Kotkin: ‘Hard Times Have Come to Paradise’

November 17, 2009 by Emsi Burning Glass

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Joel Kotkin’s latest piece for Forbes and newgeography.com delves into the issues of the green economy and aging baby boomers of northern California. It’s well worth checking out.

The author argues that there’s a conflict brewing between the Bay Area’s affluent upper middle class, which is getting older and stauncher in their stances, and the emerging Latino workforce.

Kotkin goes on to write:

Today in Marin, there are still more people aged 40 to 55 than over 65. But by 2025 the over-65 crowd will be as large as the prime working-age population (which comprises those in their 30s and 40s) and should be larger than the under-25 population. The old and young also will diverge greatly in their ethnicities. In virtually all North Bay areas, the bulk of the codgers will be white, while most young people will be Hispanic or other minorities.

In the past, besides construction, these young workers might have found employment in the area’s once-burgeoning electronics and telecommunications industry. But many of these companies have moved operations to more business-friendly regions or overseas. “When these kids who are in school now grow up, we are going to have a huge job crisis here,” Eyler warns. “But when the boomers are gone, what happens when all the jobs have moved to Des Moines?”

Of course, the widely accepted solution to this dilemma comes in the color green–that environment jobs will provide the new employment. Indeed by some accounts, most embarrassingly in a recent Time magazine cover, the shift to green technologies has already created a “thriving” economy.

Here’s a look at EMSI’s most current demographic data on the four California counties Kotkin mentioned — Marin, Sonoma, Napa, and Solano. As Kotkin suggests, there is projected to be a major shift, with a decrease of the 45-49 age bracket and rapid increase of those 60-69.