A recent book by Joel Kotkin that is receiving critical acclaim is entitled The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050 (Penguin Press, 2010). You can read two reviews of the book below and decide if it sparks enough interest for you to read it. I have chosen not to do so, and of course, it will not be featured at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas.
I enjoy being upbeat and optimistic. I like sunny forecasts. But, this is a genre of books that I find myself increasingly uninterested in. My major reason for doing so is that the future is difficult to predict, and very few who try to do so in writing ever get it right.
I guess I lost my enthusiasm for this type of book with The Long Boom: A Vision for the Coming Age of Prosperity by Peter Schwartz, Peter Layden, and Joel Hyatt (Basic Books, 2000). When I read and presented this book, I was pretty excited about its content. Ten years later, we can see that the impact better leads to a different title: the short boom. All the predictions were fun to read and energizing to visualize. But, much of what we read there just did not materialize.
Admittedly, books that predict the future are difficult to write. There is certainly a skill in examining trends and patterns, then using sign reasoning to leap forward to visualize another time and place. There are plenty of people who get energized by these titles. I just happen not to be one of them.
I remember the old phrase, “the best way to predict the future is to create it.” Unfortunately, writing about it does not create it. It simply writes about it. They write. We buy. Then, we get let down.
I want to be clear. I am not criticizing Kotkin’s book. I haven’t read it. I don’t plan to. I can’t criticize a book that I haven’t read. All my best to him for his success with the book. I think that there will continue to be enough interested readers to keep it on the best-seller list for awhile.
You can make up your own mind about what you think of this genre of books.
After you read the reviews below, let’s talk about it.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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A new study from Pew Research [please click here] shows that, as compared to the 1970s, a far greater percentage of women in the US today reach the end of their childbearing years without having had a baby. In the 1970s, that described 10 percent of women; now it describes 18 percent. On closer examination, the news is not much of a news flash: most of the rise occurred in the 1980s (not surprisingly: around then, the first generation that had access to birth control pills reached their 40s). Over the past decade, the data show, the percentage has held steady and even declined by a percent.
Honestly, the real news in the study is the trend line for the kind of women who read HBR. Among women with advanced degrees, we actually see significantly higher rates of childbearing over the past ten years. According to the Pew report authors, “in 2008, 24% of women ages 40-44 with a master’s, doctoral or professional degree had not had children, a decline from 31% in 1994.”
So what’s going on here? At least three factors help to account for more matriculated moms:
[Here is the first.]
• More women get advanced degrees today. First, let’s allow that the data are not perfectly comparable. Last April, the Census Bureau released a report [please click here] showing that about 10 percent of women over 25 in the United States now possess an advanced degree, as compared to about 7 percent of women in 2000. As graduate degrees become less rare, and less associated with single-minded pursuit of career success, that number was bound to rise. Still, there’s more than an education trend going on here.
Hooray for US employers, then: they’re forcing fewer of the opt-outs that women have so long had to make. Since women first entered the US workforce in large numbers, the choice has been stark: have children and consign yourself to limited career success, or go for the brass ring and forget the teething ring.
To be sure, the challenge remains: highly educated women are still the least likely to bear children. The news won’t be fantastic till the percentage of women not having babies doesn’t vary with education. Then we’ll know that it equally reflects choice. But for the moment, it seems clear that we are making progress — and have good reason to expect more.
Julia Kirby is an editor-at-large for HBR.