Kotkin is upbeat about America's future supported by a robust demographic growth (+100 million by 2050). Since much of this growth is from immigration, it is akin to "voting with your feet." This "voting" is due to immigrants preferring the tolerant US culture vs the class conscious, xenophobic, and sexist cultures of Japan, China, India, Russia and Europe. None of those cultures integrate immigrants well. As a result, the US will not experience the challenges of an aging society to the same degree as its counterparts. By 2050, 31% of China's population will be over 65; 41% for Japan; in the high 30s for Europe, but less than 25% for the U.S. By 2050, the U.S. population is expected to be four times Russia.
Kotkin indicates that today 30% of the US population is nonwhite. By, 2050 this figure will reach 50% due to both fertility and immigration patterns.
A difference in immigrant integration can be observed between Muslims in Europe vs the U.S. In Europe they are marginalized, discriminated and unemployed. In the U.S. Muslims have education and income levels above the national average and 80% are registered to vote. America's culture better transcends religion or race.
Kotkin believes demography is destiny, and the more vibrant U.S. demographics insures it will remain a dominant power culturally and economically. This contrasts with everyone who has sold the U.S. short for decades. But, Kotkin indicates the recent history has not collaborated with any of those dire predictions. This is even true after this worldwide Great Recession caused by Wall Street, US regulators, Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac, rating agencies, and US borrowers. Yet, the US is on the rebound while Europe is tangled in a sovereign debt crisis lead by its weakest link: Greece.
Kotkin indicates that the US attracts and retains a rising percentage of skilled immigrants. Immigrants are a source of economic energy as between 1990 and 2005, they started one quarter of all US venture-backed public companies. Work ethic also favors the US. Americans currently work 300 hours more per year than Europeans. And, they appear much more content than their European counterparts. The fruits of their labor give Americans a greater sense of control over their lives and hope in a better tomorrow. By 2050, non-Hispanic whites will be in a minority within both the general population and the workforce.
Kotkin conveys that the competitiveness of China and India appears exaggerated. Both countries are not expected to generate GDPs per capita anywhere near the U.S. for decades if not over a century. Both countries have a large percentage of their populations whose lifestyle is barely above survival. And, many of their brightest come to the U.S. to succeed. Silicon Valley is crowded with both Chinese and Indian immigrants who have started successful hi-tech businesses, or are part of senior management, or are key computer programmers. Thus, any brain-drain between the three powers still strongly favors the U.S.
While Richard Florida as he expressed in Who's Your City?: How the Creative Economy Is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life thinks that the driving economic unit is no more nations but instead super cities, Kotkin feels nations do matter a lot. They are in a competition of culture and for the reasons mentioned above Kotkin states the U.S. is winning that race. Richard Florida has written an entire book on the creative class preferring the European capitalist model vs the U.S. Kotkin indicates that it is another case of selling the U.S. short while the facts (international immigration patterns) contradict the theory as far more Europeans members of the creative class have moved to the U.S. than the reverse. This makes sense. If you have an idea, it is easier to get it funded and start a business in the U.S. vs Europe.
When Kotkin turns to where the 100 million will locate in the U.S. he offers a vision that sharply contrasts with Richard Florida. While Richard Florida envisions a rise of a creative class clustering in super cities (London, Paris, NY, SF, etc...) Kotkin anticipates the growth and economic vibrancy will concentrate in the "cities of aspirations" modeled after Los Angeles such as Phoenix, Houston, Dallas, Denver, and Atlanta. Immigrants will cluster in the suburbs of such sprawling cities and others. Since 1950 the suburban share of the nation's population has doubled to its current 50%. Suburbs will be increasingly diversified. Over 27% of suburbanites are minorities. This percent could rise to 50% by 2050.
Kotkin advances that the suburb and urban sprawl offers an ideal lifestyle associated with affordable and expansive housing, low crime rate, and good public school systems. In the future, the health of cities will depend more on good schools and safe parks (Kotkin) than hip art galleries and music scene (R. Florida). Meanwhile, the dense constrained urban centers of Richard Florida super cities are challenged to compete on affordable lifestyle parameters. Kotkin refers to Richard Florida's super cities as "luxury cities." He acknowledges that for the time being they will maintain their position as managers of the world economy as they house the most powerful residents.
Kotkin calls the emerging, networked suburbs and sprawl "smart sprawl." He envisions that telecommuters, the Internet, home-based businesses, and satellite office centers will turn the suburbs into self-sufficient job centers that will rely less on traditional downtown job centers. He refers to demographer Wendell Cox when stating that by 2015 more people will work electronically at home than will take public transportation. In San Francisco and Los Angeles nearly 10% of workers are part-time telecommuters. He calls this process "de-clustering" [away from the super cities job centers]. Again this is the opposite of Richard Florida's vision of increasing clustering of his creative class around those super cities. According to Kotkin, this de-clustering will cause smart sprawl to become an economic and cultural force. At the essence, it is again "voting with one's feet" as people will move where they want to and can afford to; And, this means moving to lower-density neighborhoods.
Per Kotkin, the heartland will benefit from this de-clustering. He indicates that many small rural cities are benefiting from a "hidden tech" trend whereby software companies are getting established far away from the super cities in areas associated with great outdoors, low housing costs, and have little trouble attracting the creative class. Kotkin mentions Fargo, Boise, Sioux Falls as such places. Since 2000, hi-tech employment has risen faster in those small cities than in the San Francisco Bay Area and Boston.
Kotkin refers to Boise as a new model for Silicon Valley. The area benefits from a great quality of life, low cost, and plenty of talent. As a result, Boise and other similar cities are benefiting from an "onshoring' trend whereby hi-tech companies are moving operations to those lower cost domestic areas instead of off shoring them to India.
Kotkin anticipates a revival of U.S. manufacturing. This also contrasts with Richard Florida's vision of a creative service economy (see The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It's Transforming Work, Leisure, Community, and Everyday Life. On this one count it is challenging to side against Florida.
Ultimately, the future will likely capture nuances of both Kotkin and R. Florida's visions. R. Florida actually documents his theory far more thoroughly than Kotkin as he relies on his firsthand research building multivariate regressions and fascinating scatter plots demonstrating the relationships supporting his theories. Thus, as Florida says the future is likely to get increasingly spikier as the concentration of talent working within the super cities will continue to rise. But, this talent may very well live in the suburbs especially when starting a family as Kotkin suggests. In summary, they will both likely be right as people will continue to gravitate where the action is (super cities) but live where they can afford the best lifestyle (suburbs).