Friday, March 22, 2013

The Battle of Demographers: Joel Kotkin vs. Richard Florida

You don't even have to know the topic.  In any honorable debate, you can always tell which side is better armed  and better equipped with facts.  It's when one debater turns to personal attacks instead of factual ones that you know.  The attacked is more often than not the side that has won the debate with facts, not the attacker.

So, which demographer said the other was writing and researching on "backward-looking sensibilities?"  Sounds like a personal, non-factional attack to me. Whomever said that, following my logic, is the losing side in the debate.

Here's my take on the battlers.

Meet Joel Kotkin, in one corner.  He's most-often associated with a demographically-driven view of growth and his book The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050.  His book, research, and writings gravitate toward the concept that favorable demographics in the U.S. favor seeing a rebirth in manufacturing.  Further, he factually has shown the trends that both the future workforce and manufacturing favor the suburbs, if we don't mess things up with misdirected policies and misallocation of resources.

It's fair to say that Kotkin is perceived to have a suburban bias.  He certainly takes the urbanists head on, but he's not anti-urban.

His latest piece was the first volley in the debate.  See Richard Florida Concedes The Limits of The Creative Class.

He hits Florida where it hurts with multiple facts like this one: 

"Between 2000 and 2010, notes demographer Wendell Cox, the urban core areas of the 51 largest metropolitan areas—within two miles of the city’s center—added a total of 206,000 residents. But the surrounding rings, between two and five miles from the core, actually lost 272,000. In contrast to those small gains and losses, the suburban areas—between 10 and 20 miles from the center —experienced a growth of roughly 15 million people."

Meet Richard Florida, in the other corner.   He's most-often associated with his books on "creative class" and the general concept that policies at the national all the way to the local level need to be geared towards the creative class of people in urban and inner-ring suburbs.

His theory is that growth in that narrow sector will translate into growth in other sectors and other classes in urban areas. Further, urban growth is all the nation concern itself with after all.

It's fair to say he is urban-biased and proud of it. He almost never writes about manufacturing or national policies that bring broad national growth.  Instead, his research, writings, and clients are focused on the nation's most dense areas only.

His latest piece is a rebuttal to Joel Kotkin. See Not So Fast, Joel Kotkin.

So, who called the other out for having "backward-looking sensibilities?"  If you haven't guessed it by now, you weren't reading.

So, who won?  The one with the facts.  Congratulations, Joel.

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