Quotable Quote — Cities

“In the 1960s, sociologist Herbert Gans identified a growing chasm between family-oriented suburbanites and people who favored city life—“the rich, the poor, the non-white as well as the unmarried and childless middle class.” Families abandoned cities for the suburbs, driven away by policies that failed to keep streets safe, allowed decent schools to decline, and made living spaces unaffordable. Even the partial rebirth of American cities since then hasn’t been enough to lure families back. The much-ballyhooed and self-celebrating “creative class”—a demographic group that includes not only single professionals but also well-heeled childless couples, empty nesters, and college students—occupies much of the urban space once filled by families. Increasingly, our great American cities, from New York and Chicago to Los Angeles and Seattle, are evolving into playgrounds for the rich, traps for the poor, and way stations for the ambitious young en route eventually to less congested places. The middle-class family has been pushed to the margins, breaking dramatically with urban history. The development raises at least two important questions: Are cities without children sustainable? And are they desirable?” Joel Kotkin and Ali Mondarres, The Childless City, City Journal, Summer 2013 (Vol. 23, No. 3).

The authors conclude:

“Ultimately, everything boils down to what purpose a city should serve. History has shown that rapid declines in childbearing—whether in ancient Rome, seventeenth-century Venice, or modern-day Tokyo—correlate with an erosion of cultural and economic vitality. The post-family city appeals only to a certain segment of the population, one that, however affluent, cannot ensure a prosperous future on its own. If cities want to nurture the next generation of urbanites and keep more of their younger adults, they will have to find a way to welcome back families, which have sustained cities for millennia and given the urban experience much of its humanity.”

Follow up. You may find a dramatic confirmation of Mr. Kotkin’s views in the New York Times of August 14, 2013, Suzanne Daley and Nicholas Kuller, Germany Fights Population Drop, at p. A1, reporting dramatic changes taking place in Germany because of its population decline:

“In its most recent census, Germany discovered it had lost 1.5 million inhabitants. By2060, experts say, the country could shrink by an additional 19 percent to about 66 million.”

“Demographers say a similar future awaits other European countries, and the issue grows more more pressing every day as Europe’s seemingly endless economic troubles accelerate the decline.”

So it looks like the Fatherland has more Lebensraum than it can use. Interesting.