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TODD SMITH: Key demographic trends shaping our world


Demographers recently convened in Chicago for the Population Association of America’s annual meeting, and here is a look at eight of Pew Research Center’s recent findings on demographic trends, ranging from global refugee and migrant flows to changes to family life and living arrangements.

They show how demographic forces are driving population change and reshaping the lives of people around the world.

1. Millennials are the United States’ largest living generation. 

In 2016, there were an estimated 79.8 million Millennials (ages 18 to 35 in that year) compared with 74.1 million Baby Boomers (ages 52 to 70). The Millennial population is expected to continue growing until 2036 as a result of immigration.

By some measures, Millennials have very different lives than earlier generations did when they were young. They’re slow to adopt many of the traditional markers of adulthood. For the first time in more than 130 years, young adults are more likely to be living in their parents’ home than in any other living arrangement. In fact, a larger share of them is living with their parents than with a romantic partner – marking a significant historical shift. More broadly, young adult geographic mobility is at its lowest level in 50 years, even though today’s young adults are less likely than previous generations of young adults to be married, to own a home or to be parents, all of which are traditional obstacles to moving.

2. Americans’ lives at home are changing. 

Following a decades-long trend, just half of U.S. adults were married in 2015, down from 70 percent in 1950. As marriage has declined, the number in cohabiting relationships (living with an unmarried partner) rose 29 percent between 2007 and 2016, from 14 million to 18 million. The increase was especially large among those ages 50 and older: 75 percent in the same period. The “gray divorce” rate – divorces among those 50 and older – roughly doubled between 1990 and 2015.

Also, a record number of Americans (nearly 61 million in 2014) were living in multigenerational households, that is, households that include two or more adult generations or grandparents and grandchildren. Growing racial and ethnic diversity in the U.S. helps explain some of the rise in multigenerational living. The Asian and Hispanic populations overall are growing more rapidly than the white population, and those groups are more likely than whites to live in multigenerational family households.

3. Women may never make up half of the U.S. labor force. 

Women accounted for 46.8 percent of the U.S. labor force in 2015, similar to the share in the European Union. Although women comprised a much larger share of the labor force in 2015 than in 1950 (29.6 percent), the Bureau of Labor Statistics projected the share of women in the workforce will peak at 47.1 percent in 2025 before tapering off.

For those women who do work, the gender pay gap has narrowed. Women earned $0.83 for every $1 a man earned in 2015, compared with $0.64 in 1980. The pay gap has narrowed even more among young adults ages 25 to 34: Working women in that age range made 90 percent of what their male counterparts made in 2015. In 2017, women make up 19 percent of the U.S. Congress and about a quarter of state legislatures; some 8 percent of U.S. governors and 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are female.

4. Immigrants are driving overall workforce growth in the U.S. 

As the Baby Boom generation heads toward retirement, growth in the nation’s working-age population (those ages 25 to 64) will be driven by immigrants and the U.S.-born children of immigrants, at least through 2035. Without immigrants, there would be an estimated 18 million fewer working-age adults in the country in 2035 because of the dearth of U.S.-born children with U.S.-born parents. However, immigrants do not form a majority of workers in any industry or occupational group, though they form large shares of private household workers (45 percent) and farming, fishing, and forestry occupations (46 percent).

Public opinion has turned more positive when it comes to immigrants’ impact on the U.S. workforce. The share of Americans saying that the growing number of immigrants working in the country helps American workers increased 14 percentage points in the last 10 years, from 28 percent in 2006 to 42 percent in 2016.

An estimated 8 million unauthorized immigrants were working or looking for work in 2014, making up 5 percent of the civilian labor force. The number was unchanged from previous years and the share was down slightly since 2009. Although the estimated number of unauthorized immigrant workers was stable at the national level from 2009 to 2014, 15 U.S. states had increases or decreases.

5. The share of births outside of marriage declined for immigrant women from 2008 to 2014, but held steady for U.S.-born women. 

Immigrant women play an important role in overall U.S. fertility trends. Between 1970 and 2014, the increase in the annual number of U.S. births was driven entirely by immigrant women, while births to U.S.-born women fell. The important role of immigrant women in driving U.S. births stems from both the growth in the foreign-born population and the fact that immigrant women have, on average, more children than U.S.-born women.

6. The shares of adults living in middle-income households fell in several countries in Western Europe. 

In seven of 11 Western European countries examined, the share of adults in middle-income households fell between 1991 and 2010. The share of the adult population that is middle income decreased in Finland, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway and Spain (as it did in the U.S.), but increased in France, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. The largest shares of the adult population in middle-income households in 2010 were found in Denmark (80 percent), Norway (80 percent), and the Netherlands (79 percent), while the smallest shares were found in Italy (67 percent), the UK (67 percent) and Spain (64 percent). Each of the Western European countries studied had a larger share of adults in middle-income households than the U.S. (59 percent).

7. European countries received a near-record 1.2 million first-time asylum applications in 2016. 

Some of these applicants may have applied for asylum in multiple countries or arrived in 2015, raising the total number of applications across Europe. The number of asylum applications was down only slightly from the record-setting 1.3 million applications in 2015. Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq were the most common countries of origin for first-time asylum applications in 2015 and 2016, together accounting for over half of the total. Germany was the most common destination country in Europe, having received 45 percent of applications.

8. The U.S. admitted 84,995 refugees in fiscal year 2016, the most since 1999.

More than half resettled in one of just 10 states, with the largest numbers going to California and Texas. Nebraska, North Dakota and Idaho ranked near the top for the most refugees resettled per capita, with rates over two-and-a-half times the national average. And almost half (46 percent) of the fiscal 2016 refugees were Muslim, the highest number for any year since refugees’ self-reported religious affiliation became publicly available in 2002.

Golden Mic | Dolly Parton Increases Donations For Fire Victims, Announces New Organization Dedicated to Restoration

More than five months after wildfires ravaged portions of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Tenn., Dolly Parton hasn’t stopped surprising her hometown fire victims with her generosity.

In December, Parton announced her My People Fund and promised each family who had lost its primary residence in the fires $1,000 a month for the next five months. When Parton arrived this week to help dole out the final payments, she brought the nearly 900 families an unexpected bonus – another $5,000 each for a total of $10,000.

She also revealed another surprise – the creation of the Mountain Tough organization to provide ongoing support to fire victims over the next three years and the pledge to fund it with at least $3 million.

For her longstanding generosity to the communities ravaged by these fires – and big-hearted commitment to helping those in dire need – Parton takes the Golden Mic!

» Todd Smith is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon. 


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