business news in context, analysis with attitude

America, it seems, is older than ever.

The New York Times reports on Census Bureau data showing that "the median age in the United States reached a record high of 38.9 in 2022 … It’s a rapid rise. In 2000, the median age was 35, and in 1980, the median was 30."

The Times goes on:

"While many 38-year-old millennials may still feel young, that age is an unusually high median for the country.  The new data adds to the evidence that, like many European and Asian nations, the United States is graying, posing challenges for the work force, the economy and social programs.

"Low birthrates are the main driver of the nation’s rising median age, experts said … Birthrates fell steeply in the first year or so of the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, they have ticked up. Still, since the beginning of the Great Recession, in 2007, fertility has remained very low compared with previous generations.

"The trend is international, even affecting countries with much stronger social programs than the United States, like Norway, Sweden and Finland, which heavily subsidize child care.

"Across industrialized nations, women of the millennial generation have been more likely to prioritize education and work in their 20s, leading to them marrying older and having fewer children, according to researchers."

KC's View:

To be honest, if we were 30-40 years younger and we were talking about having children, I'm not sure how I'd feel about it.  It isn't exactly that I've abandoned hope;  it is just that my internal gyroscope tends to veer wildly between optimism and cynicism.

To me, the bigger problem about the aging of America is the aging of our ability to be innovative and adventurous.  Ernest Hemingway once wrote that "Hesitation increases in relation to risk in equal proportion to age," and I think that as we age, people generally become more fearful, more worried, more protective of what they have, less idealistic, less willing to take those risks.

That's not good for a country, a culture, or a planet.  We are - whether in our personal and business lives, as well as in our public policies - only as great as our ideals.

But Hemingway also said, "The thing is to become a master and in your old age to acquire the courage to do what children did when they knew nothing."