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The Future of America's "Seven Kingdoms"


Joel Kotkin has an insightful piece that breaks America down into “seven nations and three quasi-independent city-states” and looks at the economic prospects for these ten sub-units. He makes a number of interesting arguments, including that the Northeast will cede cultural, intellectual, and economic power to the so-called “Left Coast” and that Houston will soon be known as America’s new great global city.

Not surprisingly, Kotkin suggests that the regions best poised for growth are those with lots of energy jobs, including “the third coast” and “the great plains”:

The good times on the Plains are largely due to the new energy boom, which has been driven by a series of major shale finds: the Bakken formation in North Dakota, as well as the Barnett and Permian in Texas. The region’s agricultural sector has also benefited from soaring demand in developing countries.

Most remarkable of all has been the Plains’ demographic revival. The region enjoyed a 14% increase in population over the past 10 years, a rate 40% above the national average, and is expected to expand a further 6% by 2023, more than twice the projected growth rate in the Northeast. This is partly due to its attractiveness to families — the low-cost region has a higher percentage of residents under 5 than any other beside the Inland West.

We don’t necessarily agree with all of Kotkin’s predictions, but his piece is well worth the read. One thing that clearly emerges from it is that America’s economic strength stems in large part from the diversity it contains. Though shale-friendly areas are doing very well right now and suburbs are fueling demographic expansion in some places, there’s room in America for all of Kotkin’s regions and the ways of life popular in them. America’s future lies in cities and suburbs, in energy and in service jobs.

[Oil rig image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • USNK2

    I also have great respect for Joel Kotkin, but find it difficult to believe that the Northeast will cede anything for one basic reason:
    fresh, potable water supply/infrastructure.
    The ‘left coast’ could disappear in a major earthquake.

    • rheddles

      The Northeast could disappear in an eruption of the Yellowstone caldera. A more interesting question is the lifetime of Hoover Dam.

      In an earthquake, one metropolitan area could be wiped out, but not the left coast. And most companies are dispersing to minimize the impact. Only 3000 Sand Hill Road remains centralized.

  • ljgude

    A great concretization of the very different regions of the US seen through an economic lens. It changes my view of my son’s move some years ago from the left coast’s capital to the northern reaches of the city state of Miami – ie West Palm. The last time I visited him I flew into Ft Lauderdale – and got a birds eye view of the extent of the three cities merged into one. Yup, a city state.

  • Anthony

    Relevant and related content given topic: 2011/03/28/middleweight-cities-as-grow and – another perspective.

  • Anthony

    Where are the points of disagreement with Kotkin?

    • Anthony

      Must there be points of disagreement and if so what are they.

      • Anthony

        Well, Mead said he didn’t necessarily agree with all of Kotkin’s predictions. As a big Kotin fan, and a regular Via Meadia reader, I was just interested in the specific points of disagreement. I hope my earlier post didn’t come across as accusatory or rude.

        • Anthony

          No, Anthony. But given intern involvement, you cannot always ascribe authorship to WRM.

  • AnnSaltzafrazz

    How much of the growth in the Plains is due to ethanol subsidies–essentially welfare for farmers–making corn production more lucrative?

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