This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Smart Growth Rides the New Demographics of the US

The concept of smart growth has been around for a long time, but got shoved to the background with the housing bubble that focused on building up new suburban areas. Smart growth may be making a comeback, however, as the San Diego Union reported today. The story followed up on the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference, held here in San Diego this past weekend. The paper interviewed Geoffrey Anderson, president and CEO of Smart Growth America:
Geoffrey Anderson: Smart growth is gaining traction, particularly if you look over a 15-to-20-year perspective. If you think back to the mid-’90s when cities were almost assumed to be dead — relics of a past age that were overtaken by the domination of auto-oriented suburbs — the contrast between that view of walkable neighborhoods, of smart growth and what we see today, is striking by any measure, and nowhere more so than how the market views it. There was a lot of skepticism among the private sector that this was something people wanted, and now it’s practically a given by a lot of the development community.Q: What’s driving this change?Anderson: We’d be fools to discount the impact of changing demographics. The difference between the 1960s, when half the households had kids and today’s (is that) it’s 30 percent and headed downward — you can’t overstate that difference in the population. We’ve built up a regulatory, financial and development infrastructure to serve that market. Look away for a second and it’s changed, and we forgot to change with it.
Q: Are NIMBYs (“not in my backyard” opponents to growth) totally in charge in neighborhoods?Anderson: The places people hate the most are abandoned brownfields ... and strip retail. They want something. This is one of the new phenomena we’re seeing. We’re seeing places generating YIMBYs (yes in my backyard) and I think it is because of our success in demonstrating the success of smart growth.

So, the big demographic driver of smart growth is seen to be household diversity, which is associated with the changing age structure, as noted by Bill Fulton, vice president of Smart Growth America:
The two biggest market drivers are retiring baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) and millennials (1979 to 2000). They’re bigger than any other portion.

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