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Joel Kotkin Makes a Plea for 'Localism'

The urban contrarian talks about why the suburbs offer our best hope for stitching America back together.
People vote in the U.S. presidential primary election at a polling station located in a grocery store, in National City, California, United States.
People vote in the U.S. presidential primary election at a polling station located in a grocery store, in National City, California, United States.Mike Blake/Reuters

Joel Kotkin swears he doesn’t hate cities—it’s just that most urbanists have a misguided perspective on them. Why focus on city centers, where populations tend to be too young, poor, and transient to invest in property or politics?

For the author, pundit, and Chapman University scholar of geography, America’s low-density suburbs—the ones growing the fastest, where people are more likely to be homeowners, where voter turnout is often higher, and “happiness” is said to be more common—are where the real action’s at. In his view, suburbs offer the greatest chance at community cohesion and engagement, and should be supported, not disparaged, by planners and policy makers.