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    Over the past three years, the nation’s largest transit systems have endured a broad and unprecedented ridership decline. By far the largest drop has been in Los Angeles and this has resulted in justifiable consternation.

    Metro, the largest transit system in Los Angeles County, has seen its passenger counts (boardings, see Note 1) drop from over 1.5 million each weekday in its recent 2013 peak, to just over 1.25 million in 2017. This decline has occurred at the same time as Metro’s third most successful new rail line, the Expo line, from Santa Monica to downtown Los Angeles, was opened. Figure 1 shows 2010 and 2017 ridership and indicates that for each Expo line passenger, there was a loss of three passengers in the rest of the Metro system.

    This is occurring as Metro has undertaken one of the most significant rail and busway building programs in modern US history. Now six rail lines and two busways head to different destinations from downtown, complemented by one lateral line (the Green Line) and one busway (the Orange Line). Yet, despite expenditures of over $15 billion on the already opened rail and busway lines, ridership has never been restored to its 1985 bus only peak.

    Responses to the Metro Ridership Collapse

    There have been differing responses to the continuing decline. Some --- in the face of dismal numbers --- anticipate a future of greater transit ridership and less car use. For example:

    Larry Wilson, a member of the Southern California News Group editorial board (which includes such outlets as the Orange County Register, the Los Angeles Daily News, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune and the Pasadena Star-News) recently suggested that increasing traffic congestion will drive higher ridership. He concludes that “Transit ridership will come back, once the system connects more dots.”

    Los Angeles Times columnist Liam Dillon expresses concern that the state is falling far short of progress toward the mobility transformation considered necessary by the California Air Resources Board. This would require “four times” more frequent travel by walking, a “nine-fold” increase in bicycling” and a “substantial boost in bus and rail ridership.” After decades of trying to entice drivers to walk, cycle and jump on transit, with virtually no success, this “necessity” is not likely to be achieved without compulsion. Nor has it anywhere else in the world.

    Others suggest that the ridership losses are driven by structural factors.

    Substantial coverage was given to a recent report produced for the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), the local metropolitan planning organization (MPO). The U.C.L.A. authors, Michael Manville, Brian D. Taylor and Evelyn Blumenberg note that: “Areas that were heavily populated with transit commuters in the year 2000 became, in the next 15 years, slightly less poor, and significantly less foreign born. Perhaps most important, the share of households without vehicles in these neighborhoods fell notably. All these factors align with a narrative where a transit-using populace is replaced by people who are more likely to drive.”

    They also note the benefits to lower income households who obtain cars: “When lower-income people graduate from transit to driving, transit agencies bear a cost, but the other side of that cost is a large benefit for both the people who start driving and for society overall.” This is a refreshing rebuttal to the academic dogma that often sees the purpose of cities in terms of “place-making,” or transit, rather than people, a distortion roundly criticized by economists at the London School of Economics.

    This trend could augur more transit losses for Los Angeles. Low-income households seem likely to continue buying cars because of the mobility options they offer, not the least of which is that 60 times (not 60 percent, but 6,000 percent) as many jobs can be reached in 30 minutes by car than by transit by the average Los Angeles commuter, according to measures published by University of Minnesota researchers. Their data also shows that drivers can reach more than 150 times as many jobs by driving as by walking.

    Another theory, strikingly consistent with the UCLA observations, is advanced by Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal of the Los Angeles Tenants Union, in a Los Angeles Times op-ed entitled: “Transit-oriented development? More like transit rider displacement.” Ms. Rosenthal cites data showing that “…L.A.'s transit riders are mostly low-income black and Latinos: 88% of Metro bus riders are people of color, and more than 50% have annual family incomes under $15,000. When they lose housing near bus or rail lines, they lose access to transit.” Her point is that the transit-oriented development that occurs along rail lines displaces transit riders, who cannot afford higher rents.

    Metro’s aggressive rail building program may thus, albeit unintentionally, be contributing to the ridership losses, as the increasing number of affluent riders are far less than the number of lower income transit riders who are being driven farther away from transit. I am confident that none of us serving on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission at the creation of the modern rail system expected it to lead to lower ridership (Note 1).

    Even the Proponents Projections do not Support the Narrative

    Meanwhile, hopes for greater transit ridership hinge on the new rail lines, like the Purple Line extension to Westwood and the Crenshaw line. These, however, are vain hopes, because not even the transit planners project meaningful transit ridership increases. In the long run (2030 for the Crenshaw line and 2035 for the Purple line), official projections indicate not many more than 30,000 additional riders on a daily basis. Figure 2 illustrates the 2010 ridership level, and the lower 2017 level, with the additional ridership projected for the Purple and Crenshaw lines.

    These 30,000 new riders should be compared to the 18,000,000 million new daily trips that are anticipated in the region by 2030. The 30,000 is not even sufficient to retain transit’s share. For example, the Crenshaw line planning documents indicate that transit accounted for 2.3 percent of regional trips. The very same planning document predicts a market share reduction by 2030 with the addition of the Crenshaw line. Even adding the projected Purple line riders, the share of trips by transit would drop to 2.0 percent, a reduction of 14 percent.

    Utopian Fantasy: Connecting the Dots by Transit

    No vision of a Los Angeles with meaningfully and proportionally less automobile use is rational (or for that matter would it be in any other modern urban area, but that is a different article). There is simply not enough money for transit to connect enough “dots.” Professor Jean-Claude Ziv and I found that to “connect” the geographical “dots” (equal the connectivity of the automobile) with rapid transit would require from half to three-quarters world megacity gross domestic products, each year, in a paper presented to the World Conference on Transport Research Society (WCTRS) in 2007. Of course, some dots can be effectively connected, like to the largest downtowns (central business districts), by far the easiest to serve tend to average around 10 percent of employment, though much less in highly decentralized Los Angeles. But that is a far cry from an automobile competitive regional transit system.

    The reality is that the millions of Los Angeles households could not retain their standard of living if they rode transit, much less walked or cycled. Many more would be in poverty. People will choose transit (and walking and cycling) only if the travel times and geographical coverage are competitive with driving. Moreover, there is no point in delusions about radical land use transformations, especially where governments require the consent of the governed. In short, there is no roadmap to any transit utopia connecting sufficient dots, because none are feasible.

    Note 1: US transit agencies count passenger “boardings,” which is the number of times a passenger enters a vehicle to travel from their origin to the destination. Thus, a passenger whose trip takes two buses and one train is counted as three.

    Note 2: My involvement as a member of the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission is detailed in Transit in Los Angeles.

    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: Los Angeles Blue Line, Long Beach (by author).

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    My latest column is now online in the March issue of Governing. It’s called “A Tip for Infrastructure Builders: Fix It First.” Here’s an excerpt:

    "Infrastructure investment is also not likely to spur economic growth in depressed locales. Where I grew up in southern Indiana, Interstate 64 runs east-west across the state, linking St. Louis with Louisville, Ky. Though it might have made sense to build it as part of a national network, this lightly traveled road hasn’t spurred much economic growth in the rural counties it passes through. Visiting Flint, Mich., it’s hard not to be struck by the juxtaposition of a pristine eight-lane interstate alongside the decayed infrastructure of that economically distressed city.

    Today’s businesses care much more about things like an available, quality labor force than they do about infrastructure. That’s because despite its age, our infrastructure is already pretty good.

    Prioritizing spending on maintenance is also more equitable. Only the faster-growing places need lots of new infrastructure. But almost every place has infrastructure maintenance needs."

    Click through to read the whole thing.

    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: Via Urbanophile.

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    The California Democratic Party’s refusal to endorse the reelection of Senator Dianne Feinstein represents a breaking point both for the state’s progressives and, arguably, the future of the party nationwide. Feinstein symbolizes, if anyone does, the old Democratic establishment that, while far from conservative, nevertheless appealed to many mainstream businesses and affluent suburban voters. The rejection of Feinstein reveals the eclipse of the moderate, mainstream Democratic Party, and the rise of Green and identity-oriented politics, appealing to the coastal gentry. It offers little to traditional middle-class Democrats and even less to those further afield, in places like the industrial Midwest or the South. In these parts of the country, bread-and-butter issues that concern families remain more persuasive than gestural politics.

    To its many admirers back east, California has emerged as the role model for a brave new Democratic future. The high-tech, culturally progressive Golden State seems to be an ideal incubator of whatever politics will follow the Trump era.

    Certainly, California is an ideal place to observe this shift, as radicalism faces no restraints here. The Republican Party has little to no influence in politics and culture and not much even among business leaders. For the Democrats, this vacuum allows for a kind of internecine struggle resembling that of the Bolsheviks after the death of Lenin. And just as happened then, a new Stalinism of sorts seems to be emerging—in this case, to the consternation not only of conservatives but also of traditional liberals and moderates of the Feinstein stamp.

    Read the entire piece at 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 ConflictThe City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.

    Photo: BenFranske [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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    Big city America has long demonstrated a distaste for its smaller cousins. This sentiment has, if anything, intensified with the election of President Donald Trump, whose improbable victory was made possible by strong support in small cities and towns across the country.

    Once exemplars of de Tocquevillian American exceptionalism, now they’re subject to such jibes as a Silicon Valley executive's infamous assertion last year that “no educated person wants to live in a s***hole with stupid people.” And to be sure, “the little town blues” as Brookings has characterized it, are real: many of these smaller communities are in demographic decline as the ambitious young go elsewhere, leaving them ever whiter and older, and the departures of large company headquarters, such as ADM and Caterpillar, has been a blow.

    Read the entire piece at

    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.

    Photo: Via

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  • 03/11/18--22:33: Cronyism and its Scapegoats
  • Cronyism destroys trust and assigns the blame to scapegoats of its own creation.

    Only a fiercely committed left or right-winger would fail to recognize that there is today a social and political divide that does not easily fit within the traditional mold of left vs. right. If, loosely speaking, the left leans socialist and the right leans capitalist, there is a third branch, cronyism, that is characterized by the rising power and wealth of rent-seeking industries and individuals. In the past, this branch was dominant mainly in poorer countries with weaker institutions. But today it has also gained significant strength in a number of developed countries, including the United States.

    In fact, if the Republican Party has been hijacked by Trumpism, as some allege, then we could say that capitalism has been similarly hijacked by cronyism. In our view, this parallel is nearly seamless, given that the GOP is traditionally pro-capitalism – in words if not always in deeds – and that the incumbent administration is largely populated with captains of rent-seeking industries.

    Rent seekers themselves claim to be capitalists – many quote freely from Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand -, an amalgamation that gets a regular airing in the media when, for example, a finance executive or a Reagan administration official pens an op-ed touting the recently enacted tax reform or other initiative as a victory for free market capitalism.

    As to the left, it is more than happy to stick the capitalist label on cronies (with for example the convenient oxymoron “crony capitalism”) since it helps it to discredit the profit motive of individuals and corporations and to highlight the widening wealth inequality in American society, while claiming that its long-standing anti free market philosophy is being vindicated by the abuses inflicted by cronies.

    We are fortunate however that the separation of capitalism and cronyism is gaining more and more understanding. In a recent interview about his work on the rising mortality of working-age whites, Princeton Economics Professor and Nobel Prize Winner Angus Deaton clearly differentiated between capitalism and rent-seeking [our emphasis]:

    A lot of people are thinking about rent seeking. There is this sense that it is not just letting it go to the people at the top, it is letting the people at the top get rich on the backs of ordinary people.

    I’m in favor of inequality if it comes about from people making great innovations that make us all better off. And I think those people deserve to be rich. But the people who get rich by lobbying the Congress to give them special protections that come out of the hides of the workers seems to be a bad idea.

    With this statement, Professor Deaton drew a straight line connecting the rent-seeking economy with the surge in opioid usage and “deaths of despair” among white Americans. This differs significantly from other theories that attribute these social ills to joblessness resulting from ‘unfair’ free trade or unchecked immigration. Perhaps then it is cronyism that is the real culprit? Not the barefoot immigrant but the well-heeled lobbyist or executive?

    Cronyism and Trust

    Underlying the social crisis identified by Deaton are the growing disenchantment and falling trust among constituencies across America. Revolt gives way to despair when trust in the institutions that are tasked with enforcing equity begins to falter. Cronyism of course destroys trust because it corrodes faith in the integrity of these institutions.

    To use the most obvious example, if one of the reasons of the 2008 crisis was the rise of too big to fail banks, then why are these same banks ten years later as big or bigger than they were in 2008? A probable explanation is the influence of insiders seeking to blunt the impact of regulation or to arrest any initiative directed at breaking up the mega-banks. For context, consider this chart from Visual Capitalist that shows how 37 banks in 1990 merged and merged again over time to create a group of four that today hold 45% of all US customer deposits. Whether they should be broken up remains an open question and a valid debate, now nearly ten years after the crisis.

    This lack of action after the 2008 debacle, whether on too big to fail banks or on white collar prosecutions, has contributed to a hollowing out of the effectiveness of government institutions, with predictable results. According to Joseph Parilla, a fellow at the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, trust in national institutions has taken a big hit in the forty-five years since 1972:

    Trust in the federal government to “do what is right” declined from 53 percent to 22 percent since 1972. Trust in media has declined from 68 percent to 32 percent. We also trust each other less: The share of adults that felt “most people can be trusted” dropped from 46 percent to 31 percent.

    On the other hand, looking at the local level,

    The one area where trust has remained high is within local communities. In fact, trust in local government has actually increased over the past several decades, and Americans remain very satisfied with their friendships and social networks.

    Why? Americans have been self-selecting into communities that reflect their cultural and ideological preferences. We likely display more affinity for those institutions and leaders that are closest to our influence.

    So, Americans trust what is close to them in part because they choose it and control it, but they are less trusting of what is far and less easy to choose and control. Neither is really good news. On one hand, it is normal to trust a proximate community that you chose to join. The inclination to trust, in this case, precedes the selection and is then confirmed as a natural and expected result. On the other hand, the decline in trust vis a vis far away national institutions is ripe with undesirable consequences.

    Missed Promises

    Trust tends to wane when promises made are not honored, and when well-founded expectations are disappointed. When it comes to the government, it would be too easy to list all the promises that were made and missed in recent decades, from balanced budgets that rarely balance, to free trade agreements that create large inequities, to trillions of dollars spent nation-building abroad, to wars won that are still being fought, to bailouts that lead years later to larger bailouts, etc.

    The central cause for the decrease in trust is the global ascendance of cronyism, a phenomenon that continues to corrode the institutions of this and other countries. This growth was accelerated by globalization and in 2008 by the unwillingness of policy makers to let failing companies and individuals simply go under. In our view, Trumpism with its ersatz populism and its promotion of rent-seeking sectors is not as advertised a new dawn but the penultimate stage of cronyism to be replaced by the final and most complete stage under a quasi socialist administration.

    Fueling this populism is the clear fact that many people are unhappy and are closing in and hunkering down on the local level. But this too has undesirable consequences in that it leaves out the nomads in our society who do not “have a local” level, in other words who are not by history or heritage part of any local community. These include mainly two groups: first, the 14% foreign-born residents who by definition did not originate in any locality in America, and second, the educated elites, or “cosmopolitans” in the parlance of another era, who have left their original local cities and towns to live in global cities like New York or London.

    Not coincidentally, these are precisely the two groups scapegoated by cronies looking to deflect blame for their own misdeeds. Both groups are now under attack from the new populism and both are at danger of becoming the chief victims of the decline in trust. Let us examine each in turn.

    Immigration and Social Capital

    Immigration. What is it good for?

    In our view, the smartest way to think of immigration is within the framework of social capital. Social capital is the collection of networks and interactions among people in a society that foster trust and reciprocity and that help that society function effectively. Corporations, schools, parent-teacher associations, sports teams, bowling leagues, political parties, book clubs etc. are all networks that strengthen social capital.

    1912 Immigrants Waiting for Medical Examination (Source: Popular Science Monthly Vol. 80)

    In his book Bowling Alone, the author and sociologist Robert D. Putnam differentiates between bonding and bridging social capital as follows:

    Of all the dimensions along which forms of social capital vary, perhaps the most important is the distinction between bridging (or inclusive) and bonding (or exclusive). Some forms of social capital are, by choice or necessity, inward looking and tend to reinforce exclusive identities and homogeneous groups. Examples of bonding social capital include ethnic fraternal organizations, church-based women’s reading groups, and fashionable country clubs. Other networks are outward looking and encompass people across diverse social cleavages. Examples of bridging social capital include the civil rights movement, many youths service groups and ecumenical religious organizations.

    Bonding social capital is good for undergirding specific reciprocity and mobilizing solidarity… Bridging networks, by contrast, are better for linkage to external assets and for information diffusion.

    Bonding social capital is good for “getting by”, but bridging social capital is crucial for “getting ahead.”

    Bridging social capital can generate broader identities and reciprocity, whereas bonding social capital bolsters our narrower selves.

    Bonding social capital has high levels of trust and reciprocity but it is exclusionary and is strongest within a singular community. By contrast bridging social capital has lower levels of trust and reciprocity but it is inclusive and acts as a bridge among disparate communities.

    Aaron Renn, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, said in this podcast that cities and communities should try to find the right balance between change and preservation, and between bonding and bridging social capital. He made these comments in the context of the ongoing debate on immigration:

    [at 2:55] I suggest thinking about that balance like Aristotle talked about virtue. Virtue is the mean between two extremes. There is a happy medium.

    [at 3:15] I see immigration as a practical thing. It’s a change force. You absolutely need to have some change in your cities. You need to have new blood, you need to have new ideas.

    Without this new blood, there is an increased risk of atrophy in places with too few immigrants, or too little bridging social capital:

    [at 3:55] Immigrants are the natural constituency of the new. A lot of these midwestern cities I wrote about really had difficulty changing and adapting to the future. And that is because they didn’t have any new blood. So they sort of fossilized. All the social networks and the ways of doing business there really made it impossible to move forward. If you don’t have a certain percentage of newcomers, it is very difficult to do that.

    [at 8:50] When you have too many connections and it is all the same people – imagine the same ten people who have always been in the room – there are never any new ideas that come in, and it is hard to change. You keep getting locked into the same patterns.

    Renn also highlights the risk of too little bonding social capital. There are trade-offs to consider when a place has too many newcomers.

    [at 3:30] But if you have too much change, too many newcomers, you hear things like “we are losing our soul as a city”.

    [at 6:50] Immigration does bring a lot of uncomfortable change for a lot of places and a lot of people, particularly in cities where it is not the norm. Research has shown that diversity, which immigration can promote, does in fact lower social capital and lower social trust. Some of that is good because these Rust Belt communities have too much social capital.

    On the other hand,

    [at 9:20] When you start having too little bonding social capital, you can end up with tremendous divisions, lack of social solidarity, and a sort of social disruption.

    Some bonding social capital is hugely positive, but too much can lead to atrophy and sclerosis. Conversely, some amount of bridging capital is needed to move forward, but too much may result in social disruption. This means that the main virtue of some immigration is precisely the fact that immigrants do not fit in at first and that they bring something new and constructive. The fact that the foreign-born do not “have a local”, do not have ties to one locality, is the main benefit of welcoming foreign-born people in our midst in the first place.

    The question then is whether there are too many immigrants in America today and whether we have deviated from the Aristotelian happy medium. The foreign-born in New York City and New York State add up to 37% and 22% of their respective populations, well above the 14% national average. Upstate New York (excluding the City and near suburbs) by contrast only has 5% foreign-born. A large number of Southern and Midwestern states have fewer than 5% foreign-born. Every place seems to have found its own equilibrium, the level at which it can absorb immigrants without causing disruption. But places that are economically stagnant should perhaps ponder the question of whether they have too much bonding and not enough bridging capital.

    Elites and Cronies

    The other target of cronyism are the nomadic urban elites on both coasts. There is some irony in cronies donning the mantle of populism and seeking to scapegoat these elites given that they travel in the same circles, socialize at the same clubs, work at the same firms and have their children educated at the same schools. From the vantage point of an outsider, there is very little that differentiates cronies from the urban cosmopolitan elites.

    Yet, in a most brazen “not me, but him” act of self exculpation, cronies in rent-seeking sectors have deflected all responsibility for the crash in trust away from themselves and redirected it towards other subsets of the elites, mainly academia and the media, notwithstanding the fact that this is the same academia that they court (often without reserve) to educate their children and the same media that they court to gain some measure of public notoriety.

    Of course, scapegoaters are not intellectually rigorous and a bona fide elite crony may see no contradiction whatsoever in downing a fellow member of the elite across town. Quite the opposite in fact. The ranks of the elites have become so bloated in recent decades that a periodic culling of the more vulnerable would suit the survivors just fine even if there is little to differentiate them from the fallen, outside of serendipity and a fortunate set of connections.

    For the demagogue and the intellectually unrigorous, there are many available pretexts to persecute people individually or as a group, as history has shown repeatedly with the victimization of ethnicities and religions that stood out as being different, as “having no local”. This is all the work of dishonesty and scapegoating for the sake of self-exoneration about the crash in trust. It has worked before and it may work again.

    This piece originally appeared on

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

    Photo: Gerald Carter, via Flickr, using CC License.

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    Once seen as a human-scale alternative to the crowded cities of the past, California’s cities are targeted by policy makers and planners dreaming of bringing back the “good old days,” circa 1900, when most people in the largest cities lived in small, cramped apartments. This move is being fronted by well-funded YIMBYs (“yes in my backyard”), who claim ever greater densification will help relieve the state’s severe housing crisis.

    The goal, as stated by one YIMBY journalist, is startling in its retroactive boldness. “Getting people out of their cars in favor of walking, cycling or riding mass transit.” notes Liam Dillion, “will require the development of new, closely packed housing near jobs and commercial centers at a rate not seen in the United States since at least before World War II.”

    Besides being ahistorical — this kind of housing was restricted to the urban cores a few of the largest metropolitan areas — many residents of these districts, including in California, gleefully abandoned this lifestyle for a more private, lower-density and family friendly lifestyle as soon as it became practicable. In fact, millions of people moved here from crowded cities, small towns, rural areas and other countries to enjoy this lifestyle.

    Read the entire piece at 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.

    Photo: Omar Bárcena, via Flickr, using CC License.

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  • 03/13/18--22:33: Is Mayor a Dead End Job?
  • We constantly hear that it’s the era of cities. Benjamin Barber wrote a book called If Mayors Ruled the World. Mayors are touted as pragmatic problem solvers who are taking on the challenges politicians at other levels of government are afraid to face.

    One would think that if mayors were that much better than state or federal officials, then mayor would be a great stepping stone to higher office. However, that does not appear to be the case. Only three presidents had ever served as mayor: Andrew Johnson, Grover Cleveland, and Calvin Coolidge. Grover Cleveland, mayor of Buffalo, was the only one to helm a major city.

    It’s similar for other offices. In 2012 a blogger looked at the members of the US Senate. Only four of them had been mayor immediately prior to running for office. (Two others had been county executives). Five others had served as mayor, but held intermediate office before being selected to Senate. That’s less than 10% mayors.

    It’s the same with governors. Here’s what the Washington Post had to say about that:

    The jump from chief executive of a town to of the state is rare.Five states are headed by former mayors. Two, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley were mayors of their state’s largest city, Denver and Baltimore, respectively.Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) were mayors of their state’s third largest cities, Stamford, and Knoxville. Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) is the odd man out, having been mayor of a smaller city: Waterville, population 15,855.

    Some young, ambitious politicians have jumped into the local arena, possibly inspired by Cory Booker, who parlayed his tenure as mayor into a place in the Senate. But it hasn’t necessarily worked for them yet in terms of getting into higher office.

    One such young mayor who has gotten huge attention is Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana. Politico recently ran a flattering profile of him, saying that “Pete Buttigieg could be the Democrats’ savior—if he can only find his way out of South Bend.” Mayor Pete as he’s known is 36, went to Harvard, was a Rhodes Scholar, did a stint at McKinsey, served in Afghanistan with the Naval Reserves (intelligence), speaks several languages, etc. I’ve never heard a bad word about him. But it’s not obvious how he moves up. As Politico puts it:

    There is one glaring problem: The routes to higher office that are available to Buttigieg, as a progressive hailing from a state trending in the opposite direction, are winding and pockmarked. He could dither in Congress, if he could win a seat at all in his Republican-leaning home district. He could risk his political hide running statewide in Indiana, even though Trump bested Hillary Clinton there by 19 points. Maybe Buttigieg angles for a Cabinet post in the next Democratic administration? That’s three years away, at minimum. Last winter, he sought to lead the Democratic National Committee, earning endorsements from five former party chairs, but he ultimately ceded to contenders with higher name recognition.

    A bitter irony is at play here: At a moment when the faces of the Democratic Party are 67-year-old Chuck Schumer and 77-year-old Nancy Pelosi, when so many novice Democrats are banging at the gate, spurred into action by powerful social currents and opposition to the president, one of the party’s most talented young politicians has nowhere to go.

    Indiana is a red state and mayor hasn’t generally been a great route to higher office. Two Indianapolis mayors after Richard Lugar ran for statewide office and lost. But the pattern is clearly more widespread.

    Looking around, you hear about lots of people who’ve acquired the monicker “Mayor for Life,” but not nearly as many former mayors who moved up to higher office at all, much less proven to be dynamos there.

    What accounts for this? I don’t know. Maybe local politics is seen as small ball. Maybe the political skills that work well at the local level (say, retail politics) don’t scale. Maybe it’s because cities are generally dominated completely by Democrats, and mayors have no experience in campaigning with a more contested electorate. Maybe a lot of mayors simply don’t want to move up. For whatever reason, being a mayor appears to be more likely a terminal position than a stepping stone to bigger things.

    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: Cory Booker, the mayor who successfully moved to higher office

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    Many observers think California urban areas are more geographically expansive ("lower density" or to use the pejorative term, more "sprawling") then those elsewhere in the nation, especially the Northeast Corridor, which runs from the Washington DC metropolitan area through Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Hartford, Providence to Boston. This obsolete view is a leftover from the pre-automobile city of more than a century ago, when the largest American cities (metropolitan areas) had far higher urban densities, smaller suburban expenses, and no cars. Then, the principal method of urban mobility was walking, though transit had a virtual monopoly on motorized mobility.

    During the 1920s, automobiles began to dominate and automobile oriented suburbization had its early beginnings. In 1930 there were 90 motor vehicles in the United States for each 100 households. Now, more than 85% of the 53-major metropolitan area (over 1 million population) residents live in the suburbs (or exurbs), leaving less than 15% in the urban cores, according to the City Sector Model, which differentiates between urban cores and automobile-oriented suburbs (Figure 8). The suburbs are even more dominant in California, with 91 percent of major metropolitan area residents.

    Still, there is a widely held view that California's urban areas are less intensively developed than others around the country, especially in the Northeast Corridor. Indeed, some urban cores resembling the pre-automobile cities remain in the Northeast Corridor. Yet, these urban cores are vestiges of another era, surrounded by suburbs that are nearly as automobile oriented as the suburbs of dispersed metropolitan areas such as Orlando, Phoenix or Portland.

    California’s Dense Urban Areas and Suburbs

    Population densities have plummeted so much that today Boston’s overall urban density (including its dense urban core) is only 2,200 per square mile, less than one third that of Los Angeles, often seen as the very definition of "sprawl." Even more remarkable, the Boston urban area covers more land area than Los Angeles, according to the Census Bureau. If Los Angeles were populated at the urban density of Boston, only 3.9 million residents would have been counted in the 2010 Census, instead of the actual 12.1 million.

    The Los Angeles urban area, as well as San Francisco and San Jose urban areas are also denser than New York. In 2010, New York had 51 percent more residents, but covered 99 percent more land area. The high suburban density of Los Angeles is illustrated by the photograph above, which is of the Ontario and Upland area, bisected by the San Bernardino Freeway (Interstate 10), approximately 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.

    This analysis that follows analyzes the urban densities within the principal urban areas of the major metropolitan areas, using the City Sector Model.

    Comparison of California Urban Areas to Other Regions

    For this analysis, a tailored set of geographical regions has been selected for comparison to "Coastal California," which includes the Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and San Jose urban areas. Because of the concentration of some of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas, including four of the transit legacy cities (New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Washington, municipalities that comprise 57 percent of the nation’s transit commuting destinations, but only seven percent of the jobs) the Northeast Corridor is also analyzed. These four metropolitan areas include four of the nation’s six largest downtowns (Central Business Districts). The Northeast Corridor also includes Hartford and Providence.

    The other three regions include one that encompasses the entire Midwest as well as three metropolitan areas over the Appalachian Mountains from the Northeast corridor (Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Rochester). Another is the South, but excludes Washington and Baltimore, which are in the Northeast Corridor. The last region is the West, which excludes coastal California though does include Riverside – San Bernardino and Sacramento in California.

    Coastal California: Much Denser than the Northeast Corridor

    Figure 1 compares the urban core, suburban and overall urban densities by the regions delineated above. The Exurban category is excluded, because it is virtually all outside the principal urban areas (Note). Perhaps surprisingly, the urban core population density in Coastal California nearly equals that of the Northeast corridor while the suburban density of Coastal California is more than double that of the Northeast Corridor. The overall urban population density of Coastal California is at least 60 percent higher than the urban areas of the Northeast Corridor.

    The urban core, suburban and overall urban densities in Coastal California are well above the densities of each of these categories in the other three regions.

    Moreover, despite their reputation for high density, the urban areas of the Northeast Corridor are only a little more densely populated than those of the Middle and East and the South. Perhaps more surprisingly, the suburbs of the West, excluding Coastal California, are at least 15% more densely populated than in the urban areas of the Northeast Corridor.

    A more detailed examination is provided in Figure 2, which compares densities among the Earlier Suburbs and Later Suburbs. The New York urban area is broken out of the Northeast Corridor, to illustrate the fact that California suburbs are considerably denser --- nearly 90 percent ---- than those of the nation's largest urban area. In addition, the population density of both the Earlier Suburbs and Later Suburbs are also higher in the West, outside Coastal California, than in New York.

    Individual California Urban Area Comparisons

    Figure 3 compares individual metropolitan area urban core densities in California with those of the Northeast Corridor and for all metropolitan areas in the nation outside California. Both the Los Angeles and San Francisco urban cores are nearly as dense as the urban cores of the Northeast Corridor and about one third denser than the urban cores outside California. The urban cores of San Diego, Sacramento and San Jose are well below those of the Northeast Corridor, Los Angeles, San Francisco and outside California. This is to be expected, since each of these three metropolitan areas did not achieve significant size until after the sunset of the transit and walking era.

    Figure 4 compares suburban population densities. All the California urban areas have suburban population densities higher than the Northeast Corridor. Los Angeles has suburbs that are more than three times as dense while San Jose's suburban densities are more than double that of the Northeast corridor

    National Urban Density Perspective

    Figure 5 illustrates the 10 densest urban cores among those with more than 100,000 population. Not surprisingly, New York has by far the highest density at nearly 23,000 per square mile. Indeed, New York represents 41 percent of the urban core population of major metropolitan areas. New York’s urban core population, at 10.3 million, is more than four times that of Chicago, which has the second largest urban core, and more than six times that of third largest Boston and fourth largest Philadelphia.

    Los Angeles has the second highest urban core population density, followed by San Francisco. Other metropolitan areas such as Chicago and Philadelphia, often perceived to have higher densities, have lower urban core population densities than Los Angeles and San Francisco.

    Figure 6 shows the major metropolitan areas with the 10 densest suburbs, led by Los Angeles and San Jose. Miami and Las Vegas ranked third and fourth, followed by San Diego and San Francisco. Four of the 10 densest suburban components are in California metropolitan areas, while seven are in the West.

    All of California’s major metropolitan areas have more densely settled suburbs than Portland, Oregon, which is renowned for its densification policies. In addition to the four coastal metropolitan areas, all ranked in the top 10, the suburbs of Riverside-San Bernardino rank 15th, while Sacramento ranks 20th, both ahead of 23rd ranking Portland.

    Figure 7 shows the major metropolitan areas with the least dense suburban areas. Birmingham, Nashville and Pittsburgh have the lowest suburban densities. Only one metropolitan area from the West, Tucson, ranks among those with the lowest suburban densities.

    The Implications of California’s High Suburban Densities

    Given the already elevated level of density, proposals to cram more people into already settled areas of California could worsen the quality of life. California’s high urban densities are accompanied by the worst traffic congestion in the nation and some of the worst in the world. With plans in place and more proposals to increase densities, this can only get worse. Regrettably, transit access cannot possibly substitute for auto access (see: Connecting the Dots in Los Angeles, an analysis that would be virtually the same for every other urban area in the United States). Moreover, policies that seriously limit development on the urban fringe distort the market and have already driven house prices up. That is likely to continue.

    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: Densely settled suburbs approximately 35 miles east of Los Angeles (Ontario and Upland), by author.

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    When I heard over breakfast that Billy Graham had died, the news ricocheted around my mind and stirred up lots of memories. The counter of George’s Diner on Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn was just the place to begin reflecting on the surprising connection between Graham’s legacy and organized labor.

    I came of age in the early 1970s during one of the high points of Graham’s influence. A friend of Richard Nixon, and rightly criticized for that relationship, Graham’s world-wide evangelistic “crusades” continued apace. In 1973, Graham preached to 3.2 million people in a series of services in Seoul, South Korea. The final service on June 3 drew 1.1 million people, most of whom had traveled to Seoul on foot to hear him. According to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, it was the largest crusade his team ever organized. Over the years, Graham eventually preached in 85 countries on six continents, reaching 215 million people.

    I recall little of his much-lauded preaching. What caught my ear, rather, was Graham’s singular manner of invitation to come forward to receive Jesus. I can still hear the signature hymn “Just As I Am” sung by the crowd as individuals soulfully walked forward. As they did, Graham would assure the soon-to-be-converted and particularly those who had not yet made a decision that “the buses will wait.” While he made no specific reference to class, Graham’s invitation to receive the good news of Jesus was plain and unadorned, suggesting that you didn’t need to be somebody special. All you had to be was who you were and ready to receive God’s grace. In my working-class household, this was a theology everyone could work with. If the way to receive the gospel was just an old bus, so much the better that it would wait!

    Neither a prosperity gospel nor a liberation theology, Graham’s message did not promise riches or a revolution, but rather an everlasting reward in heaven. Heavenly rewards have long been the promise of what IWW bard Joe Hill called “long haired preachers.” Such preachers are long on words but short on food: “You will eat, bye and bye, in that glorious land above the sky; work and pray, live on hay, you’ll get pie in the sky when you die.” American evangelicalism, with Billy Graham at the lead, thus seems an impoverished place to ponder labor issues. But according to Graham, evangelicals did not forsake labor. Rather, labor has forgotten that its very source is evangelicalism itself.

    On the Sunday before Labor Day in 1952, Billy Graham preached in the Great Auditorium at the historic Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association. Methodist ministers created this “place of respite where ‘religion and recreation should go hand in hand’” in 1869 to get away from the “stresses and pressures of society.” On that day, before the official kick-off of the presidential campaign between Dwight D. Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson, Graham told his listeners that millions of Americans were anxiously awaiting to hear what the candidates had to say about the grave issues facing them, including the still raging war in Korea. But he also pointed to an apparent bright spot, “the laboring man and his family.” Noting the extraordinary growth of unions in the past fifteen years, he commented that “perhaps fifty to sixty million American people are directly or indirectly connected with organized labor.” Labor, Graham reminded his audience, had become a “dominant economic and political force” with “tremendous power.” He also admitted to his disappointment that church leaders were neglecting organized labor.

    Graham was not simply an evangelist; he was also a consummate organizer. His advance teams would work with churches and organizations in a given city or area well before an evangelistic crusade. After Graham’s appearances, the newly converted would then be directed to area congregations while Graham and his team would move on.

    Graham couldn’t understand why ministers would always direct his team to industrialists and political leaders but not to labor leaders. Yes, Graham saw organized labor as a mission field. He argued that the church “should be impartial toward the labor union as well as to other economic groups.” One should not “place halos on the heads of one group and horns on the heads of another. We must treat all with equal fairness and try to be neither pro-labor nor pro-capital.” This may seem like a surprising statement from an evangelical, but Graham’s evangelicalism was quite different from today’s Christian Right. And to be sure, Graham the organizer would not want to alienate a potential soul-mine of redeemable sinners.

    But I think Graham also had something else in mind in his non-hostile view of the labor movement that day. He was attentive to history, particularly to an ecclesiastical history that traced a whole bevy of reform movements, including organized labor, to the religious revivals of the early eighteenth century. As he told his Methodist audience at Ocean Grove, who might have been eager to hear about their spiritual forebears, “you should remember that the trade union movement started as a result of a great spiritual revival. The heritage that labor unions have comes from the church and from the great Wesleyan revivals of the eighteenth century.” Graham underlines this point later in the sermon: “Our great labor unions of America today owe everything they have and are to the great revival under Wesley.” In the absence of these revivals, Graham emphasized that there “may never have been organized labor as we know it today.” Graham’s position on labor in the early 1950s was not unique among the evangelicals who spoke to social issues in those years, hard as it is to imagine how an evangelical today could be even provisionally favorable to a labor perspective.

    The occasion of Billy Graham’s death reminds us that his organizing prowess helped create the evangelical era, but evangelicalism in the United States has evolved over time, with many branches that seem to be going their own ways. Evangelicals once explicitly distanced themselves from the fundamentalists to their right, despite overtures from leading fundamentalists to join them. To be sure, most evangelicals in the 1950s were pro-capital and anti-labor, as they are now. But evangelicalism fills a very capacious tent, and we should not forget those, like Graham, who saw labor as an inhabitant under that canopy.

    Graham’s death calls our attention not only to his long ministry but also to the surprising range of his perspective over the years. There is plenty to criticize in Graham, and most of us would rather focus on the future rather than on this highly problematic figure of the postwar era. Yet if we take seriously Graham’s implicit instruction to pay close heed to history, we can imagine that there might be other instructive connections between working-class perspectives and religion. For a labor movement in free-fall, looking backward might be the best way to look ahead.

    This piece first appeared in Working-Class Perspectives.

    Ken Estey is an associate professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College and the author of A New Protestant Labor Ethic at Work. His research centers on the intersection of politics and religion with a particular focus on labor and Christianity.

    Photo: Erling Mandelmann / photo©, via Wikimedia Commons

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  • 03/16/18--22:33: The Hippie Jesus Convergence
  • I picked up another hefty delivery of meat yesterday from one of the farmers I buy from. At various times during the year I order an entire lamb, a whole hog, or a side of beef. Today it was dozens of chickens and a few extra bundles of bacon and such. It all goes in to the freezers. The highest quality cuts become wonderful roasts or barbecue while the lesser portions are turned in to soups, stews, and stock that I pressure can in big batches. I really enjoy giving my money directly to the families that raise my food. And the quality is excellent.

    As I chatted with the other customers and Farmer Craig it occurred to me that if we all lined up we would be a cartoon of the American cultural and political spectrum. Craig is a deeply religious man who lives in one of California’s rural Republican conservative strongholds. He and his wife have a special calling that compels them to take in troubled youth and provide them with a nurturing home, spiritual instruction, and practical life skills on the farm. He’s patient, earnest, and impossibly kind.

    At the other end of the spectrum are the old school San Francisco lefties with “Tax the Rich” and “Keep Our Muslim Neighbors Safe” buttons who are also kind, generous, and loving – although from an entirely different perspective. In between middle-of-the-road soccer moms and at least one aging gay guy of no particular political or spiritual persuasion (cough) round out the image. Given the current political atmosphere we should all be at each other with knives. Instead, it’s all big hugs with lots of mutual respect and genuine affection.

    As a nation we have multiple profound long festering overlapping predicaments that we need to come to grips with. None of the options are particularly savory. We need to roll up our sleeves and get serious. As face-to-face individuals we don’t actually have a problem with each other. But all sides of our most critical institutions are obsessed with the minutiae of their own palace intrigue. There’s a palpable reciprocal commitment by the various factions to destroy the opposition by dividing the country – at all costs. The problem is external reality is going to intervene sooner or later. This isn’t going to end well if we don’t pull together.

    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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    "Southern California is man-made, a gigantic improvisation” — Carey McWilliams, Southern California: An Island on the Land, 1946

    Largely invented, a semi-desert far from the metropolitan heartland of the nation, Southern California has relied on a combination of engineering genius and marketing bravado. The constructed infrastructure has become creaky, but still functions. Not so our sense of marketing our region to the rest of the world — and ourselves.

    In its earliest decades, the Los Angeles region merchandised itself aggressively, but the product largely sold itself by showing off its natural beauty and uniquely wonderful climate at events like the Rose Bowl. The area’s domination of music, movies and television and its tech-based business community — notably aerospace — solidified its standing as among the world’s most vibrant regions.

    Now that marketing savvy and business acumen seems largely missing. Once a magnet for migrants, both domestic and foreign, the region has become one of the leading exporters of people to other, physically less attractive places. A region that both created giant companies, and lured others here, is now increasingly devoid of powerful, locally based companies.

    Read the entire piece at 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.

    Photo: Brian1078 [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

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    Probably no city inspires the romance of Paris, which has been a principal object of writers for centuries. The Paris they have written about is limited almost exclusively to the small geography of the ville de Paris, which has expanded from 1.7 square miles (4.3 square kilometers) in the 14th century to 40.5 square miles (105.0 square kilometers) in 1860, its latest annexation (Note). The ville de Paris is however, by no means all of Paris, representing less than four percent of the land in the built-up urban area, and little more than 0.5 percent of the metropolitan area.

    The 19th Century Suburbanization of Paris

    As late as 1800, virtually all of the population of the Paris urban area lived (550,000) within the ville de Paris according to data compiled by Tertius Chandler, in his epic Four Thousand Years of Urban Growth: An Historical Analysis. This is the continuously built up urban area (analogous to the unité urbaine, below), not to be confused with the metropolitan area or city-region, which is the labor and housing market, including areas beyond the continuous urbanization)

    By 1850, however, substantial suburbanization was evident beyond the boundaries of the ville de Paris. Chandler indicates that the population of the Paris urban area had more than doubled, to 1.3 million, 250,000 of which was outside the ville de Paris.

    In the last census (1856) before the annexation, the ville de Paris had nearly 1.2 million residents in 12 arrondissements (districts), which were redefined with the annexation. By far the densest was the 7th, at 230,000 per square mile (90,000 per square kilometer). Already, however, dispersion was evident. The population of the 7th arrondissement had dropped 10 percent population from the 1846 census, and had begun its decline after the 1836 census (with a modest increase over the next 10 years). Gates to the old city, such as the Pont San Martin, are still evident along the boulevards that Haussman built in the second half of the 19th century (Photo 12).

    The former 7th arrondissement was generally incorporated into the western half of the new 4th. The population history of the pre-1860 ville de Paris arrondissements, and a map are here. Overall, the population density of the ville de Paris was 88,000 per square mile (34,000 per square kilometer) in 1856.

    The Post-Annexation Ville de Paris

    The new, larger ville de Paris had a population of 1.7 million in the first post-annexation census, 1861. This 500,000 increase indicates the substantial extent to which suburban development had already occurred, despite efforts to confine the population within the previous borders. The population from 1801 to 2018 is indicated in Figure 1, and the population density is shown in Figure 2.

    The years that followed the annexation showed a continuation in the population losses of the historic core. In the new arrondissments 1 through 4, population fell from 379,000 in 1861 to around 100,000 in 2014. In the other new arrondissements inside the old Ville boundaries, the 4th through 11th, the population fell from 593,000 to 500,000. All of the growth of more than 1,000,000 was in the new 12th to 20th arrondissements, most of which includes the area annexed in 1860 (Figure 3).

    All but one of the 11 arrondissements that were largely included in the pre-1860 ville de Paris lost population over the 150 plus years from 1861 to 2014. The first arrondissement dropped more than 80 percent (Figure 4).

    Ville de Paris: the Huge Loss: 1921 to Today

    Like many of the world’s core municipalities, the ville de Paris has lost population from its peak. From 1921 to 2018, Paris lost more than one-quarter of its population, marginally more than the city of Chicago (1950 to 2016). Other European examples lost even more, such as Glasgow (minus 45 percent), Lisbon (minus 38 percent), and even that favorite of US urban planners, Copenhagen (minus 31 percent). The largest losses among municipalities that have exceeded 400,000 population are in the United States, St. Louis at 63.7 percent and Detroit at 63.6 percent (Figure 5).

    Paris: the Urban Organism

    But the Paris of today is much larger than that of the novelists. Much of the impression of Paris today, in the literary world, and on the part of tourists, is limited to the incomparable core, with its distinctive architecture. Many, gazing on the Louvre or Notre Dame imagine a Paris with a cross section that looks no different. I called this “Louvre Café Syndrome,” in an early post. Indeed, the average Paris is no more represented by the small core of Paris than New York by the Upper East Side or London by Westminster and the City.

    For the better part of the last two centuries, Paris has been far more. There are two dimensions to Paris, organism. There is the physical city, the continuous urban development that INSEE (the national statistical bureau, Institut National de la Statistique et des Études Économiques) calls the unité urbaine, Statistics Canada the population centre, the US Census Bureau the urban area and Britain’s ONS the“built up urban area.” There is also the labor and housing market, or metropolitan area, which is the functional or economic city, and also includes external areas from which large numbers of commuters travel into the urbanization.

    From the 250,000 residents that lived in the suburbs of the built-up urban area, but outside the Ville de Paris in 1861, to today, the number of suburbanites has grown to more than 8.5 million. In 1861, about 80 percent of the physical city was in the ville de Paris. Now, this has been virtually reversed, with 80 percent living in the suburbs and only 20 percent in the ville de Paris (Figure 6).

    In 2014, the Paris unité urbaine has 10.7 million residents in 1,050 square miles (2,845 square kilometers, for a population density of 10,100 per square mile (3,900 per square kilometer). The unité urbaine includes 412 municipalities (communes). This is below London, (14,600/5,800), which truncated organic development with a strictly enforced greenbelt, forcing outer suburban development even further from the urban core. Paris is also less dense than Madrid (12,600/4,800), but denser than Milan (7,200/2,800) and Essen (the Rhine-Ruhr connurbation), at 6,500/2,500.

    The metropolitan area, which INSEE calls the aire urbaine, has steadily expanded. The latest data indicates a population of 12.5 million in 2015, up from 10.3 million in 1990. The Paris metropolitan area covers 6,620 square miles, or 17,145 square miles, of which only 16 percent is in the urban area (unité urbaine). In France, a metropolitan area includes the municipalities in unité urbaine (urban area) as well as the municipalities from which at least 40 percent of the resident workers commute to the unité urbaine.

    The metropolitan area was formerly confined to the Ile-de-France region, which includes eight departments, including the ville de paris, Hautes-de-Seine, Seine-St.-Denis, Val-de-Marne, Val-d’Oise, Essone, Yvelines, Seine-et-Marne. In recent years, the metropolitan area has expanded to the outside, and now includes parts of six additional departments, Aisne, Eure, Loiret, Marne, Oise and Yonne. After this expansion, the Paris metropolitan area includes 1,794 municipalities, up from 1,155 municipalities in 1990.

    There is also a new coordinating body, called the Métropole du Grand Paris, which is composed of the ville de Paris and 130 additional municipalities, largely in the inner suburban ring (Petite Couronne). This is not a municipality, nor does it increase the geographical size of the ville de Paris. It is rather a council of governments, similar in structure to metropolitan planning organizations in the United States. The Métropole du Grand Paris has a population of 7.1 million, but excludes more than 3.5 million residents in 281 urban area communes and 5.2 million residents in 1,663 municipalities in the metropolitan area.

    Paris: Organic City

    The evolution of Paris, which unlike its long-time competitor London, has been allowed to continue its development. The result is an organic whole that has been able to accept modernity, stretching like so many others, from a dense historic core to the comparatively dense automobile oriented suburbs where the vast majority of the people live.

    Note: This excludes the parks outside the Boulevard Peripherique, the Bois de Vincennes and the Bois de Boulonge.

    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 at the Top: Eiffel Tower and La Defense from the Tour Montparnasse (La Defense may have the largest employment base of any “Edge City,” a term popularized by Joel Garreau in his Edge City: Life on the New Frontier). Photograph by Author.

    Additional photographs show both the suburbs and the ville de Paris (which contains nearly all of the historic sites).

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    Women’s progress is a global phenomenon, but one region is widely regarded as being the world leader in gender equality – the Nordics. Science Daily Newspaper bluntly stated in 2016 “[t]he Nordic countries are the most gender equal nations in the world”. During the recent International Women’s Day, Anne Kari Ovind argued in the Huffington Post that Nordic-style gender policies, including Norway’s state-mandated quotas on the share of women on company boards, is an inspiration for the world.

    Throughout the world, liberal and socialist thinkers therefore point to Nordic-style welfare policies as a way of promoting gender equality. The Global Gender Gap Index confirms supports the view that Nordic countries are gender equal role models. Iceland tops the latest version of the index, followed by its Nordic neighbors Finland, Norway and Sweden. The only Nordic country that does not qualify to the very top is Denmark, which ranks on 19th position. This is still higher than the 45th position of the United States. Also, in previous versions of the Global Gender Gap Index, the Nordic countries are top performers. The 2014 edition for example reached the conclusion “the Nordic nations continue to act as role models in terms of their ability to achieve gender parity”.

    Yet when you look deeply, there is one disturbing reality: women in Scandinavia do not rise as often to the top as their American counterparts. In the Nordic Gender Equality Paradox we found that the rise of the welfare state created jobs for women as well as aided their labor market participation by offering various family-related services. Yet this same system contains disincentives for female ascension in business. One example is high taxes that make it costly to purchase household services (a strategy otherwise used by parents to “buy” time so that they can take care of children as well as focus on their careers); generous benefit systems combined with high taxes that reduce economic incentives for both parents to work full-time and public sector monopolies/oligopolies in female-dominated sectors and parental policies that give women incentive to take long breaks from the working life. Through these mechanisms, welfare state policies create the Nordic Glass Ceiling.

    Let us, for the sake of clarity, compare the Nordic nations to the US with the help of the Economist glass-ceiling index. When it comes to issues such as the labor force participation difference between genders and the higher education gap, the Nordics are consistently placed at the top of The Economist index. Direct childcare expenditure for families are relatively low in the Nordics, since much of childcare is tax-funded. Nordic countries additionally have generous public programs for paid leave for mothers. The United States on the other hand has a considerably larger gap in labor force participation, a smaller advantage for women in tertiary education attainment, higher private child-care costs and no paid leave for mothers at all.

    Based on the Economist index, the United States has unusually women-unfriendly work policies while the Nordics have the most women-friendly work policies in the world. However, it is the United States which has the highest rate of women managers amongst all countries included in the Index, while the Nordic countries have a lower share.

    Does this explanation fit with the level of women who reach executive positions in the Nordic countries? The answer is yes. Iceland, which historically and today has the most limited Nordic welfare state, is the country with a high rate of women managers. Sweden, which has opened public sector monopolies in amongst others education, elderly care and health care for private firms do relatively good – and much better than these market reforms were introduced. Denmark, which still has public monopolies and the highest tax rate amongst modern economies, is the poorest performer.

    Then how about Norway’s much-admired quota policies? Norway passed a law at the end of 2003, requiring 40 per cent of board members of public companies to be women. The law, which became mandatory at the beginning of 2006, has gained considerable international attention. However, while the quotas law has been mimicked by many other nations, in effect it has not worked. In an important paper, Marianne Bertrand and co-authors look at the way the introduction of gender quotas affected women in Norwegian firms. The researchers find that the change had:

    No trickle-down effect. This means that whilst a few women at the top received higher wages due to affirmative action directly benefiting them, the broader group of female employees did not receive higher wages due to a gender shift in board leadership.

    • The reform had “no obvious impact on highly qualified women whose qualifications mirror those of board members but who were not appointed to boards”. The affirmative action thus failed to break the glass ceiling in any meaningful way except for the few elite women who directly benefited from it.

    • No significant changes in the gender wage gap or in female representation in top positions. Again, wages and the ability of women in general to climb to the top were simply not affected.

    • Lastly, “there is little evidence that the reform affected the decisions of women more generally; it was not accompanied by any change in female enrollment in business education programs, or a convergence in earnings trajectories between recent male and female graduates of such programs. While young women preparing for a career in business report being aware of the reform and expect their earnings and promotion chances to benefit from it, the reform did not affect their fertility and marital plans”.

    The Swedish government planned to introduce a similar quota legislation but, after considerable critique (in which I participated), pulled back the suggestion which did not have support in Parliament. It is a policy which simply fails to promote women’s career progress in a meaningful way. Reducing the hinders that the welfare state creates for women’s progress would be the way to achieve this goal. After all, it is the United States with its limited government approach to helping women which in practice has most women managers – not the Nordic countries with their long history of gender equality.

    So how are women faring in the modern Nordic welfare states? In many ways good. Nordic societies have a large share of women active on the workplace, perhaps the most gender equal attitudes in the world, and a tradition of women’s empowerment in the political sphere. One would think that this also translates to many women reaching the top of the business world, but this clearly is not the case.

    This is certainly a controversial idea right now, but there is a case to be made that limited government and free markets provides the best way to promote women’s careers – not interventionist state policies.

    Dr. Nima Sanandaji is the president of ECEPR and author of 25 books. He has recently published the study The Nordic Glass Ceiling for the Cato Institute.

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    A new analysis by 24/7 Wall St., reprinted in part by USA Today, lists all 50 U.S. states in order of "excessive alcohol consumption," which is defined as binge drinking ("four or more drinks in a single occasion for women and five or more for men") or heavy drinking ("at least eight drinks per week for women and 15 for men").

    The 24/7 Wall St. article indicates that there is a complicated relationship between income and excessive drinking. Richer people tend to drink heavily, while poorer people tend to binge drink. The conventional wisdom, however, is that poverty is a risk factor for alcoholism. Is it?

    Rich Drunk, Poor Drunk

    We decided to take a closer look at the data. Each point in the graph to the left represents an individual state. The data are plotted as the percentage of the state's population that drinks excessively versus the percentage of the state's population that lives in poverty1. The best-fit line is in black, and the confidence interval is in red.

    Surprisingly, the correlation is negative. That is, as a state's population becomes poorer, people are less likely to drink excessively.

    Obviously, that's not what we would expect. What explains this pattern? It is possible that rich people spend their money on booze. However, because this data analysis is ecological, that means there are no data on individuals. So it is quite plausible that, even in rich states, poor people are likelier to drink excessively than rich people. Without data on individuals, it's impossible to definitively conclude one way or the other.

    Are People Who Live Further North Likelier to Drink Excessively?

    One pattern that has not been explored extensively is the relationship between drinking and geography. Russia and Poland are both infamous for alcoholism. Both countries experience long, cold winters with little to do outside. Could that be a driving factor behind excessive drinking? Our analysis suggests yes.

    The graph to the left depicts the percentage of an American state's population that drinks excessively versus the state's average latitude2. Once again, the best-fit line is in black, and the confidence interval is in red.

    Very interesting. As latitude increases (i.e., a state is further north), the state's population is likelier to drink more.

    There are two states in particular worth discussing. Hawaii is a clear outlier. Despite having the lowest latitude of all 50 states, it has an incredibly high percentage of people who drink excessively. (Maybe sitting on the beach all day lends itself to excessive drinking?) The alcohol consumption in Alaska, on the other hand, is about what we would expect given that it has the highest latitude of all 50 states. While it's not an outlier (because it falls almost exactly on the best-fit line), it may be an overly influential point on how the best-fit line is drawn.

    So, we removed Hawaii and Alaska and restricted our analysis to the 48 contiguous states.

    Not only does the relationship hold, it gets a little stronger. (The correlation coefficient r increased from 0.46 to 0.56 after removing Hawaii and Alaska.)

    We wanted to answer one last question: Is there still an association between excessive alcohol consumption and latitude after we control for poverty? In other words, if we compare two states that have the same level of poverty and differ only in latitude, should we expect citizens of the state that is further north to have a larger drinking problem? Once again, the answer is yes, though it was no longer as strong3.

    Is Geography Destiny?

    Much scholarship in recent years has focused on the notion that "geography is destiny." Due to factors such as infectious disease, it may not be a coincidence that richer, more developed nations are located further away from the equator. (Parasites have a harder time surviving in cold weather.)

    When it comes to alcohol consumption, however, the reverse trend might be true: The further away one is from the equator, the darker and longer the winter nights -- and, perhaps, the likelier people are to keep themselves entertained with a few bottles of booze4.


    (1) Poverty data was collected from the U.S. Census Bureau and represents a 3-year average poverty rate from 2014 to 2016.

    (2) A state's latitude was calculated as the average latitude of all zip codes in the state and was obtained from Ink Plant.

    (3) For this analysis, we performed a multiple linear regression on just the 48 contiguous states using both latitude and poverty as predictor variables. When we did the regression on all 50 states, the association between alcohol consumption and latitude remained, but it was no longer statistically significant.

    (4) To help confirm this hypothesis, it would be interesting to compare how much alcohol is consumed in the summer (when daylight hours are greatly extended) versus the winter for U.S. states and countries at high latitude.

    This piece originally appeared on the American Council of Science and Health website.

    Alex Berezow is Senior Fellow of Biomedical Science at the American Council on Science and Health.

    Photo: Storyblocks

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    If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I don’t believe brain drain is the problem it’s been made out as. Often talent export can actually itself be a form of economic development.

    A recent New Yorker profile of the Silicon Valley firm Glassdoor, which allows employees to post reviews of their employer, made this point implicitly in passing. Robert Hohman, the CEO of Glassdoor, is from Akron.

    "One day last fall, I met with Robert Hohman, Glassdoor’s C.E.O., at the company’s Chicago office. He had just hosted a ted-like conference (tagline: “Winning with informed candidates”) where C.E.O.s and talent recruiters took notes on how to operate in the new era of corporate transparency. Hohman, who grew up in Akron, Ohio, resembles the actor Jeff Daniels; friendly and rumpled, he wore jeans, and his blond hair was slicked back. According to Glassdoor, ninety-one per cent of employees approve of Hohman’s performance. The other nine per cent include a former sales director, who recently griped about a “culture of blame” at the company’s Mill Valley, California, headquarters and advised Hohman to “stop standing up in meetings dropping F-Bombs like a 6th grader with a head injury.”

    When he needed help with his startup, he looked to friends and family back home:

    "In 2008, shortly before Glassdoor’s launch, Hohman called his sister, Melissa Fernandez, in Akron. She had just given birth to her first child and wanted to work from home. He enlisted her to read every review that was submitted to the site, scanning them for violations of the Community Guidelines. When the workload got to be too much, Fernandez recruited Cara Barry, another stay-at-home mom, who recruited a third mom, her neighbor. Eventually, this group—the content-moderation team—grew to include twenty-six people, several of them men, although for years employees at Glassdoor’s headquarters referred to them as “the wahms,” for “work-at-home moms.” During the past decade, Glassdoor has built machine-learning algorithms to screen for fraud and profanity, and the members of Fernandez’s team read anything that users have flagged; these days, they also read half of all reviews submitted to the site regardless—a step that Yelp and TripAdvisor don’t take, Hohman said."

    This turned into a Glassdoor office in suburban Akron, complete with Silicon Valley style perks.

    "From Chicago, Hohman returned to San Francisco. Dawn Lyon and I went to visit the content-moderation team, which works in an office park in Green, Ohio, five miles from the Akron airport. Melissa Fernandez met us at the door. She has a “Rachel” haircut, wire-rimmed glasses, and an even-keeled demeanor. She introduced her team of moderators—twenty-one other women and four men, working at adjustable-height desks. According to Glassdoor’s Glassdoor page, the Ohio office is the happiest of the company’s six locations, beating London and San Francisco, with a 5.0 rating—a perfect score. Fernandez explained that this is in part because the team has a great culture, and also because its San Francisco-style startup perks—yoga classes, dogs in the office, flexibility to work from home—are virtually unheard of in Akron, where the biggest employers are factories and call centers. Laura Beth Mercina, the team’s head of community care, previously worked at Arby’s. She said, “I tell people about my job at Glassdoor, and they’re, like, ‘Is this place real?’”

    It’s not clear how many people Glassdoor employs in Akron. It sounds like a very small number. But any amount is more than they would have been employing if Hohman hadn’t left Akron to ultimately end up starting the company. Brain drain turned out to be gain for the folks who are now working for Glassdoor in Akron.

    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 from Sleepydre, Public Domain