And the heart of the problem here is that global aging and population decline are mainly driven by a withering away of the family— the basic unit of human life up to this point. And therein lies the problem. As an arithmetic matter, the greying of societies is driven much more by smaller families than longer lives. But longer lives also mean that middle aged and even elderly children will increasingly be responsible for ancient living parents. Consider the outlook for China. Demographic simulations by Ashton Verdery and myself suggest the dilemmas that may face middle aged people in China in less than a generation: By 2040 it is likely that Sixtysomething couples in China will have at least one living parent to look after; many will have two or three to think about. But those prospective elders are elders with descendants. With the rise in (voluntary) childlessness around the world, growing numbers of elders will have no relatives—or no close relatives—to count on.
- Date Posted:
- December 4, 2023
One question from the Michigan survey asks whether people think now is a good time to buy big household items. When the pandemic hit, Democrats and Republicans alike moved sharply towards “not a good time to buy”. But just months later, when Joe Biden won the presidential election — while Covid-19 still raged — Democrats suddenly declared conditions ripe for purchases of new fridge-freezers. Republicans did not. It seems US consumer sentiment is becoming the latest victim of expressive responding, where people give incorrect answers to questions to signal wider tribal political or social affiliations. My advice: if you want to know what Americans really think of economic conditions, look at their spending patterns. Unlike cautious Europeans, US consumers are back on the pre-pandemic trendline and buying more stuff than ever.