Posts Tagged ‘Pew Research Center’

Martin Kenney
by Martin Kenney
Fri May 22nd 2009 at 9:12am UTC

Danger, Danger, Danger

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

Remember the television program Lost in Space?

There was a robot that would usually at times of relative tranquility begin shouting “Danger, danger, danger.” On this optimistic bright-side blog, I feel like a terrible Cassandra. My apologies to Rich and my cheerful colleagues. I have kept silent while Obama has had an incredible bear rally, but it is time for some more “realistic” comments.

Today, the Pew Research Center shows that Americans are not becoming more populist, but rather are quite optimistic about the future. For most of you this is a good outcome. We, as Americans, dare I say in deference to Rich, North Americans believe optimism is good. What could possibly be wrong here?

My concern is that this optimism and the Obama Administration-sponsored talks of “green shoots” in the economy is lulling Americans to sleep regarding the extraordinary seriousness of the economic crisis we are facing. Already, concerns regarding controlling executive pay at the banks, letting shareholders and lenders suffer from the business decisions they made to invest, and general moral hazard arguments have been forgotten even though the miscreants have received tens of billions of government funds through a myriad of programs, bailouts, and other mechanisms. This will come back to haunt us as the world economy takes another leg downward in the months to come.

This second leg downward, as the entire U.S. including California basically declare bankruptcy, will finally wipe crackpot optimism off the faces of Americans. It is only then that we will be able to become realistic about the circumstances that we face and begin the grim task of reregulating, rethinking the role of finance, and rebuilding our economy.

Rich has always and correctly warned of the problem with the “squelchers.” However, today in this economy full of crackpot optimists, Cassandras are an important social asset, if they can prevent suicide by the delusional. To put a point on it, when the robot warns of danger, foolish optimism is not a survival response.

How do you folks see the current economic conjuncture?

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Wed May 6th 2009 at 7:30am UTC

The New Normal?

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

The Pew Research Center recently asked a sample of Americans what they consider to be life’s necessities. Here’s a chart summarizing the key results.

Felix Salmon reacts:

I’m quite surprised that the landline phone is still considered more of a necessity than a cellphone — I can’t imagine that’s going to continue to be the case for long. I am interested in the huge drop in the perceived necessity of the microwave, however. Yes, there’s something about microwaves which just feels old-fashioned and unnecessary — but the microwave hasn’t really been replaced by anything … I’m also surprised that 52% of people consider a TV set to be a necessity, while only 23% of people consider cable or satellite TV to be a necessity: subtract the second number from the first, and you get a good indication of the sheer power of network TV. I’m sure that, too, will erode quickly.

The huge drop in the perceived necessity of clothes dryers, home air conditioning, and dishwashers is I think partly a response to the economic crisis, but more a response to the bursting of the housing bubble: people don’t define themselves by their appliances in the way that they did during the housing boom.

What went up in perceived necessity? Nothing, really — nothing more than the margin of error of 3.6 percentage points, anyway. Although it would have been interesting to see the results if intangibles had been included in the survey.

I mainly agree with Salmon. The results show the fragility of the old suburban, fordist, “keeping up with the Jones’” lifestyle. Looks to me though that the old order has declined, but we’re still awaiting something to replace it.

But this begs a bigger question: When might we see a tipping point toward something new – a new normal, so to speak.

The numbers for high-speed internet and iPod are not so encouraging in terms of potentially signaling the rise of a new higher-tech consumption bundle. But there are many things that are not probed, as Salmon notes. I wonder what the results would be, not just for intangibles but for experiential goods and for things like personal development (education, learning), higher-quality food, exercise, health-care, and a cleaner, greener environment.

It’s important to begin to understand what this new consumption bundle and new lifestyle might be for a simple reason. It’s not government spending that ultimately will set the stage for long-run recovery, but a shift in private consumption that provides the broad pattern of consumer demand that fuels innovation and new patterns of production. As I’ve noted before, it was the rise of suburbanism that powered post-war recovery and expansion.

We’re in the earliest phases of the current reset so it is still hard to tell what the core components of that new consumption bundle might be. The Great Depression began in 1929, for example, and it was not until the 1950s and 1960s that the new suburban lifestyle burst onto the scene fully formed. My dad was an eight-year-old boy in 1929 living with his nine family members in a tiny Newark apartment without a refrigerator or full plumbing. Like so many others of his generation, he bought his first suburban home in the late 1950s. He could not even imagine the total transformation of his lifestyle 20 or 30 years earlier, buying his own home on what was then a farm, filling it with all manner of modern conveniences, and driving his Chevy Impala car to work.

It may not be apparent yet, but a new consumption bundle and a new way of life will have to emerge sooner or later. It will have to be less oriented around the auto-housing industrial complex: We’ll all have to spend less on these things, so we can create demand for the stuff that will power and build our future.

If we look closely we can already notice some of the emergent strands or threads of this new normal – in the shift away from big cars and big houses, away from conspicuous consumption and toward not just organic and energy-efficient, green products, but from material goods to experiences, health, and personal development.

But, it’s still very early in the resetting process. Transformations on this scale take time.

Still, I can’t help but wonder what the shape of the new consumption and new lifestyle might be, and would very much welcome your thoughts.

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Fri Jan 30th 2009 at 8:53am UTC

The Mobility Paradox

Friday, January 30th, 2009
Nearly half of all Americans would like to move to a new place. Trouble is, the credit crisis and economic downturn have effectively locked them into their current location. Residential mobility levels approach record lows, according to recent reports by the U.S. Census and the Pew Research Center. USA Today’s Haya El-Nassar, one of my favorite trackers of demographic trends, reports:

Whether they favor cities, suburbs or the countryside, almost half wish they lived somewhere else, the report found. Denver, San Diego and Seattle are the top picks of the 30 largest metropolitan areas. Denver is the favorite city among Republicans, and it also rates well with Democrats and independents … In addition to Denver, favorite cities among Republicans are Phoenix, Orlando and San Antonio. Half of all liberals would like to live in San Francisco, more than double the share of conservatives. San Diego, once a bastion of conservatism, appeals to Democrats, liberals and moderates.

46% would prefer to live in a different type of community from the one they now reside. Adults 50 to 64 who live in cities are the least likely to say they live in the ideal place; two-thirds of those in that age group who live in the country say they couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

Young people are the opposite: 57% of urban dwellers younger than 30 say the city is where they want to live. … “Fewer than half of all city residents say there is no better place to live than in a city.” … A smaller proportion of women express the desire to live in the nation’s largest cities  … Wanting to live outside cities doesn’t necessarily mean people reject urban lifestyles, however. The appeal of developments with an urban flair — ones that combine housing, stores and offices in a neighborhood setting — is growing.

My main take away: America’s two great dreams – the dream of unlimited economic opportunity and to own a single family home – are running head on into one another. Home ownership means less economic mobility when you can’t sell your home. The big cost of the housing crisis may not be what’s happening in the financial markets, it may be the long-run competitive damage caused by sagging labor mobility and the inability to flexibly match the location of workers to the location of jobs.

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Mon Dec 22nd 2008 at 8:37am UTC

Movers and Stayers

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

Who moves, and who stays put? A new study by the Pew Research Center takes a close look. The study finds that fewer Americans are moving now than previously. Some 13 percent of Americans moved from 2006 to 2007, down from a high of 21 percent in 1951; the Census predicts a further decline to 11.9 percent by 2009. That said, America remains a highly mobile society. Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of adults said they have moved to a new community at least once in their lives; 15 percent say they have lived in four or more states.

Highly educated people are much more likely to be mobile: more than three-quarters (77 percent) of college graduates have moved at least once compared to 56 percent of those with a high school diploma. Younger Americans, unmarried people, and those who are foreign-born are among the most likely to move. The Midwest is the most rooted region; the West the most mobile. The main reasons stayers stay: family ties, a desire to stay in their home town.