Joel Kotkin

Distinguished Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University
Author, The Next Hundred Million
Contributing Editor, City Journal

A visionary social thinker, scholar, and writer influencing the future of society, culture, and the urban landscape.

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Joel Kotkin is a leading expert on the evolution of cities, towns, and rural places across the world. He writes and speaks on their problems, opportunities, and their likely future.

A keen-eyed authority on economic, political, and social trends; he applies his knowledge and insight in those areas to the vital issues facing regions, major cities and countries.

Joel is the author of numerous eagerly-anticipated reports on topics such as:

  • Best cities to do business
  • Best cities for jobs
  • Immigration
  • Diversity
  • Smartest cities
  • Future of world’s largest cities
  • The new map of the world
  • The geography of trust networks

His work on the future of cities, towns, and regions focuses on many issues including planning for economic revitalisation, the future of the middle class, and the role that resources and peripheral regions play in the rise of regions and countries.

Joel is a Contributing Editor to the City Journal, published by the Manhattan Institute. He writes the weekly "New Geographer" column for where he explores the intersection of demographics and urban issues as well as global political and social issues.

His work also appears in The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, The Washington Post, Inc. Magazine, The American, and on For several years he also contributed the monthly "Grass Roots Business" column in The New York Times' Sunday Business section.

Joel lectures widely in the United States, UK, Asia, Australia and Europe and is a sought-after speaker for major business and financial organisations. He appears regularly on radio and television as well. In 2010 he won the Gene Burd Award for best urban reporting.

Joel’s most recent book, The Human City, lays out a vision of urbanism that is both family friendly and flexible. It describes a future where people, aided by technology, are freed from the constraints of small spaces and impossibly high real estate prices.

Additional Books

The New Class Conflict

The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050

The City: A Global History

The New Geography: How the Digital Revolution is Reshaping the American Landscape

Tribes: How Race, Religion and Identity Determine Success In the New Global Economy


  • Distinguished Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University, California
  • Contributing Editor, City Journal
  • Columnist,
  • Senior Visiting Fellow at the Civil Service College in Singapore
  • Fellow at the National Chamber Foundation
  • Senior Fellow, Center for an Urban Future in New York City
  • Senior Consultant, Praxis Strategy Group in Fargo, North Dakota
  • Former Adjunct Fellow, Legatum Institute, London
  • Former West Coast Editor, Inc. Magazine
  • Former Business Trends Analyst, KTTV/Fox Television, Los Angeles
  • University of California, Berkeley


The Human City

Urbanism for the Rest of Us

Joel Kotkin

In The Human City, internationally recognized urbanist Joel Kotkin challenges the conventional urban-planning wisdom that favors high-density, “pack-and-stack” strategies. By exploring the economic, social, and environmental benefits of decentralized, family-friendly alternatives, Kotkin concludes that while the word "suburbs" may be outdated, the concept is certainly not dead.

Aside from those wealthy enough to own spacious urban homes, people forced into high-density development must accept crowded living conditions and limited privacy, thus degrading their quality of life. Dispersion, Kotkin argues, provides a chance to build a more sustainable, "human-scale" urban environment.

After pondering the purpose of a city — and the social, political, economic, and aesthetic characteristics that are associated with urban living — Kotkin explores the problematic realities of today’s megacities and the importance of families, neighborhoods, and local communities, arguing that these considerations must guide the way we shape our urban landscapes. He then makes the case for dispersion and explores communities (dynamic small cities, redeveloped urban neighborhoods, and more) that are already providing viable, decentralized alternatives to ultra-dense urban cores.

The Human City lays out a vision of urbanism that is both family friendly and flexible. It describes a future where people, aided by technology, are freed from the constraints of small spaces and impossibly high real estate prices. While Kotkin does not call for low-density development per se, he does advocate for a greater range of options for people to live the way they want at various stages of their lives.

We are building cities without thinking about the people who live in them, argues The Human City. It’s time to change our approach to one that is centered on human values.

Surrey Books,U.S. (28 April 2016)


How to Make Cities Livable AgainThe Daily Beast


Inequality in a city's coreThe News & Observer
In PrintUrbanLand
In Praise of Urban SprawlThe Wall Street Journal
Embracing sprawlWinnipeg Free Press


“[Kotkin] weaves an impressive array of original observations about cities into his arguments, enriching our understanding of what cities are about and what they can and must become.”
— Shlomo Angel, Wall Street Journal

“Kotkin argues that suburbs are where middle-class families want to live. . . . A city hostile to the middle class is, in Kotkin’s view, a sea hostile to fish.”
— Alexander Nazaryan, Newsweek

“[The] kinds of places that are getting it right . . . we might call Joel Kotkin cities, after the writer who champions them. These are opportunity cities . . . [that] are less regulated, so it’s easier to start a business. They are sprawling with easy, hodgepodge housing construction, so the cost of living is low. . . . We should be having a debate between the Kotkin model and the [Richard] Florida model, between two successful ways to create posterity.”
— David Brooks, New York Times

“Kotkin’s premise focus[es] on the predictions made by some economists who believe suburbs are going to wither as more Americans return to the cities. He [says] those have been hasty reactions to the 2008 economic recession, and that humans’ desire for spacious living remains strong.”
— Ronnie Wachter, Chicago Tribune

The Human City . . . takes a wider and longer view. Kotkin shows how cities developed as religious, imperial, commercial, and industrial centers. . . . To his subject Kotkin brings a useful worldwide perspective.”
— Michael Barone, Washington Examiner

“[Kotkin] believes it’s time to start rethinking what suburbia can be and to become more strategic about how it evolves.”
— Randy Rieland,

“Kotkin recommends that we embrace a kind of ‘urban pluralism’. . . . That means a sustained effort to make the city livable, yes, but it also entails acceptance of the suburbs. . . . The reality of suburban life isn’t as grim as the naysayers suggest, and Kotkin rattles off a long list of statistics to prove it.”
— Blake Seitz, Washington Free Beacon

“[Kotkin] writes that the suburbs are alive and well—and are positioned for strong opportunity.”
— Michael Stevens, Crain’s Chicago Business

“Whether you’re a downtown dweller or suburbanite, renter or owner, there is plenty of urban food for thought in The Human City.”
— Deborah Bowers, Winnipeg Free Press

“A long and lucid argument against . . . the current orthodoxy — that high-density living in the core, rather than suburban sprawl, is the optimal design for the modern urbanopolis.”
— Pat Kane, New Scientist

“[The Human City] is a prolonged argument for development that responds to what people want and need during the course of their lives . . . . [It] is not meant as an anti-urbanist tract, but rather as are definition of urbanism to fit modern realities and the needs of families. . . . It’s hard to argue with that point.”
— David R. Godschalk, Urban Land Magazine

“The notion that people are dying to leave the suburbs is just not true. . . . Kotkin [says] most of the job growth and affordable housing are in the suburbs.”
— Kim Mikus, Daily Herald “The most eloquent expression of urbanism since Jane Jacobs s "The Death and Life of Great American Cities." Kotkin writes with a strong sense of place; he recognizes that the geography and traditions of a city create the contours of its urbanity.”
— Fred Siegel, scholar in residence at St. Francis College, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research

“Kotkin is a refreshingly poetic and compelling writer on policy; he weaves data, history, theory, and his own probing analysis into a clear and soulful treatise on the way we ought to live now.”
— Ted C. Fishman, author of China, Inc. and Shock of Gray

“Kotkin is one of the clearest urban writers and thinkers of our time. His first-hand experiences and insights on a broad array of issues such as inequity, infertility, lifestyle, and urban design shake the reader like a jolt of urban caffeine.”
— Alan M. Berger, codirector of the Center for Advanced Urbanism at MIT, founding director of P-REX Lab

“While advocates trumpet megacities and global urbanization, Joel Kotkin makes an informed case for urban dispersal and argues that bigger and denser are not necessarily better.”
— Witold Rybczynski, author of Mysteries of the Mall

“This book asks the crucially important question, What is a city for? It should be read by all urban planners and included on the reading list for any urban planning course in a university.”
— Chan Heng Chee, chairman, Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities, Singapore University of Technology and Design

The New Class Conflict

Joel Kotkin

In ways not seen since the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century, America is becoming a nation of increasingly sharply divided classes. Joel Kotkin's The New Class Conflict breaks down these new divisions for the first time, focusing on the ascendency of two classes: the tech Oligarchy, based in Silicon Valley; and the Clerisy, which includes much of the nation's policy, media, and academic elites.

The New Class Conflict is written largely from the point of view of those who are, to date, the losers in this class conflict: the middle class. This group, which Kotkin calls the Yeomanry, has been the traditional bulwark of American society, politics, and economy. Yet under pressure from the ascendant Oligarchs and ever more powerful Clerisy, their prospects have diminished the American dream of class mobility that has animated its history and sustained its global appeal.

This book is both a call to arms and a unique piece of analysis about the possible evolution of our society into an increasingly quasi-feudal order. Looking beyond the conventional views of both left and right, conservative and liberal, Kotkin provides a tough but evenhanded analysis of our evolving class system, and suggests some approaches that might restore the middle class to its proper role as the dominant group in the American future.

Telos Press Publishing (September 1, 2014)


The New Class ConflictForeign Affairs


"Kotkin is to be commended for seeing past the daily bric-à-brac of American politics to perceive the newly emerging class divisions."
— Jay Cost, The Washington Free Beacon

". . . Paints a dire picture of the undeclared war on the middle class."
— Kyle Smith, New York Post

". . . In having the courage to junk the old nostrums, [Kotkin] has taken an important step forward." — Financial Times

"This original and provocative book should stimulate fresh thinking — and produce vigorous dissent."
Foreign Affairs

The Next Hundred Million

America in 2050

Joel Kotkin

Visionary social thinker Joel Kotkin looks ahead to America in 2050, revealing how the addition of one hundred million Americans by midcentury will transform how we all live, work, and prosper.

In stark contrast to the rest of the world's advanced nations, the United States is growing at a record rate and, according to census projections, will be home to four hundred million Americans by 2050. This projected rise in population is the strongest indicator of our long-term economic strength, Joel Kotkin believes, and will make us more diverse and more competitive than any nation on earth.

Drawing on prodigious research, firsthand reportage, and historical analysis, The Next Hundred Million reveals how this unprecedented growth will take physical shape and change the face of America. The majority of the additional hundred million Americans will find their homes in suburbia, though the suburbs of tomorrow will not resemble the Levittowns of the 1950s or the sprawling exurbs of the late twentieth century. The suburbs of the twenty-first century will be less reliant on major cities for jobs and other amenities and, as a result, more energy efficient. Suburbs will also be the melting pots of the future as more and more immigrants opt for dispersed living over crowded inner cities and the majority in the United States becomes nonwhite by 2050.

In coming decades, urbanites will flock in far greater numbers to affordable, vast, and autoreliant metropolitan areas-such as Houston, Phoenix, and Las Vegas-than to glamorous but expensive industrial cities, such as New York and Chicago. Kotkin also foresees that the twenty-first century will be marked by a resurgence of the American heartland, far less isolated in the digital era and a crucial source of renewable fuels and real estate for a growing population. But in both big cities and small towns across the country, we will see what Kotkin calls "the new localism"-a greater emphasis on family ties and local community, enabled by online networks and the increasing numbers of Americans working from home.

The Next Hundred Million provides a vivid snapshot of America in 2050 by focusing not on power brokers, policy disputes, or abstract trends, but rather on the evolution of the more intimate units of American society-families, towns, neighborhoods, industries. It is upon the success or failure of these communities, Kotkin argues, that the American future rests.

Penguin Books; Reprint edition (25 Jan 2011)
Penguin Press (4 Feb 2010)


The More, the BetterThe Wall Street Journal
America the idealThe Globe and Mail
A Nation 400 Million StrongThe New York Times
The Future of the U.S. Economy: 2050USNews & World Report


"Given the viral finger-pointing and hand-wringing over what's seen as America's decline these days, Mr. Kotkin's book provides a timely and welcome. . . antidote."
— Sam Roberts, New York Times

"Kotkin. . . offers a well-researched — and very sunny — forecast for the American economy. . . . His confidence is well-supported and is a reassuring balm amid the political and economic turmoil of the moment."
Publishers Weekly

"A fascinating glimpse into a crystal ball, rich in implications that are alternately disturbing and exhilarating."
— Kirkus Reviews

"Kotkin provides a well-argued, well-researched and refreshingly calm perspective."
— Joe Friesen, The Globe and Mail

"For Mr. Kotkin, population growth translates into economic vitality — the capacity to create wealth, raise the standard of living and meet the burdens of future commitments. Thus a country with a youthful demographic, in relative terms, enjoys a big advantage over its global counterparts."
The Wall Street Journal

"Lamenting its own decline has long been an American weakness. . . . Those given to such declinism may derive a little comfort from Joel Kotkin’s latest book."
The Economist

"Kotkin has a striking ability to envision how global forces will shape daily family life, and his conclusions can be thought-provoking as well as counterintuitive."
— WBUR-FM, Boston's NPR News Station

The City

A Global History (Modern Library Chronicles)

Joel Kotkin

If humankind can be said to have a single greatest creation, it would be those places that represent the most eloquent expression of our species’s ingenuity, beliefs, and ideals: the city. In this authoritative and engagingly written account, the acclaimed urbanist and bestselling author examines the evolution of urban life over the millennia and, in doing so, attempts to answer the age-old question: What makes a city great?

Despite their infinite variety, all cities essentially serve three purposes: spiritual, political, and economic. Kotkin follows the progression of the city from the early religious centers of Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, and China to the imperial centers of the Classical era, through the rise of the Islamic city and the European commercial capitals, ending with today’s post-industrial suburban metropolis.

Despite widespread optimistic claims that cities are “back in style,” Kotkin warns that whatever their form, cities can thrive only if they remain sacred, safe, and busy — and this is true for both the increasingly urbanized developing world and the often self-possessed “global cities” of the West and East Asia.

Looking at cities in the twenty-first century, Kotkin discusses the effects of developments such as shifting demographics and emerging technologies. He also considers the effects of terrorism — how the religious and cultural struggles of the present pose the greatest challenge to the urban future.

Truly global in scope, The City is a timely narrative that will place Kotkin in the company of Lewis Mumford, Jane Jacobs, and other preeminent urban scholars.

W&N (14 July 2005)


". . . This fast read succeeds most with Kotkin as storyteller, flying through time and around the world to weave so many disparate histories into one urban tapestry."
— The Fifth Annual Planetizen Top 10 Books List, 2006 Edition

"No one knows more about cities than Joel Kotkin, and has more to teach us about them. In The City, Kotkin takes us on a brisk and invigorating tour of cities from the Babylon of ancient times to the burgeoning exurbs of today. It is impossible not to learn a lot from this book."
— Michael Barone, U.S. News and World Report

". . . Offers fascinating insight into the ideologies that have created different city designs, and into the natural human desire to gather together to live and for commerce."
— Steve Greenhut, The Orange County Register

"The book is taut, elegant, informative and lots of fun to read. When I got to the end, I wished it had been longer."
— Alan Ehrenhalt, Governing Magazine

The New Geography

How the Digital Revolution Is Reshaping the American Landscape

Joel Kotkin

In the blink of an eye, vast economic forces have created new types of communities and reinvented old ones. In The New Geography, acclaimed forecaster Joel Kotkin decodes the changes, and provides the first clear road map for where Americans will live and work in the decades to come, and why. He examines the new role of cities in America and takes us into the new American neighborhood. The New Geography is a brilliant and indispensable guidebook to a fundamentally new landscape.

Random House USA Inc; Reprint edition (1 Aug 2002)


How Race, Religion and Identity Determine Success in the New Global Economy

Joel Kotkin

This explosive and controversial examination of business, history, and ethnicity shows how "global tribes" have shaped the world's economy in the past — and how they will dominate its future. An original vision of the past and the future of world business, Tribes is sure to provoke controversy and discussion.

Random House USA Inc; 1st Paperback Ed edition (1 Jun 1998)


Joel tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050

Demographics and the Future


The Human City: Urbanism for the Rest of Us | The Aspen Institute

Illinois is in competition | The Illinois Policy Institute

Why America Will Still Lead the World in 2050 |

How will populations change in the U.S. over the next 40 years? | Smithsonian


A leading business solutions provider:
Terrific. Joel was insightful, provocative and funny. His presentation was very compelling and the audience was very appreciative and said so often afterwards.

An conservation capital investment organisation:
Joel did a great job and was quite personable and approachable to the various participants.