Go anywhere the Mideast diaspora settles—Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, Edgware Road in London, the Detroit suburbs, Westwood, the San Fernando Valley, Anaheim and even parts of Germany—and observe how grassroots capitalism and entrepreneurship flourishes.

    At a time when Christianity largely disparaged enterprise, Islam embraced commerce and attempted to build a more equitable culture within it. This should not come as a surprise, since Muhammad was himself a merchant. As Mohammad Gharipour notes in his 2012 edited volume, The Bazaar in the Islamic City, Design, Culture, and History, “His [Mohammed’s] invitation to Medina was, to a large extent, a consequence of the investment of his first wife, Khadija, who had a reputation as a very successful merchant in Mecca.” However, Muhammad “introduced regulations based on an honest trade system to revive trade and close the distance between classes.”

    Rather than being hostile to the existing commercial culture, Islam built on older forms and extended them. Business connections grew in importance once the Muslim empire covered an expansive geography, extending from Western China to the Atlantic Ocean. The world of Islam, at its height, was large and connected enough to produce the first hints of globalization. As Baghdad became a knowledge center, and by 900 a.d. likely the world’s largest city, commerce fed the region’s complex political machine.

    Until the financial rise of the West, global wealth was largely concentrated in the Middle East and North Africa. No Western city could come close to Cairo’s qasaba, with 360 apartments, a permanent population of 4,000, and what the great traveler Ibn Battuta described as offering an astonishing “abundance and diversity of goods.” The livelihood of such major cities relied heavily on such commercial activity.

    Much of this occurred in the centuries before the Portuguese provided the world with a new commerce route around the Cape of Good Hope. Until then, Muslim merchants dominated the land routes (silk and spice roads), the key conduits of global commerce, with most traversing the Middle East. Before there ever was a London, Paris, or New York, there were Samarkand, Aleppo, and Mosul.

    The other great legacy, all too often ignored today, is tolerance. At a time when European Christian cities were hostile to outsiders, including Christians with differing views, Islamic cities thrived by welcoming people from outside Islam, and from differing Islamic countries. Jews, Armenians, Copts and other minorities settled in Aleppo, Damascus, Baghdad, and Cairo. These were fundamentally cosmopolitan places.

    Though non-Muslims had to pay a jizyah, or head tax—loosely understood as a residency fee—they were, for the most part, able to survive, and even thrive, under Islamic rule. Muslims played important roles in non-Islamic countries, too. For example, the great Chinese Admiral Zeng He, who came from the Hui minority, embraced the Muslim faith and led the Ming Dynasty’s bold naval expansion in the fifteenth century.

    Similarly, non-Muslims occupied important posts even at the height of the caliphate and the Islamic empire. Many served as doctors, tradesmen, and even diplomats. The culture was open as well to influences, including those from classical Greece and Rome, forgotten or rejected in the Christian West. Some cities, like Cordoba in Spain, flourished as centers of diverse thought and poetry from Jewish and Christian authors, mostly written in Arabic.

    This tolerance linked the Mideast to Europe and the world beyond. Syrian Christians and Jews were particularly critical in this process; they could trade in the Muslim world with freedom, and often in greater safety, than in the Christian West. “The miracle of toleration,” as historian Fernand Braudel remarked about Renaissance Venice, existed “wherever the community of trade convened.”

    This culture persisted well into the last century, and exists, at least in people’s memories, to this day. Someone growing up in Iran in the 1960s, or cities like Damascus, Cairo, and Baghdad, lived in a Muslim-dominated culture but one enriched by longstanding Jewish and Christian communities. Before the establishment of the state of Israel, between 800,000 and 1 million Jews lived in Middle Eastern countries outside Palestine; Jews left these countries, mostly for Israel, France, and the United States. Today, only small residual populations, roughly one-tenth the size, with high proportions of elderly, remain. In 1910, Christians accounted for 13 percent of the Middle East’s population. Today, according to a recent study, their percentage has fallen to 4.2 percent and is slated to fall even further, to 3.2 percent, by 2025.

    Some, even in the Muslim world, have thought that the key to reviving Middle Eastern cities lies in imitating Western urban development. With the changes in the global economy, many of the traditional forms of local capitalism, especially the Middle Eastern bazaar, faced competition from more modern, globally connected firms. The modernization effort in Iran manifested in the creation of streets and boulevards that interrupted the bazaar’s spatial flow, symbolically highlighting the estrangement of the new government from these areas. Over the course of the twentieth century, this process gradually lessened the economic centrality of the bazaar to the national economy.

    Instead of nurturing their already-vibrant grassroots capitalism, many Middle Eastern countries put ever-greater controls on modern market forces. Starting in 1931, Iran’s government had begun to control foreign trade, regulating imports and exports and establishing exchange rates for the dollar and pound. Similarly, Egypt imposed tariffs on imported goods in 1930, with varying rates for different products. The ensuing economic progress was slow, particularly for countries without petroleum or minerals, or whose petroleum revenues were tightly controlled by Western nations, but these policies did plant the roots of modern consumption and a new class structure. A larger volume of petrodollars, particularly after 1973, fueled an economic boom that turned a handful of cities into international spectacles of consumption. In the process, though, these cities lost all the advantages of traditional cities—for example, the souk, streets that provided shade, and houses that took advantage of shade and wind to keep cooler. Instead, we’ve seen a pattern of unmitigated mimicry, with commerce and an often-incongruous architectural style, as epitomized by Dubai and other Persian Gulf States.

    Awareness has grown that this imported architectural style threatens many of the values that Middle Easterners hold dear. Some Saudi planners have become more interested in building “human” cities, hoping that cities like Riyadh could become more culturally rich, more amenable to families, and environmentally friendlier. There is serious discussion of abandoning the large building/high-density model favored by Western planners and architects, in favor of something that reflects more human values.

    Restoring the old entrepreneurial climate, free of state or oligarchical control, should be popular in a region whose primary religion was founded by a merchant and which boasts some of the world’s oldest business cultures. If there is such a thing as an institution in the Middle East and North Africa that has lasted across time, it is the bazaar, whose spatial manifestations persist to this day.

    There are some hopeful signs in the region. Tel Aviv has a thriving tech sector that has made it, according to the Startup Genome project, the sixth-richest entrepreneurial region in the world, ahead of Berlin, Los Angeles, Shanghai, and Seattle. Large U.S. tech companies—Google, Microsoft, Intel—invest there to harvest cutting-edge technology. An estimated 300 research and development centers operate in tiny Israel. There are also signs of an emerging startup scene in Dubai, a city with an airport second to none. The city’s hotels, beaches, and conference facilities are widely patronized by visitors from Russia, India and Europe. Modern and remarkably tolerant—as long as you don’t criticize royal authority—Dubai seeks to become an enterprising society. With reforms, other cities in the Middle East could similarly invest in a growing skilled and educated population, especially in countries like Iran and Libya.

    The Middle East, despite its many and seemingly endless conflicts, has a genuine opportunity to improve its urban future. It can best do so not by simply adding to its collection of modern and postmodern architectural baubles, but by returning to its commercial roots and its traditional culture of tolerance. Some loosening of social controls could make these cities more attractive to workers and investors without overwhelming the political order, as has been accomplished in Singapore and elsewhere in Asia. Mideast urban planners don’t need seminars in city-building from “experts” seeking to export the Western model. They need to embrace their own heritage first. Once they rediscover the advantages of tolerance and the power of their marketplace culture, they could create cities that will once again lure investors, workers, and visitors from around the world.

    This piece originally appeared in City Journal.

    Joel Kotkin is executive editor of 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 Conflict, The City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.

    Ali Modarres is the director and Professor of Urban Studies at University of Washington, Tacoma. He formerly served as the editor-in-chief of Cities: The International Journal of Urban Policy and Planning and has written on the role of bazaars in shaping the urban morphology of Middle Eastern cities.

    Photo: ארתור שמונק [CC BY 2.5 ], via Wikimedia Commons

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    Is the California Dream unraveling? Joel Kotkin and Marshall Toplansky warn how California is headed towards an increasingly feudal future in their latest report, "California Feudalism: The Squeeze on the Middle Class." Click the link below to read the full study.

    California was built by people with aspirations, many of them lacking cultural polish or elite educations, but dedicated to hard work, innovation, family and community. A large number came from other countries or poor backgrounds: sharecroppers from the South, campesinos from Mexico, people fleeing communism and poverty in Asia, escapees from Hitler’s Europe or Okies and others fleeing the dust bowl.

    This proud legacy is threatened. California has now taken on an increasingly feudal cast, with a small but growing group of the ultra-rich, a diminishing middle class, and a large, rising segment of the population that is in or near poverty. Indeed, amidst some of the greatest accumulations of wealth in history, California has emerged as a leader in poverty, particularly among its minority and immigrant populations and throughout its interior.

    Something is clearly wrong with this picture. Yet our state leaders, and too many of our business and civic leaders, are convinced that California, far from being something of a cautionary tale, offers a great “role model” for the rest of the country.

    The state’s drift towards an ever more unequal, feudalized society, characterized by concentrated property ownership, persistent poverty levels, and demographic stagnation does not seem to concern our Sacramento leadership.

    What needs to change? If we want to again be a place of opportunity for all, we need to dial down California’s increasingly expensive, messianic land use and climate change policies, which have dramatically increased housing and energy costs, forcing individuals and companies elsewhere. This will allow us to develop more housing and middle-class jobs, especially in more affordable areas such as the Central Valley and the Inland Empire. A dramatic reform of our education system, which underserves our next generation, particularly in poor and minority communities, needs to be enacted. Other steps, like investing in basic infrastructure—roads, dams, electric transmission—could boost the flagging blue collar economy of the state.