Reach for Your Shades

I’m not sure I can deliver a “great luscious orgy of optimism,” but I’m going to give it a whirl, following in the footsteps of New York Times Op-Ed writer David Brooks, who said in his April 6th column (

“This column is a great luscious orgy of optimism. Because the fact is, despite all the problems, America’s future is exceedingly bright.”

Why is Brooks getting out the sunglasses for America’s bright future? He’s been reading. Specifically, he’s been reading The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050 by  Joel Kotkin; studies regarding global competitiveness, including a comprehensive report by the Rand Corporation in 2008, and Stephen J. Rose’s book Rebound: Why America Will Emerge Stronger From the Financial Crisis.

What all of these tomes say is that America will have a population of about 400 million by the year 2050. It will be a relatively young population — younger, on average, than China’s or Japan’s. Part of that is due to good ole fertility. The fertility rate in the United States is 50% higher than Russia, Germany, or Japan, and even higher when compared to China.

Another big reason for the U.S. youth rate: Immigration. As Brooks writes, “. . . the United States remains a magnet for immigrants. Global attitudes about immigration are diverging, and the United States is among the best at assimilating them (while China is exceptionally poor). As a result, half the world’s skilled immigrants come to the U.S. As Kotkin notes, between 1990 and 2005, immigrants started a quarter of the new venture-backed public companies.”

Half the world’s skilled immigrants come to America. And a quarter of new venture-backed public companies were started by them. Those are happy numbers indeed, arguing that immigrants will continue to fuel economic growth for years to come — just as they have since we were 13 British colonies.

And, according to Brooks’ research, there’s going to be a lot of growth: “The United States already measures at the top or close to the top of nearly every global measure of economic competitiveness. A comprehensive 2008 Rand Corporation study found that the United States leads the world in scientific and technological development. The United States now accounts for a third of the world’s research-and-development spending. Partly as a result, the average American worker is nearly 10 times more productive than the average Chinese worker, a gap that will close but not go away in our lifetimes.”

And all of this optimism isn’t just based on more people making more money. There’s a communal side to it as well. As Brooks writes, “In 1964, there were 15,000 foundations in the United States. By 2001, there were 61,000. In 2007, total private giving passed $300 billion. Participation in organizations like City Year, Teach for America, and College Summit surges every year. The culture of service is now entrenched and widespread.”

So, by 2050, there will be a lot more of us: 

  • On average, younger,
  • Frequently immigrants,
  • Growing the economy, and
  • Doing service.

 Wow. Grab your shades — the future is going to be very bright.


One Response to Reach for Your Shades

  1. Dave Bresler says:

    And I say, “Amen!” This only confirms what I have always believed. A. Immigration fuels our growth. B. (a corollary of A). Since we all came from immigrant stock (i.e. risk takers) we will continually reinvent ourselves to compensate for any changes in the global economy. Yea America!

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