Is Demography Really Destiny? A Conversation With Joel Kotkin

Interview with Joel Kotkin, Author, The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050

Thinking in Public

June 3, 2011

(This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated)

Mohler: This is “Thinking in Public,” a program dedicated to intelligent conversation about front line theological and cultural issues with the people who are shaping them. I’m Albert Mohler, your host, and President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. We are besieged by a literal dialogue of data. Much of it is about population, economics, and finance. Much of it has to do with racial and class and of course, political. But finding our way through the data can be really challenging. A few seem to have the gift of looking at the data and telling us what the picture is, what the story is going to be and where all of this information is pointing us. My conversation today is with just one of those people. Joel Kotkin has been described by the New York Times as America’s uber geographer. He’s the kind of person who can look at data and tell us what it means, give us the story, and he has that rare gift of being able to look to the future. He is also one of America’s leading public intellectuals, and we are glad to welcome Joel Kotkin today to Thinking in Public. Mr. Kotkin, your new book, The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050, has engendered a good deal of public conversation for good reason. What was behind your writing of this book?

Kotkin: Well, I thought there was a need to sort of take a more objective look. I would look at it and say “What are America’s possibilities?” I think there is a very powerful intellectual tendency, and frankly it’s on the right and the left, which is very declined as the United States is going into a period of historic decline, and I thought that we weren’t leaving the next generation with very much hope for the future except for maybe, sort of live much more modestly than their parents. I thought that what we should be talking about is not that the country will stay the same, it will change quite radically, but it is that it has a very viable future and that future is worth working for. If people don’t think there is a way forward, they are going to tend to be much less likely to devote themselves to changing things.

Mohler: Well you have a very, very rare gift of looking at the future, and I mean that not only in terms of analyzing the data and making predictions, but also in conceiving what might be. And I do find that as a very rare gift that when you look at America in the next hundred years, you’re thinking about massive demographic changes, cultural changes, changes in family life, changes in population concentration. You’re really telling a story there of where you think America is headed.

Kotkin: Well, because I try to look at these demographic patterns. And for instance, the big demographic pattern we have now is that the baby boomers are aging, they are certainly getting out of the, they are at the very end, if not past their childrearing years. We have a new generation called the “millennial” who are very large as well, who are their children, who are approaching the age of having kids. So we are sort of in between the expanding workforce that is coming in, but we are probably going to see some very big changes even in the generation. In other words, the generation that is coming up now are the millennials. They may be 30-35% non-white compared to 15% or 20% in the past. They have very different attitudes on social issues, and they have different attitudes on political issues. Their whole approach is different. And that’s what I am trying to deal with in part. Then of course the immigrants, and they have their different things they are bringing to the picture, and I think that we are looking at a very radically changed country.

Mohler: I read several international papers a day, and I think most Americans are just blissfully unaware of the fact that there is a huge population problem looming. And yet, it is not the population explosion that we were warned about back in the 60’s and 70’s. Most of the economies around the world that are threatened by population change are threatened by a reduction or a decline in population that literally might be catastrophic. You contrast that to the United States.

Kotkin: I mean that certainly you know one decline, and you know we could have that decline scenario. I mean if you had a long-term recession, you had a radical change in immigration, you had a, if you had a land use policy that said “No, you can’t build single family houses, we all have to live in dense apartments,” all those things will definitely reduce the birthrate. But the real question is not so much the loss of population, that’s the longer range issue, it’s the fact that you may have more and more people retired and fewer and fewer people working.

Mohler: And for an economy or for a culture that is certainly a rather troubling trajectory.

Kotkin: Right, and it has a lot of other effects. You know if you are in a society in which many people don’t have children and the ties between people are fairly weak, you are going to have some. There is going to be a lack of innovation as well. I mean we have to understand why people work so hard, why do they innovate? And a lot of that comes out of the need to support a family. And, you take that away and you have a very, very different society. You know if you go to a society in parts of Europe you already can see that. You know where there really is not a great deal of emphasis on changing and adapting because you are really hitting the sort of steady state. In America, we are not really well-equipped for that steady-state approach.

Mohler: When you talk about the family, you actually deal with some things that many other demographers don’t deal with. And that I would just reduce to the word aspiration. You actually look at what people aspire to have and aspire to be and where they aspire to live. Tell us that story.

Kotkin: Well, I think the big thing is that I think most Americans would like to have a family and children. They remain engaged in that family, but you know one of the funny things about a lot of the social theorists that I sort of go back and forth with is they say “Well, there’s going to be all these empty nesters” I say, “Well, you think those empty nesters aren’t parents?” You know, you think when they retire you think they will live either near or with their children, which is happening of course more and more, or they are that they still are concerned about having room so the grandkids can move. I mean most people retain their space much longer than anyone expected them to and that these lengths of family are the only real way of having any kind of social cohesion. If you remove that, I think you would have a very hard time. And again, you may be able to get away with it a lot better than let’s say in Sweden than you can in the United States, but ultimately over time, you know, the family structure is absolutely central, and this is something that very few people seem to want to deal with.

Mohler: You know in your book you say this, “Only a society rooted both in traditional values and in social tolerance can support such vast changes in the physical landscape.”

Kotkin: Yeah, and I think that that’s really going to be very important over time because if we go the direction of the traditional multicultural who would say “Well, everybody’s coming here, they are all equal to us and there’s nothing special about the United States. It’s just you happen to live there.” That really won’t get it done over time. There has to be some sort of unifying if you will- a myth or legend that holds the country together, and if you take that away in a diverse country than it is all about one little group fighting for its rights against another little group.

Mohler: Well, as you look to the future of the family one of the things you point out is that we could be going at least back to the future a bit. You talk about such things as a return to the multi-generational household.

Kotkin: Right, this is clearly happening in the Pew data, the Pew Foundation data is quite explicit on this. We used to have about one quarter of our households about that way. It went down to 10% and now it is about 16%. I think what we are going to see also is more support. Families being defined in different ways. For instance, many times you have a divorced couple, but the father is very involved even if he doesn’t have any other kids. He still has that involvement. We have many grandparents now playing bigger roles with their grandchildren. We have aunts, uncles, and this was how family was if you read novels of the 19th and early 20th century. Families were not the 2.1 kid family.

Mohler: Oh absolutely, and furthermore, most of us in our family memories know that is not true.

Kotkin: This is something that comes up both in the immigrant experience and in the western expansion experience. Both experiences are disrupted by the nature. We tend to look back at either of those experiences, Little House on the Prairie or Hester Street, and we see these as sort of paradigms. But actually it was a very, very protean family being reinvented and needing to change a lot of the time. I think that is what we are going back to.

Mohler: Well, I think it’s interesting when you talk about some of that data. For instance people continually say that the family is being marginalized in America because you look at the number of households and look how many of them do not include parents living with their children, but you point out that grandparents are still parents. And the same thing is true of marriage. A widow is still a person who was married, just not married at the moment.

Kotkin: Right, and also that that person may very well have for instance, my father died twenty years ago, and my mother still goes out to lunch with his sisters. Those patterns and those relationships still matter very much. Because very often they are tied up with businesses, and this is often stronger among immigrants and native-born Americans.

Mohler: Now when you talk about the future and the family, one of the things you point out is that families really do tend to migrate by and large to suburbia, and that is not a broken trajectory in this country.

Kotkin: No, no there is no question. And, interestingly enough many single people migrate to the suburbs or couples without children. This is happening more and more that they, for whatever reason, they want a garage, they want a backyard, they want a place for the dog, they want to have a garden, they want peace and quiet. I mean one of the things I always argue about is that the older you get, whether you have children or not, the older you get the more you want peace and quiet. You probably want to own something. So you want to go to some place that has reasonable price. And you know, there isn’t this need for this very high density existence. And this is why the whole idea of the massive condo boom was so over wrought because they were assuming that people would cash out of their suburban homes and move to the city. I think that happens very, very little. And, I think it may have happened to some extent with the very wealthy that could afford to do it, but generally speaking it didn’t happen to these people who ended up at these places or became renters, and a lot of them are foreign speculators. You know, people buying five, six, seven, eight apartments in Miami because they are now half the price they were three years ago.

Mohler: Talk to me about the cities for a moment because you deal a great deal with the future of American cities and also with some rather counter-intuitive predictions you make about where people are actually going to live and which cities are actually going to be growing and experiencing the new America in their midst.

Kotkin: Well, the census is pretty clear. There are certainly places in Texas and large parts of the southeast. A lot of states that now have net immigration including Arkansas and Kentucky, states that you would consistently think are losing people. And you have movements into some of the cities in the Great Plains. There has been pretty strong growth in Fargo and Sufalls and some of these other areas. I think there’s been the idea that we are going to move into bigger and bigger cities. Actually most of the very big cities- Chicago, New York, San Francisco, LA, Philadelphia regions, all grew well below the national average.

Mohler: Well, one of the things you point out is that many young people are attracted to cities, but the things they want as they get older the cities do not supply, and they end up becoming immigrants from the cities to some of the smaller cities, or to suburbia.

Kotkin: Right because the problem is one of housing cost. In order to live in Silicon Valley, to buy a house in Silicon Valley of anything remotely decent, you are probably talking a house of $800-900,000. What person under forty has let’s say even if you needed 10% down payment, it’s $90,000? You know, unless you have wealthy parents you’re not likely to get that.

Mohler: Yea, someone pointed out to me the other day that if you are not a mega-millionaire and you live in Pueblo-Alto, you have to be a student at Stanford because they are the only people who can afford to live there, in student housing.

Kotkin: Right, that is one of the one of the great problems we have now is that we have this situation where we have many people who are really becoming forced to eliminate all parts of the country that when I was a young person, when I was in my 30’s, I had many more options of where I could live than I would have if I was 30 now.

Mohler: One of the challenges in talking to Joel Kotkin is that there are so many things I want to talk about. He has written on so many fascinating topics, and even though they are all connected, the connecting theme may actually be the big question: “What about the future?”

Mohler: Joel Kotkin, when you look at the future of American cities you talk about the development of the so-called luxury cities. Describe those.

Kotkin: Well, these are cities, and there are very few of them, or they are sections of cities which are really places for the wealthy to live. I mean if you read the New York Times and you look at the ads in the New York Times, you know I have great respect for the New York Times. You can see though that many of the products they are advertising are ones that 98% of the population can’t even think about as something that they would buy. I think what you are seeing is a rapid concentration of very wealthy people and their servants in many of our great central cities. This is particularly true of New York. I mean remember New York is by far the most important and evolved of the American cities in this direction towards very wealthy core and largely poor people around it and middle class pockets scattered throughout the city. And those pockets are getting smaller of course.

Mohler: Now when you look at these cities, you are really talking about Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and then areas you identify such as Silicon Valley.

Kotkin: Right. These are places that have just become very, very expensive.

Mohler: But on the other hand, you really aren’t giving hope to communities like Omaha, Nebraska, or Terre Haute, Indiana because you are pointing out that many actually very skilled workers, many people in the knowledge industries are now moving there, but you also make the very interesting observation that immigrants are also now landing in these cities in America’s heartland. What the folks on the coast used to call flyover country.

Kotkin: Exactly, although that’s been huge shift. The immigrants are moving to smaller communities to places like Nashville, Kansas City, to cities like that. And frankly they’re going to be attracted to those cities where there are jobs. I mean most immigrants immigrate for upward mobility and their family’s aspirations, and they are going to go to go to places where they are going to have the chance of doing it. That is what is the most really interesting parts of the census is LA county is one of the very few places in the United States that has less Hispanic children now than it had a decade ago.

Mohler: Well, when you start looking at the future here and you’re advising corporations or organizations. When you talk about being where families are. you’re really affirming in this book looking at all the data that if you are going after families, by and large that means you are focusing on the suburbs.

Kotkin: Right, you’re focusing on the suburbs and you’re focusing on some of the more affordable regions of the country. Now, what I would argue is that what we’ve done now some companies because they don’t really need anything else, are going to tend to only be in the certain markets because they have very, very high wage employment and because there are relatively few jobs. But, If you take a look at what is happening now, for instance a company like Goldman Sacs consider the ultimate high wage employer. Well, Goldman Sacs now has a huge operation in Salt Lake City, Utah. Many Silicon Valley companies have been establishing operations in Utah and Texas. There is a reason for this movement to take place, and it is taking place because people can afford to have homes and they and most engineers. By the time an engineer is 30 or 40, the vast majority of them are going to have kids.

Mohler: And they want a backyard.

Kotkin: You’re having kids; you are probably going to want to have a back yard. I mean now there are a few places in America where you can live in an urban environment and you can have a decent amount of and low enough density that is livable like parts of Philadelphia, but these are very few and of course in New York, which has most of them, or San Francisco, they are too expensive for all but a handful of people.

Mohler: Looking at the future of cultures, the population is one issue, but as you point out it’s driven by values. You make two disconnected statements. At least they are disconnected in terms of your book. They are separated by many chapters, but you use the same language with both. I want to repeat it to you Mr. Kotkin, you say that “We should reconceive immigration because every immigrant is a vote for America’s future.” Later, when relating to birth rates, you point out using the same language that every decision to have a child is a vote for the future. So, you’re really suggesting that human beings, to speak of the species, but certainly, Americans thinking of the country need to realize that looking to the future is actually very essential.

Kotkin: Well, I think that’s totally true. Particularly for a country like the United States where really that forward looking projection, that idea of an evolving society, of adaptation, is that we are not an old, traditional culture that is trying to adjust to modernity without changing its essential character. If you look at what is happening in Europe right now and the French among others, their goal is to maintain their culture. They understand that they are not at the center of world history anymore, but it is about a level of comfort. There are many parts of the United States which have these characteristics where it’s really not about doing something ambitious or moving upwards, it’s about preserving the privileges of certain classes. I think that is going to be a great struggle in the next forty or fifty years in this country. Do you have an upward mobility agenda, or do you have a steady state agenda? There are many people who prefer a steady state agenda. Lower population, fewer children, low economic growth, and of course this is very popular with many people in the green movement.

Mohler: Yea, but I honestly don’t understand their math. I’ll just say that there are ideological and theological and philosophical issues where I have trouble with the way the green movement thinks. But, I also don’t understand their math. Who is going to pay for all of the people who aren’t going to be working? I don’t understand how they think this is going to work.

Kotkin: Well, the only way out of it is if you believe that information technology will solve virtually every problem. My view from a historical point of view is technology creates as many problems many times as it solves. What you need to understand is that there is really a tremendous movement in terms of saying we cannot do all these traditional tasks but we can just be more creative and do certain kinds of very elite operations. Well, the reality is that other countries in the world are evolving very rapidly, and we’re going to have to be good about a lot of different things. You cannot have an economy based on Facebook and Google. It doesn’t work. The numbers don’t work. You don’t have enough jobs for enough kinds of people. You could end up, and this would be a possibility, you could end up in a society in which a very small number of people live really, really well and the vast majority of people barely make by. And then there is a large group of poor people. We could be heading in that direction. I think that is why we have so much political dissatisfaction in this country right now. And again, I would say that goes to the right and the left.

Mohler: So if you are asking what are the hard questions that we should be thinking about, because frankly you are well situated in America’s public life as one who has a very optimistic viewpoint looking into the future. In fact your book is all about that, but it is also pretty honest. What are the hard things that we will have to face? The hard questions we are going to have to ask?

Kotkin: We are going to have to understand that our advantages have to be taken advantage of. For instance natural gas, our natural resources, our food production, our ability to manufacture things, our large domestic markets, our connections to the rest of the world through immigration, these are all great natural advantages, but we have to pursue those advantages. If we don’t, I think where we are headed is to an evermore bifurcated class-driven society in which it becomes more and more important what family you are born with and what kind of inheritance you have. Those will become more and more important, and it will become very, very difficult for people who unless they are exceptional high-end of the educational pyramid to move from one class to another. That is a recipe for decline and decay of a society. That would be by far my biggest worry.

Mohler: How would you advise America on the issue of immigration? To take one of the hottest political issues, you really don’t deal with this as much politically as just a part of the demographic destiny of America. How would you advise us to reconcieve those contentious issues?

Kotkin: I would look at it this way. I think that what you do is that you have to make a very strong point that basically we have to change our immigration policy to be a little more like the Canadians have it in that it really is insane that a guy graduates with a PhD in computer science at MIT and then we send him back to India. If we can keep that person here, we want to keep them here. On the other hand, I think that the idea that we just follow family reitification we have to be careful that we are not importing just people who are going to end up on Medicaid or not being able to contribute much to the society. I think we have to become more focused on skilled immigration, and I think we also have to understand that just family unity can’t be the only thing that we look at. We have to move toward a more balanced immigration policy. I would say over time, trying to have more legal immigration. Obviously, the illegal immigration is a big problem. The people who oppose illegal immigration when you scratch the surface they tend to oppose all immigration.

Mohler: In your books you do address the issue of religion in public life. Speak about that and project the future.

Kotkin: The oddity of America in part is About 60% of Americans consider religion important, and most of our competitors in East Asia and Europe are 15%. They always say there are more people in the Czech Republic who would believe in UFOs than believe in God. That is probably not too distant from the truth. I think religion is one of the things that America has going for it. I think that one of the big things is that religious institutions, and I wouldn’t call myself a greatly religious person at all, although my youngest daughter does go to a religious school, that the religious organizations provide a balance. This is part of the whole question on class that other religious and volunteer organizations like the Boys and Girls Club do very important things. There are no equivalents of those. If you go to Europe, there is no Boys and Girls Club; there are very weak religious organizations. Those religious organizations play a very important role. I remember during the whole Katrina situation that it was the evangelicals, more than anyone, and I have to say the white evangelicals but the black evangelicals were really good too that took on a lot of the burden of what needed to be done with the refugees from Katrina. So these are very important institutions. I probably disagree with you on a whole bunch of issues regarding what the role of the state and church should be, but I definitely think that the religious institutions of the country are an enormous advantage.

Mohler: Government, Universities, Industries, and the public sector are very interested in what Joel Kotkin is talking about. They consume his data, they look at his analysis, and they conceive of a future in terms of where they are going to direct their energies, where they are going to develop a new market, where they are going to locate a new plant. Christians looking at the same data need to come with some very different questions. Our concern is not so much where we can exploit a market, it is where we can missiologically understand a responsibility and gear ourselves and project ourselves to be faithful in terms of our responsibility. Our responsibility as churches, our responsibility as Christians and Christian institutions. The data that is assimilated in so much of the work of Joel Kotkin is absolutely fascinating. That’s what makes the books at the very first read so very interesting. He is also a brave thinker who is willing to point out where the conventional wisdom is clearly wrong. In so many cases, the conventional wisdom has been clearly wrong. For instance if you go back to the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s, the urban strategists were looking into the future suggesting that the future of America was to be concentrated in only three major population centers. Basically, California, the north east, and Chicago and its environment. Well, that just hasn’t happened. Not only has it not happened, you might even say that the opposite has happened. Over the last twenty years or so there has been an enormous migration toward mid-size cities and for reasons that are actually now quite understandable.

There are some other things that Joel Kotkin talks about that require us to rethink what we would perhaps anticipate would be our reaction to certain challenges or certain pictures. For instance, the picture of a diverse America. There is no question that when Joel Kotkin looks at the data and deals with it so responsibly, he tells us that we are not actually choosing whether America is going to be a diverse society in the future, we are either going to acknowledge it and get ourselves ready for it or we are simply going to live in denial and find ourselves surprised by it. We are now looking at an avalanche of data even after the publication of his book that affirms his point rather conclusively. For instance, if you look at the rates of immigration and the birth rates, there is no question that America is going to be much more Hispanic as we look to the future.

Just recently it was pointed out that Cook County, Illinois, one of those places which had been a concentration of African American political power, is now marked by the fact that there are more Hispanics in that county than African Americans. Most Americans would be absolutely shocked by that realization, but that is a sign not only of the past but of the future. And that’s where Joel Kotkin comes along and says “If you want to look at something that tells you where the future is headed, just think of this: What’s the birthrate?” And that’s why if you look at the relative position of America versus other civilizations and cultures, there is no doubt that America has an incredible advantage. If you want to think of it in economics, think of it as an economic advantage. The advantage of having young workers, young educated workers. Compare that to Europe, which has had a birthrate decline from the last several decades that is now apparently almost irreversible and Asia, which had been in recent years the real focus of concern about population growth, which is now actually being challenged by a population dearth. You even have China rethinking its infamous one child only policy because it turns out that one child only isn’t going to support a civilization in which you have multiple parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles that are going to need support. In fact, they are going to need workers and institutions that are going to need students and all the rest.

Missiologically speaking, Christians need to be able to look at this data with a rather brave attitude. We need to look at this and say “Where is this heading? Where is America heading?” And America is explicitly Joel Kotkin’s concern as in his new book, The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. Evangelical Christians in particular have been keened to be consumers of data but often on the backend of the equation. We have as churches, institutions, and mission organizations very often been looking at the data telling us where we have been and helps us evaluate where we were or were not faithful. We need to reconceive and start looking to the future. It’s not as if we do not have data that will drive us to certain conclusions. Birth rate does tell us what kind of population we are going to face in the future. The kind of population movements by immigration and by other population shifts that we can see in the present will determine a great deal of where we go in the future. Now let’s think about where young evangelicals are right now in terms of their plans for the future. Joel Kotkin is writing knowing organizations like the Boys and Girls Clubs, like the Pentagon, like the Congress, or the University of California at Los Angeles, they are looking in the future thinking “How do we conceive our programs, how do we develop and anticipate the future?” But Christians need to learn to do that and younger Christians right now, younger evangelicals in particular, while many of them are being drawn to the cities. Joel Kotkin explains why that is so. The cities are extremely attractive to young, intelligent, well-educated people. It turns out that the cities are largely made up of young, well-educated people in terms of the population flow in and out. But it is a population flow in and out. It turns out that many of those same young people when they get married and start having children end up having rather traditional aspirations. That’s why if you go to many of these big cities, you’ll notice that many evangelical ministries are filled with very, very young people. Now that’s not to say they shouldn’t happen. As one of the pastors of one of the most remarkable of these churches in one of America’s largest cities told me “When we capture the inflow and the outflow, that’s a tremendous ministry.” And of course it is. It is literally the movement of millions and millions of young people.

But when you look to the future, one of the things that Joel Kotkin tells us that denominations and churches ought to really hear loudly is that families are still going to be concentrated in the suburbs. One of the most interesting things that is documented in his writings is how minority populations end up aspiring to be in the suburbs. It turns out that even though they often arrive in the cities, they generally do not stay there. Certainly a generational transfer. They begin to move to the heartland cities, which by the way tells us something else. Many times we buy into the logic that America is really a coastal civilization and that what we have in the middle is flyover country, and in that flyover country you are going to have diminishing population, you are going to have a brain drain and a birth dearth. You are going to have a situation largely pictured by the closing of rural churches and the merging of aging congregations. But Joel Kotkin comes back to tell the business and economic and political culture that that’s just not the way it is turning out. It is turning out to Terre Haute, Indiana or Omaha, Nebraska are places where there is a net inflow of immigration. People are moving into these places, states that he mentioned in our conversation like Arkansas and Kentucky. People are now moving into these states because they offer a lifestyle and aspirational opportunities that are unprecedented and unavailable especially given the cost, the incredible high cost, of living in the cities. But the cities are still very important, and one of the things that still strikes me in looking at Kotkin’s research is that we can come to new understandings of why the cities are so difficult to reach. If you think about all the demographic complexity, you think about all of the racial and economic and ethnic diversity, and you concentrate it in one place, well that’s where you end up with the cities.

A very fascinating insight that he brings is the idea of these luxury cities. In other words, the aspirations that are at least the driving energies of many of these great cities, in particular he mentions New York, but you could also include Los Angeles, Chicago, Silicon Valley Some of these other places are these massive aspirational urban concentrations. They are really looking for a luxury lifestyle. Their aspirations are the shops on 5th Avenue, and the kind of luxury apartments that are advertised in the New York Times. But those are going to be available to very few people. By and large, these cities are going to be made up, if current trends do not change as he said, and we should hear this very clearly, they are going to be made up of the ultra rich and their servants. The people who make society work around these incredible concentrations of wealth.

That’s not where most of us are. That’s not where most of us aspire to be. And that is the reason why as we think missiologically toward the future and we develop a genuine missional vision; it’s going to mean we are going to have to give increased attention where we have often thought there is less interest. For instance in places like the suburbs where it turns out that’s where the families are and are surely going to be for generations to come. And in some of these smaller regional cities and in some of these states, inland states, states that are not the part of America that end up being on the front of the travel magazines and on the front pages of the New York Times- the kinds of places where real people live and real ministry takes place. Our responsibility for the Great Commission, our responsibility in evangelization, and in establishing faithful congregations is going to require us to go to all kinds of places to develop all kinds of skills. If the business and cultural and political community knows that, if the cultural creatives know that and the titans of industry know that, why are we as evangelical Christians not saying to the rising generation that we can see before us “You need to look at all of this and think about God’s calling in your life. And develop the kinds of skills. Develop the kinds of abilities and acquire the kinds of knowledge that will enable you to be effective for the Great Commission and the cause of Christ and His kingdom in the world to come.” It is simply not true simply to say that demographics is destiny. It is however, insane to say that we should not pay attention to the data that is so clearly now set before us. Faithfulness is not a matter of statistics, and we know that, but this kind of data is essential to our understanding not only to the present but of the future. We need to look at the material, we need to look at the information, we need to assimilate the data bravely, and we need to do it as Christians.

Thanks my guest, Joel Kotkin, for thinking with me today. This marks the 30th and final edition of Thinking in Public for our first season. I want to thank you for joining with me in this experience, and I look forward to the next season where we will continue intelligent conversations about frontline theological and cultural issues with the people who are shaping them. Until next time, keep thinking. I’m Albert Mohler.