Joe’s Journal: On Paying Attention to Demographics

“Of all external changes, demographics — defined as changes in population, its size, age structure, composition, employment, educational status, and income — are the clearest. They are unambiguous. They have the most predictable consequences. They have a major impact on what will be bought, by whom, and in what quantities.

Statistics are only the starting point. For those genuinely willing to go out into the field, to look and to listen, changing demographics is both a highly productive and a highly dependable innovative opportunity.” — Peter F. Drucker

Demography, the study of human population and its makeup, was second nature to Peter Drucker. He relied heavily upon demographic information in his work as a Social Ecologist. And we would be wise to follow his example. He believed that the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, or the GI Bill of Rights, passed during the Roosevelt administration, would ultimately create the knowledge worker and the knowledge society. By the time that provisions of the original bill expired in 1956, approximately 7.8 million of the 16 million World War II veterans had taken advantage of educational and training opportunities offered by the GI Bill. At one time, GI’s comprised nearly 50% of undergraduate enrollments in US colleges and universities. 


[EXPAND More]With this tremendous growth in supply of educated talent it was only a matter of time before demand appeared for services of “white collar workers.” Knowledge was applied to work and to the management of work on a massive scale, which led to an increase in productivity and wealth. The growth in disposable income led to purchases of durable goods and to new housing to accommodate rapid family formation that accompanied the baby boom at end of World War II. Of course, 18 years or so later there would be a tremendous growth in the number of college students from the baby boom group of the late 1940s and early 1950s. All these things were quite predictable; one only had to look and track changes in trends. Drucker applied demography to the aging of the population in 1976 and was therefore able to comfortably predict the pressures that were going to develop on Social Security and Medicare once children of the baby boom generation reached age 65. Of course this is happening right now, but policy makers did nothing about it. Rather, politicians from both parties decided to “kick the ball down the road,” thus contributing to the fiscal mess that our country now finds itself in. Those who pay attention to demographic data can use it to their benefit. Those who choose to ignore these data do so at the risk of posterity. May this crisis cause the people of the United States to rise up and elect people from both parties that see demographic trends clearly and have the courage to act upon them in time to prevent “knee-jerk reactions.”

— Joe Maciariello [/EXPAND]