Inside 'The Next Hundred Million'
Title: The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050
Author: Joel Kotkin
Publisher: Penguin Press, 2010
ISBN-13: 978-1594202445, 320 pages
Review: The Next Hundred Million
By Thomas Bergen, getAbstract
This is a refreshing book, even a reassuring one. Author Joel Kotkin describes a 2050 America deeply rooted in the present. Major societal changes will come about, and many are underway already, in signs as pervasive as telecommuting and as public as the face of President Barack Obama. Kotkin's future can seem a bit conservative, especially since he doesn't focus on radically negative futures (the impact of massive climate change, for instance) or technological change. His analysis remains grounded in observation, which renders his thoughts accessible and useful. getAbstract recommends his forecast to futurists, to business leaders who need to envision their future workforce and marketplace, and to those interested in American culture.
What will America be like with 400 million people?
By 2050, America will be home to 400 million people or more. This crucial demographic defines America's future. President Barack Obama's election provides a potent symbol of the America to come: a diverse nation that blends technological innovation with "traditional values and social tolerance." While other nations' populations age, birthrates decrease and powers fade, the US will remain young and vital. Many countries are crowded, but America still has "the world's largest, most productive expanse of arable land" to feed and house its new citizens.
The United States will continue to face challenges, but notions of the nation entering a period of decline are falsely pessimistic. Yes, China and India will rise economically, but the flexibility of America's business culture and society will allow the US to maintain its economic lead. Notable change will affect a handful of areas: the nature of US cities and suburbs, the personality of the Midwestern "Heartland," the diversity of the "postethnic" population and the nature of US communities.
The cities of 2050
As the American population grows, the dominant urban model must change. Older urban centers, like New York or Chicago, feature a dense central core. While many urbanists have dismissed "anti-cities" such as Houston and Los Angeles, which lack such a core, these metropolises will be, in fact, 2050's dominant "postindustrial" urban models. They will develop on new paths based on demographics, technology and Americans' desire to live where they please. Instead of a single urban core, "a constellation of smaller subcenters" will serve these new cities - like their Los Angeles prototype, although LA's subcenters evolved around specific industries, such as film (Hollywood) or science. Los Angeles may be a surprising model, given its often-criticized sprawl and certain historical events, like its race riots. However, LA weathered these challenges, and it will be the model of the future, defined by immigrants who will provide energy and innovation. This upcoming model lets people relocate easily as old sections of urban centers remake themselves and new sections emerge.
Postindustrial metropolises will parallel "preindustrial urban models," wherein different districts flourished for different industries. New York, once the "aspirational archetype" for US urban centers, faces an array of forces aligning to displace it. The American "car culture" that celebrates and allows individual mobility still will be going strong in 2050. New York has little room for automobiles and is too expensive for the average person. Instead of a model for living, New York is the first "luxury city" in the US. "Superstar" cities, like New York or Aspen, offer considerable attractions, but exorbitant local costs of living eliminate the middle class. Instead, such places house the wealthy, those who serve or entertain them, and the ambitious young, who live there for a limited time. The middle class will turn to centers like Atlanta or Houston, where their incomes have greater purchasing power. This exodus from the high-priced urban centers will multiply as populations abandon industrial areas, such as Cleveland, that suffer ongoing decline and decay...
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