A browner, grayer and more culturally diverse population and work force will dramatically transform the nation’s social, economic and political institutions, according to a new report by researchers at UNC.
The report, “Six Disruptive Demographic Trends: What Census 2010 Will Reveal,” identifies major shifts in U.S. demographics and their implications for business, consumer markets and the nation’s competitiveness in the global marketplace.
“The U.S. population is far different today in terms of geographical distribution, racial and ethnic composition, age mix, family types and economic circumstance from what it was a decade ago,” said James H. Johnson Jr., co-author of the report with John D. Kasarda. Johnson is director of the Urban Investment Strategies Center at the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise, part of UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. Kasarda is director of the Kenan Institute.
The six trends are:
Researchers identified these trends by analyzing demographic and economic statistics compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Internal Revenue Service and other government agencies from the past decade as well as other demographic research. They expect the 2010 census data to confirm these trends and provide greater detail on them.
The trends bring both opportunities and challenges for businesses, the researchers said. For instance, the South now offers the largest and most diverse consumer markets for goods and services. Aging boomers, increasingly well-educated, youth-oriented, tech-savvy and possessing more discretionary income, will drive demand for new consumer electronics and other high-technology goods and services as well as a range of products and services related to “elder care.” Meanwhile, more diverse, multicultural consumers and workers will require companies to develop new strategies for attracting customers and managing their work forces.
For the nation, an increasingly diverse work force can provide significant competitive advantage if lawmakers and policymakers respond effectively to the challenges these shifting demographics present, the researchers said. They advise the following actions:
This last – education – presents the greatest challenge and opportunity, Johnson said. “The youth at risk of falling through the cracks of our public education system are predominantly nonwhite, mainly black and Hispanic, who attend severely under-resourced and the lowest-performing schools,” Johnson said.
“Allowing these students to languish in failure factories is not only an ethical and moral issue but a major factor in our future competitiveness,” he said. “Given the huge wave of baby boomers who are about to retire, we will need the skills and talents of these younger generations to prosper in the years ahead.”