At City Journal, authors Joel Kotkin and Ali Modarres wonder if the modern city can still be a place for families, or if cities are now only for the childless. They point out that, historically, cities were based on family life, right up until the last century or so. Then, the suburbs happened: folks with children wanted more space, better public schools and cheaper housing. What they lost (access to the arts, culture, more extensive food choices) didn’t seem as important as a yard and three bedrooms. Have cities now become the domain of the childless?
Demographic trends seem to bear out this vision. Over the past two decades, the percentage of families that have children has fallen in most of the country, but nowhere more dramatically than in our largest, densest urban areas. In cities with populations greater than 500,000, the population of children aged 14 and younger actually declined between 2000 and 2010, according to U.S. Census data, with New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Detroit experiencing the largest numerical drop. Many urban school districts—such as Chicago, which has 145,000 fewer school-age children than it had a decade ago—have seen enrollments plummet and are busily closing schools. The 14-and-younger population increased in only about one-third of all census-designated places, with the greatest rate of growth occurring in smaller urban areas with fewer than 250,000 residents.
Consider, too, the generation of Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 in 2000. By 2010, the core cities of the country’s 51 most populous metropolitan areas had lost, on average, 15 percent of that cohort, many of whom surely married and started having children during that period. While it’s not possible to determine where they went, note that suburbs saw an average 14 percent gain in that population during the same period.
A recent Boston Globe headline reads: “Marketing to millennials can be a tough sell.” The article relates the differing approaches of Campell’s, Lindt USA, and GE when it comes to marketing to Millennials, highlighting a general skepticism and indifference toward advertising in the target demographic:
For instance, marketing materials for GE’s Artistry series of low-end appliances featuring retro design touches, due out this fall, says it focuses on “the needs of today’s generation of millennials and their desire to uniquely express themselves.”
Lindt USA recently introduced a line of chocolates — they include Berry Affair and Coconut Love flavors — that are wrapped in vibrant packaging and are being promoted through social media.
And packaging for Campbell’s Go Soup, which comes in microwavable pouches with ingredients such as chickpeas, quinoa, and smoked Gouda, features photos of young people with thought bubbles. The sayings include cutesy snippets like “Make your momma proud” and “What’s kickin’?”
The idea is to hook millennials now and remain connected with them as they progress to bigger and more expensive products.
But marketing specialists and consumers like Volain question the effectiveness of that approach.
“My immediate reaction to targeted marketing is to picture a bunch of people sitting around in a room saying, ‘How can we get these people to buy these products?’” [Anna] Volain [a millennial] said.
While I am sympathetic to Volain’s sentiment here, I think something deeper is at work. There is an erroneous anthropological assumption that people of a particular, generic group must be homogeneous enough that all one needs to do is figure out the perfect calculus for appealing to their sensibilities, and they will be hooked on a brand for life. In particular, I think the problem is ultimately a Marxist error: assuming that one can perfectly categorize a whole group of people and then act on their behalf. (more…)
For a limited time, the Acton Book Shop is offering a book by rabbinical scholar Dr. Joseph Isaac Lifshitz for free: Judaism, Law & The Free Market: An Analysis. Acton released this title at an academic conference late last year, and in it, Lifshitz examines the Jewish treatment of themes such as property rights, social welfare, charity, generosity, competition, and concepts of order.
There are three ways to download this title.
Again, this is a limited time offer.
Would legalizing adult prostitution decrease the demand for child sex slaves? That’s the curious argument made by one of my favorite libertarian economist. Donald J. Boudreaux , a professor of economics at George Mason University, recently wrote:
If men can legally buy sex from women 18 years of age or older, men will have less demand to patronize children. And sex entrepreneurs will have less incentive to ‘supply’ children. With all prostitution being illegal, those who demand as well as those who supply commercial sex are subject to prosecution regardless of the age of the women they patronize or employ. By making adult prostitution legal, however, not only will that trade become more open to public scrutiny, but also the ability of those in the commercial-sex market to avoid prosecution simply by patronizing and employing women aged 18 or older will likely dramatically reduce incentives to turn young girls into prostitutes.
Boudreaux is one of the most astute economists in America, so it’s surprising to find him make such shockingly naïve claims about sexual trafficking.
The theory behind Boudreaux’s idea is based on a basic economic concept: substitute goods. Goods or services that, as a result of changed conditions, may replace each other in use are considered “substitutes.” Two classic examples of substitute goods are margarine and butter and coffee and tea. If the price of coffee or butter rises, people are more likely to choose a suitable substitute, such as tea or margarine.
But what constitutes a suitable substitute can vary considerably. Anyone who has ever been to Starbucks knows that the rise in coffee prices – both as a commodity and a consumer product – has not caused people to give up their mug of java for a cup of Earl Grey. The taste and preferences of coffee consumers tends to be inelastic. For most coffee lovers, the price would have to rise considerably for them to switch to tea.
Boudreaux is implying that adult prostitution and child prostitution are suitable substitutes. Does he really think that pedophiles and hebephiles (people with sexual interest in pubescent individuals approximately 11–14 years old) would become teleiophiles (people with a sexual interest in adults) if only they could get a discount on the cost of sex with an adult prostitute?
Is greed really good? Does self-interest equal sin? Samuel Gregg takes on these questions at Aleteia.org, in an excerpt from his new book, Tea Party Catholic: the Catholic Case for Limited Government, a Free Economy and Human Flourishing.
In many ways, the free economy does rely upon people pursuing their self-interest rather than being immediately focused upon promoting the wellbeing of others.
One response to this challenge is to recognize that fallen humanity cannot realize perfect justice in this world. ‘We can try to limit suffering, to fight against it’, Pope Benedict wrote in Spe Salvi, ‘but we cannot eliminate it.’[v] This Christian truth helps us to understand, like Saint Augustine, that what fallen humanity can achieve ‘is always less than we might wish.’[vi]
Last week, we took a look at what distributists get right in terms of economics, through the eyes of David Deavel at Intercollegiate Review. Now, Deavel discusses where distributism goes off the rails in that same series. It is a rather long list, but here are the highlights.
First, Deavel says that simple economics escapes distributists. Despite the fact that economics teaches that actions in the real world have real world consequences, distributists tend to ignore this fact.
They scoff at the notion that there might be predictive laws of economic behavior, such as supply and demand. But if there are such predictive laws, then it behooves us understand them. Distributists want third parties, such as governments or guilds, to arbitrarily set wages and prices according to abstract notions of justice.
One of the core principles of the Acton Institute is commitment to wealth creation since material impoverishment undermines the conditions that allow humans to flourish. We consider helping our fellow citizens to escape material deprivation to be one of the most morally significant economic concerns of our age. But how to do we gauge whether our neighbors are able to improve their economic security? A key metric that is often used is income or social mobility, the ability of an individual to improve their economic status over time.
Last month I noted a study that highlighted four broad factors that appear to affect income mobility:
1. The size and dispersion of the local middle class,
2. Two-parent households,
3. Better elementary schools and high schools, and
4. Civic engagement, including membership in religious and community groups.
Saying that schools should be “better” is unhelpfully vague. But a recent article in City Journal by E. D. Hirsch, Jr., explains just what qualitative factor is most important: The key to increasing upward mobility is expanding vocabulary.
Hirsch’s article is one of the most important essays on education published this year — perhaps even of the decade. I highly encourage you to read the entire feature. But if you only have time for a bullet-point presentation, here are ten key facts and recommendations from Hirsch’s brilliant article:
It’s true: the middle-class is growing, globally. Here in the U.S., we keep hearing dire warnings about a shrinking middle class, but not across the globe. Alan Murray, president of The Pew Research Center, says the world is
witnessing its third great surge of middle-class growth. The first was brought about in the 19th century by the Industrial Revolution; the second surge came in the years following World War II. Both unfolded primarily in the United States and Europe.
Anthony Dent has a clever plan to improve economic mobility: move strategically unimportant federal departments and agencies to economically impoverished cities and towns across America.
Republicans would support it because, well, they hate DC and favor “real” America. Democrats would support it because their cities and states would benefit disproportionately (think Atlanta, Michigan, or Illinois).
Call it the Cleveland Plan after the city that exemplifies America’s decline. Not only does Cleveland routinely rank as one of America’s fastest-dying cities, but Clevelanders also had the indignity of watching the man who spurned them turn around and win the 2012 (and 2013) NBA Finals (not to mention they still claim Dennis Kucinich as a favorite son). Plop the Department of Energy HQ in Public Square and you suddenly have thousands of jobs that aren’t going anywhere.
Why is the Department of Agriculture on the National Mall when it could be in Kansas, which devotes 90.1 percent of its land to agriculture (compared to DC’s 0)? Shouldn’t government be close to the people it serves? In the same vein, perhaps one of the many blighted urban areas across the country could welcome the Department of Housing and Urban Development (hello, Detroit!). The Department of Education could even set up a roving headquarters in one of the nation’s worst performing school systems (scratch that—it’s already been done—ahem, DC).