The rise of the megacity

by Ryan Streeter on August 28, 2014. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

Any adult alive today has lived through a historic shift that has occurred without much fanfare: the movement to a majority-urban global population.

In 1800 only 5% of the world’s population lived in cities, and only one city – Beijing – had more than 1 million people.

What’s especially amazing is the rapid rise of the megacity, defined as a city with more than 10 million residents. In this interesting study by Kotkin, Cox, Modarres, and Renn, we learn:

Until recent decades there were only three (megacities) — Tokyo and New York, joined by a third, Mexico City, only in 1975. Now the megacity has become a global phenomenon that has dispersed around the planet. There were 29 such cities in 2014 and now account for roughly 13% of the world’s urban population and 7% of the world’s total population.

Which states have attracted the most migrants over the past generation?

by Ryan Streeter on August 27, 2014. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

Here’s another interesting post on the theme of migration’s demographic and political  effects.

The following two maps show both the percentage of native-born residents in a state and the regions from which the migrants to a respective state have come. A lot of states are pretty stable over time in terms of the share of native-born vs. migrant residents. But there are some exceptions. Look at California and Texas, for instance.

Here is America in 1950:

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And here is America in 2012:

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Whereas most midwestern states have been pretty stable, California has seen its native-born population grow by 18 percentage points, while Texas has seen its share drop by 15 points. Georgia has dropped by a remarkable 30 points.

A less dynamic economy and its effect on younger workers

by Ryan Streeter on August 27, 2014. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

There is less churn in our economy, which is concerning:

Many factors contributed to reduced fluidity: a shift to older firms and establishments, an aging workforce, the transformation of business models and supply chains (as in the retail sector), the impact of the information revolution on hiring practices, and several policy-related developments.

The problem is this:

The loss of labor market fluidity suggests the U.S. economy became less dynamic and responsive in recent decades…These developments raise concerns about productivity growth, which has close links to factor reallocation in prominent theories of innovation and growth and in many empirical studies. The high-tech sector’s sharp drop-off in business entry rates and in the incidence of fast-growing young firms after 2000 reinforces this concern…Our econometric evidence supports the hypothesis that reduced fluidity lowers employment rates, especially for younger and less educated workers.

That’s from a paper by Steven Davis and John Haltiwanger, via Jim Pethokoukis.

Families spend 9 times on education and child care today compared to 1960

by Ryan Streeter on August 19, 2014. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

This chart says a lot about how things have changed in the past couple generations:

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The share families spend on child care and education for their children has grown from 2% in 1960 to 18% in 2013. Today it accounts for more than any other expense category except housing.

Food, clothing and transportation have together decreased by nearly the same amount that child care and education have increased. As the marketplace has figured out how to bring down the cost of food and clothes, families have changed and figured out that education and child care are essential to success in the marketplace.

There’s a lot to unpack in that dynamic.

This is from a post by Niraj Chokshi at GovBeat.

Very cool infographics showing where all 50 states’ residents have come from over the past 100 years

by Ryan Streeter on August 17, 2014. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

This is fascinating. Using Census data, the authors of this post go back over one hundred years and create cool infographics showing us where residents living in a state in a given year were born.

The result is an amazing set of comparisons showing you which states are home to the most migrants, and where those migrants have come from over the years.

For instance, look at how Montana used to be comprised mostly of outsiders, with more than one in four coming from not just from another state but outside the country:

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Or, look at how North Carolina has trended the opposite way as Montana:

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New York has remained relatively stable in its proportions over time:

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Arizona has also been stable but in a different way, namely it’s always had a majority of people living there who were born somewhere else:

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Florida has trended like N. Carolina, but more dramatically so:

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California’s domestic migration has constricted in the past couple generations even as it’s global migrants have held pretty steady:

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Indiana is a pretty good picture of the pattern you see in the Midwest, which has been almost always the same in its proportion of native-born residents and those from outside the state:

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You can scroll through all 50 states here.

What is behind the universal decline in entrepreneurship in America?

by Ryan Streeter on August 14, 2014. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

I find this graph alarming and the underlying data so stunning that you can’t help but wonder why more people don’t write about it.

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This is from a Brookings paper by Bob Litan and Ian Hathaway. The graph is alarming because it shows the long-term decline in startups. The underlying data is stunning because it shows that the decline in entrepreneurial activity is nearly universal in the U.S.

This appendix (PDF) to the paper shows that firm entry has declined in almost all of the nation’s 300+ metropolitan areas – even in areas known to be entrepreneurial hotspots like Austin, TX, or the Bay Area. It also shows that the job reallocation rate has declined universally as well. Job reallocation is a good measure of an economy’s dynamism. The literature suggests that the more reallocation you have, the better the wages and job quality, especially for younger workers. So a decline in this area is also a signal of decreasing dynamism.

No one knows for sure why we are seeing fewer and fewer new firms each year. But almost everyone agrees it’s bad, since new firms are responsible for the lion’s share of net new jobs each year. A good many commentators think that the growing regulatory state and healthcare costs have a lot to do with this decline. That certainly checks out anecdotally as you talk to business owners. But you can’t help wonder if something else is going on, too, that we haven’t yet figured out.

Religious belief, educational attainment, and upward mobility

by Ryan Streeter on August 12, 2014. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

A new study adds more evidence to a phenomenon that Charles Murray wrote about in Coming Apart, namely that a greater percentage of highly-educated, higher-income people are people of faith than the percentage of lower-educated, lower-income people. This flies in the face of sociological doctrine going back over a hundred years. The study’s author writes:

The assumption that education is a motivating force behind secularization has been integral to sociology since Comte, Durkheim, and Weber, and it remains ingrained in modern sociology (e.g., Ruiter and van Tubergen 2009Wilson 1982). College or university education, in particular, is seen as a primary cause of secularization (Beckwith 1985Halman and Draulans 2006Stark 1963), leading the highly educated to be disproportionately likely to disaffiliate from organized religion (Baker and Smith 2009;Caplovitz and Sherrow 1977Kosmin and Keysar 2009).

However much that used to be the case, it seems the opposite is now happening. Scott Jaschik summarizes the study’s findings this way:

[T]he evolution of the impact on college attendance was gradual, with those who were born early in the 20th century who were college graduates much less likely to have religious affiliation than those without a college education. For those born in the ’60s, there was no impact one way or the other. And starting for those born in the ’70s, the correlation was between a college education and having a religious affiliation.

Given what we know about how people of faith also demonstrate a range of other positive outcomes, we can only assume that increasing faith among more highly-educated people will contribute to the gap between those experiencing opportunity and those who aren’t.

Note: the study above only considers belief, not religious practice or observance.

Bipartisan agreement: Effectiveness and local solutions matter if you care about fighting poverty

by Ryan Streeter on August 11, 2014. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

Arnold Kling recently looked at the anti-poverty plans that Paul Ryan and the Hamilton Project have released, and concludes that they share (bipartisan) common threads:

1. The past 50 years of fighting poverty have been only partially successful. We can learn from what worked and from what did not work. We still have much to learn about dealing with poverty. Experimentation needs to continue.

2. Going forward, programs must be evaluated rigorously for effectiveness. Ryan’s draft says, “there is a tendency to measure success by how much the government spends on programs or how many people it spends money on. That should not be the measure of success.” In the Hamilton Project volume, there is an equal disdain for measuring success based on inputs or intentions rather than on results. Each chapter in that volume includes a section on assessing costs and benefits of its specific proposals. As the Ryan draft puts it, “This proposal calls for a commission to examine the best ways to encourage rigorous analysis of our safety-net programs.”

3.  While the federal government should provide funds, anti-poverty programs are typically best designed and implemented at lower levels. State and local governments, as well as non-governmental organizations, are better able to identify individual needs and obtain necessary buy-in.

It is interesting that effectiveness and local solutions are the two main areas of agreement, as these were the twin pillars of George W. Bush’s compassionate conservatism back in the 2000 election and have been mostly neglected by policymakers since then.

“The decline of work is a human tragedy”

by Ryan Streeter on August 11, 2014. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

[I]n 1979, the worst-paid 20 percent of workers were more likely to put in long work hours than the top 20 percent; by 2006, the top 20 percent were twice as likely to work long hours than the bottom 20 percent.

That’s from a study by Peter Kuhn and Fernando Lozano. The study finds similar results when comparing people with higher and lower levels of education.

Tino Sanandaji comments on the phenomenon in this American article:

The reversal in working time is a major and little discussed shift in the labor market. The historical view of inequality is one where the poor masses toiled in the field or factories, while rich landowners or rentiers had the luxury not to work. Today we face a very different situation. Increasing numbers of the poor and lower skilled workers are excluded from the labor market.

Sanandaji says this may matter little if we look at the economy purely in terms of per capita GDP, but viewed in terms of the importance of work to personal wellbeing, it is a “tragedy.”

Bowling, er, living alone

by Ryan Streeter on July 28, 2014. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

More than one quarter of the U.S. population lives alone. Per the latest census, single-person households are now the single largest segment of the U.S. population.  This is a first.

What a dramatic change from a little more than 30 years ago when only 17% of population lived alone.

Read the rest at this Forbes post.