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An Investing Megatrend: How Demographics and Social Changes are Shaping the Future

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Demographic Megatrends preview

For millennia, people have found support and community through defining factors, ranging from age and race to income and education levels.

However, these characteristics are not static—and drastic demographic changes are starting to create powerful ripple effects in the 21st-century economy.

The Impact of Demographics and Social Changes

Today’s infographic from BlackRock delves into the significant impact that demographics and human rights movements have on global markets. Of the five megatrends explored in this series, demographics are predicted to have the farthest-reaching impact.

Megatrends - Demographics and Social Change

What are Demographics?

Demographics are the characteristics of populations that change over time. These include:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Birth and death rates
  • Education levels
  • Income levels
  • Average family size

As a result, major demographic trends offer both unique challenges and opportunities for businesses, societies, and investors.

The Biggest Shifts

What are the biggest shifts in demographics that the world faces today?

1. Aging Population

The global population is aging rapidly─as fertility rates decline worldwide, those in the 65 years and older age bracket are steadily increasing in numbers.

2. Future Workforce

As the population continues to age, fewer people are available to sustain the working population. For the first time in recorded history, the number of people in developed nations between 20 to 64 years old is expected to shrink in 2020.

3. Immigration Increase

Immigration has been steadily increasing since the turn of the 21st century. Primary migration factors range from the serious (political turmoil) to the hopeful (better job offers).

In particular, areas such as Asia and Europe see much higher movement than others, causing a strain on resources in those regions.

4. Consumer Spending

A steadily aging population is slowly shifting the purchasing power to older households. In Japan, for example, half of all current household spending comes from people over 60, compared with 13% of spending from people under 40.

How Does Social Change Play a Part?

Demographics are the characteristics of people that change over time, whereas social change is the evolution of people’s behaviours or cultural norms over time.

Strong social change movements have often been influenced by demographic changes, including:

  • Ending poverty and hunger
  • Expanding healthcare in developing nations
  • Reforming education quality and accessibility
  • Championing gender and racial equality

Examples of major human rights movements include creating stronger environmental policies and securing women’s right to vote.

Opportunities for Investors

These changes pose some exciting opportunities for investors, both now and in the near future.

Healthcare

Global healthcare spending is predicted to grow from US$7.7 trillion in 2017 to over US$10 trillion in 2022. To meet the demands of age-related illnesses, companies will need solutions that offer quality care at much lower costs—for patients and an overburdened healthcare system.

Changing Workforce

With a declining working population, adapting a workforce’s skill set may be the key to keeping economies afloat.

As automation becomes commonplace, workers will need to develop more advanced skills to stay competitive. Newer economies will need to ensure that automation supports a shrinking workforce, without restricting job and wage growth.

Education Reform

By 2100, over 50% of the world will be living in either India, China, or Africa.

Global policy leadership and sales of education goods and services will be shaped less by issues and needs in the U.S., and more by the issues and needs of Africa, South Asia, and China.

—Shannon May, CoFounder of Bridge International Academies

In the future, education and training in these growing regions will be based on skills relevant to the modern workforce and shifting global demographics.

Consumer Behaviour

Spending power will continue to migrate to older populations. Global consumer spending from those over 60 years is predicted to nearly double, from US$8 trillion in 2010 to a whopping US$15 trillion in 2020.

Investing Megatrends

Demographics and social changes are the undercurrents of many economic, cultural, and business decisions. They underpin all other megatrends and will significantly influence how the world evolves.

As demographics shift over time, we will see the priorities of economies shift as well─and these changes will continue to offer new opportunities for investors to make an impact for the future of a global society.

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Money

The Racial Wealth Gap in America: Asset Types Held by Race

White families are more likely to hold assets of any type compared to other races. This chart highlights the substantial racial wealth gap.

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The Racial Wealth Gap

People of color have faced economic inequality for generations, and the recent wave of Black Lives Matter protests has renewed discussions on these disparities.

Compared to White families, other races have lower levels of income and net worth. They are also less likely to hold assets of any type. In fact, 19% of Black families have zero or negative net worth, while only 9% of White households have no wealth.

Today’s chart uses data from the U.S. Federal Reserve’s triennial Survey of Consumer Finances to highlight the racial wealth gap, and the proportion of households that own different kinds of assets by racial group.

Asset Types Held By Race

The financial profile between racial groups varies widely. Below is the percentage of U.S. families with each type of asset, according to the most recent survey from 2016.

 WhiteBlackHispanicOther
Primary Residence73%45%46%54%
Vehicle90%73%80%80%
Retirement Accounts60%34%30%48%
Family-owned Business Equity15%7%6%13%
Publicly-traded Stocks61%31%28%47%

Vehicles are the most common asset across all racial groups, followed by a primary residence.

However, the level of equity—or home value less debts—families have in their houses differs by race. White families have equity of $215,800, whereas Black and Hispanic households have net housing wealth of $94,400 and $129,800 respectively.

In addition, White households are more likely to hold financial assets such as retirement accounts, family businesses, and stocks. These assets are instrumental in building wealth, and are prominent in the wealth composition of America’s richest families.

With fewer people of color holding these assets, they miss out on higher average returns than low-risk assets, as well as the power of compound interest. These portfolio differences are striking, but they are not the most important contributing factor in the racial wealth gap.

Demographic and Economic Variations

White households are also more likely to have demographic characteristics that are associated with wealth. According to the U.S. Federal Reserve, they are:

  • Older, with more than half of households age 55 and up
  • More highly educated, with 51% having some type of degree
  • Less likely to have a single parent
  • More likely to have received an inheritance

For example, 39% of White heads of households have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 23% and 17% for Black and Hispanic household heads, respectively. However, education doesn’t fully explain the wealth inequities.

Racial Wealth Gap by Education

Enormous wealth disparities exist between families with the same education level. Even in cases where Black and Hispanic household heads have obtained a bachelor’s degree, their families’ median wealth of $68,000 and $78,000 respectively is still lower than the $98,000 median wealth for White families where the head has no bachelor’s degree.

After accounting for demographic factors, researchers still found there were considerable inequities. What, then, could be primarily responsible for the racial wealth gap?

The Income Gap

While previous research found that the wealth gap is “too big” to be explained by a difference in income, a recent study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland offers a new perspective. Focusing on White and Black U.S. households only, researchers analyzed the dynamics of wealth accumulation over time, as opposed to previous studies that considered short time periods.

They found that income inequality was the primary contributor to the racial wealth gap. According to the model, if Black and White households had earned the same labor income from 1962 onwards, the Black-to-White wealth ratio would have reached 0.9 by 2007.

Moving forward, the study concludes that policy changes will likely have a positive impact if they address issues contributing to income gaps. This includes reducing racial discrimination in the labor market, and creating programs, such as mentorships, that improve environments for specific racial subgroups.

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Chart of the Week

Hunger Pandemic: The COVID-19 Effect on Global Food Insecurity

Over 135 million people face acute food insecurity worldwide—but COVID-19 could almost double these numbers. Which regions could be most affected?

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global food crisis 2020

How COVID-19 Could Worsen Global Food Insecurity

While COVID-19 is dominating headlines, another kind of emergency is threatening the lives of millions of people around the world—food insecurity.

The two are very much intertwined, however. By the end of 2020, authorities estimate that upwards of 265 million people could be on the brink of starvation globally, almost double the current rate of crisis-level food insecurity.

Today’s visualizations use data from the fourth annual Global Report on Food Crises (GRFC 2020) to demonstrate the growing scale of the current situation, as well as its intense concentration in just 55 countries around the globe.

Global Overview

The report looks at the prevalence of acute food insecurity, which has severe impacts on lives, livelihoods, or both. How does the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) classify the different phases of acute food insecurity?

  • Phase 1: Minimal/None
  • Phase 2: Stressed
  • Phase 3: Crisis
  • Phase 4: Emergency
  • Phase 5: Catastrophe/Famine

According to the IPC, urgent action must be taken to mitigate these effects from Phase 3 onwards. Already, 135 million people experience critical food insecurity (Phase 3 or higher). Here’s how that breaks down by country:

Country/ TerritoryTotal Population Analyzed (Millions)Population in Crisis (Phase 3+, Millions)Share of Analyzed Population in Crisis
Afghanistan¹30.711.337%
Angola¹
(24 communes in 3 provinces)
0.90.662%
Bangladesh
(Cox's Bazar and host populations)
3.51.337%
Burkina Faso¹21.41.26%
Burundi11.50.22%
Cabo Verde0.50.012%
Cameroon¹
(7 regions)
16.11.48%
Central African Republic¹
(excluding Lobaye)
4.41.841%
Chad¹14.30.64%
Colombia¹
(Venezuelan migrants)
1.60.955%
Côte d'Ivoire19.80.060%
Democratic Republic of the Congo¹
(109 territories)
59.915.626%
Ecuador¹
(Venezuelan migrants)
0.40.376%
El Salvador¹
(Eastern region)
1.40.322%
Eswatini¹
(rural population)
0.90.225%
Ethiopia¹
(selected areas in 6 regions)
28.7827%
Gambia20.210%
Guatemala¹16.63.118%
Guinea10.10.33%
Guinea-Bissau¹1.30.110%
Haiti¹10.53.735%
Honduras¹
(13 departments)
5.1118%
Iraq39.31.85%
Kenya¹
(Arid and Semi-Arid Lands)
13.93.122%
Lebanon¹
(Syrian refugees)
0.90.329%
Lesotho¹
(rural population)
1.50.430%
Liberia4.30.041%
Libya6.70.35%
Madagascar¹
(Southern, south-eastern and eastern areas)
4.61.328%
Malawi¹15.33.322%
Mali¹20.50.63%
Mauritania¹4.10.615%
Mozambique¹
(39 districts)
51.734%
Myanmar540.71%
Namibia2.40.418%
Nicaragua60.081%
Niger¹21.81.47%
Nigeria¹
(16 states and Federal Capital Territory)
103.555%
Pakistan¹
(Balochistan and Sindh drought-affected areas)
63.151%
Palestine51.733%
Rwanda12.60.11%
Senegal¹13.20.43%
Sierra Leone¹8.10.34%
Somalia¹12.32.117%
South Sudan²11.4761%
Sudan¹
(excluding West Darfur)
41.95.914%
Syrian Arab Republic18.36.636%
Turkey¹
(Syrian refugees)
2.70.517%
Uganda401.54%
Ukraine
(Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts, and IDP)
6.10.59%
United Republic of Tanzania¹
(16 districts)
4.8120%
Venezuela¹28.59.332%
Yemen²29.915.953%
Zambia¹
(86 districts)
9.52.324%
Zimbabwe¹
(Rural population)
9.43.638%
Total populations825.1 million134.99 million

Source: GRFC 2020, Table 5 – Peak numbers of acutely food-insecure people in countries with food crises, 2019
¹ Include populations classified in Emergency (IPC/CH Phase 4)
² Include populations classified in Emergency (IPC/CH Phase 4) and in Catastrophe (IPC/CH Phase 5)

While starvation is a pressing global issue even at the best of times, the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is projected to almost double these numbers by an additional 130 million people—a total of 265 million by the end of 2020.

To put that into perspective, that’s roughly equal to the population of every city and town in the United States combined.

A Continent in Crisis

Food insecurity impacts populations around the world, but Africa faces bigger hurdles than any other continent. The below map provides a deeper dive:

global food crisis 2020 africa

Over half of populations analyzed by the report – 73 million people – are found in Sub-Saharan Africa. Main drivers of acute food insecurity found all over the continent include:

  • Conflict/Insecurity
    Examples: Interstate conflicts, internal violence, regional/global instability, or political crises.
    In many instances, these result in people being displaced as refugees.
  • Weather extremes
    Examples: Droughts and floods
  • Economic shocks
    Macroeconomic examples: Hyperinflation and currency depreciation
    Microeconomic examples: Rising food prices, reduced purchasing power
  • Pests
    Examples: Desert locusts, armyworms
  • Health shocks
    Examples: Disease outbreaks, which can be worsened by poor quality of water, sanitation, or air
  • Displacement
    A major side-effect of conflict, food insecurity, and weather shocks.

One severely impacted country is the Democratic Republic of Congo, where over 15 million people are experiencing acute food insecurity. DRC’s eastern region is experiencing intense armed conflict, and as of March 2020, the country is also at high risk of Ebola re-emergence.

Meanwhile, in Eastern Africa, a new generation of locusts has descended on croplands, wiping out vital food supplies for millions of people. Weather conditions have pushed this growing swarm of trillions of locusts into countries that aren’t normally accustomed to dealing with the pest. Swarms have the potential to grow exponentially in just a few months, so this could continue to cause big problems in the region in 2020.

Insecurity in Middle East and Asia

In the Middle East, 43 million more people are dealing with similar challenges. Yemen is the most food-insecure country in the world, with 15.9 million (53% of its analyzed population) in crisis. It’s also the only area where food insecurity is at a Catastrophe (IPC/CH Phase 5) level, a result of almost three years of civil war.

global food crisis 2020 middle east

Another troubled spot in the Middle East is Afghanistan, where 11.3 million people find themselves in a critical state of acute food insecurity. Over 138,000 refugees returned to the country from Iran and Pakistan between January-March 2020, putting a strain on food resources.

Over half (51%) of the analyzed population of Pakistan also faces acute food insecurity, the highest in all of Asia. These numbers have been worsened by extreme weather conditions such as below-average monsoon rains.

An Incomplete Analysis

As COVID-19 deteriorates economic conditions, it could also result in funding cuts to major humanitarian organizations. Upwards of 300,000 people could die every day if this happens, according to the World Food Program’s executive director.

The GRFC report also warns that these projections are still inadequate, due to major data gaps and ongoing challenges. 16 countries, such as Iran or the Philippines have not been included in the analysis due to insufficient data available.

More work needs to be done to understand the true severity of global food insecurity, but what is clear is that an ongoing pandemic will not do these regions any favors. By the time the dust settles, the food insecurity problem could be compounded significantly.

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