March 25, 2010

60-40 NATION:

Societal Trends--and Other Good News (Ryan Streeter, March 25, 2010, Weekly Standard)

America is evolving in a conservative direction. It’s now time for conservatives to catch up. That is the conclusion one might draw from a series of data points most recently highlighted in a chapter tucked away in Joel Kotkin’s new book, The Next Hundred Million. (Full disclosure: Kotkin is an adjunct fellow of the London-based Legatum Institute, where I work.) In the chapter, “The 21st Century Community,” Kotkin, a well-respected politically neutral demographer, provides some eye-catching facts and figures about American families that have significant political implications.

The United States is riding a wave of trends into the next generation – during a period in which the United States will grow by 100 million people – that will make the workplace more family-centric, families more multi-generational, and communities more local. For starters, Americans are moving less, not more. In 1970, 20 percent of Americans moved annually. That figure dropped to 14 percent in 2004, and by 2008, it dropped to 10 percent. Ninety percent of people over 50 would rather stay where they are than move to a retirement destination such as Florida.

This decreasing mobility is accompanied by a generation of boomers who are turning into local-yokels and whose children are more family-centric than they were when they were young. Many boomers are moving into towns of less than 50,000 residents. What Kotkin calls “amenity regions,” with identifiable town life, have grown 10 times faster than other rural areas and have slowed the migration of older Americans to sunbelt cities. Regardless of what hip urban developers may say, boomers overwhelmingly prefer a suburban or town setting to dense urban life. Only 2 percent say they want to move into an exciting urban community.
Meanwhile, the boomers’ successors, the Generation Xers, are having more children than the boomers, and the Millennials (roughly those born after 1980) may be even more family-centric yet. Seventy-five percent of 13 to 24 year olds say that spending time with family contributes more to their happiness than time spent with their friends, and 80 percent want to get married. Seventy-seven percent want children compared with only 12 percent who don’t.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 25, 2010 5:48 AM
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