Immigration to Change Product

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The ability of U.S. cities to compete in a global economy depends on their willingness to embrace growing diversity in population and lifestyles.

December 01, 2003


The ability of U.S. cities to compete in a global economy depends on their willingness to embrace growing diversity in population and lifestyles, Dr. James Johnson Jr., a management professor at the University of North Carolina's business school, said at the Urban Land Institute's recent fall meeting in San Francisco.

The implication for home builders: Design for and sell to a growing market of immigrants who have no intention of "melting" into American society.

During the past 20 years, Johnson said, the United States has become "a stew pot rather than a melting pot." From 1990 to 2000, immigrants accounted for almost half of the U.S. population gain of 33 million. With baby boomers retiring in droves and fewer native-born Americans to replace them in the work force, immigrants are now the critical factor in maintaining productivity.

Hispanics, whose average age is younger than whites' and who tend to have larger families, dominate immigration and are moving away from California, Texas and South Florida. "A major geographic redistribution is under way," Johnson said, "which has big implications for population growth and development patterns."

With 10 million immigrants due to reach their peak home buying years during the next decade, Johnson looks for impacts on housing markets from the South Atlantic states to the Midwest and across the West.

Because immigrant families tend to be more multi-generational, varied housing designs with flexible floor plans likely will be the wave of the future. Perhaps this explains the astounding bedroom counts in many new homes in the Inland Empire of Southern California. So get ready, builders: Six- or even 10-bedroom move-up houses are in your future.

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