Trendspotting: Does Climate Change Help Explain Low Birthrates?

02/20/18 03:00PM EST

NEWSWIRE: 2/20/18

  • A growing number of Xers and Millennials cite climate change as a reason why they aren’t having babies. While economic insecurity has been largely to blame for falling birthrates, environmental concerns might also play a part: In the words of 32-year-old Allison Guy, “I don’t want to give birth to a kid wondering if it’s going to live in some kind of Mad Max dystopia.” (The New York Times)
    • NH: Apparently, some Millennials are driven by a risk-averse need to control all outcomes--even long-term hypotheticals about the planet's future climate. In the 14th century, young adults had children in the face of the Black Death, which killed 1/3 to 1/2 of urban populations throughout Europe and the Mideast. In the mid-20th century, they had children in the face of total war (when, in the words of Mick Jagger, "the blitzkrieg raged and the bodies stank"). In the late 20th century, they had children in the face of fears of imminent great-power nuclear holocaust (recall WarGames) and a long-term population explosion (recall Soylent Green). But hey, Millennials, somehow you got born anyway. The holocaust and "Club of Rome" fears have since abated. Now, however, according to one raving website cited by this article, the future has finally become so hopeless it is time to give up. In fact, the main drivers of lower fertility as a secular trend is that the world is getting better: We invest more in raising kids (making them more costly); we no longer expect them to provide years of labor service or support us in old age (making them less remunerative); and we no longer need to have ten of them just to ensure that two or three make it to a ripe middle age. Yes, Millennials are pulling the fertility rate down a bit from Boomers and Xers, but--contrary to the thesis of this article--little of this is reflected in any decline in intended family size. Most of the decline, rather, is that Millennials are having fewer unintended births, a trend consistent with the dramatic recent fertility declines among women and their teens and early 20s. Which, in its own way, points back toward risk aversion.
  • Millennial Graham Dugoni founded a company, Yondr, that sells small pouches designed to help tech addicts distance themselves from their smartphones. With the consumer “tech-lash” against Silicon Valley and its devices reaching new heights, such products could easily become bestsellers. (The Washington Post)
    • NH: The ultimate tech-lash nightmare for Silicon Valley would be a future in which daily digital time, which has exploded over the last couple of years, actually reverses. This would doom the outyear advertising revenue projections of Google and Facebook. (See: "The Next Big Thing: Danger Ahead for Google and Facebook?") The multiplier impact of devices like Yondr's could be significant: As soon as major events start de-activating mobile phones, it becomes less cool to tweet or video from them--which starts making it less cool even at events that allow phones. Ditto for schools. Millennials, surprisingly, find it easier to comply with phone de-activation than older Xers and Boomers, perhaps because they pay more attention to community rules.
  • Advertising Age recently released a lexicon of phrases and acronyms common among today’s youth, called the “ABCs of Gen Z.” A word of caution: Any marketer that pulls from this list in an attempt to win favor among kids risks coming off as “extra.” (Advertising Age)
    • NH: You may also come across as thirsty. Wow. I can't even...
  • A new column explores the rise of the infomercial—which reached its cultural zenith in the 1990s. Generational change helped propel infomercials to “cult classic” status: “Fortunately, the ascendance of the infomercial coincided with the apogee of Generation X, whose armchair pastime was making fun of terrible movies and television shows.” (The New York Times)
    • NH: The real Xer resonance in these '90s-era infomercials was the near-fanatical focus on personal empowerment. They were all about making you--as an individual--richer, smarter, more focused, more popular, more successful, and more able to obliterate your competitors. Xers also loved to satirize the very genre they created--as in this outlandish take on Tony Robbins' personal empowerment tapes.
  • Colorado produced two of the top three U.S. metros with the fastest-growing young-adult populations from 2000 to 2015 (Colorado Springs at #1 and Denver at #3). What do these areas have in common? Walkability, affordability, and—yes—legalized marijuana. (Brookings Institution)
    • NH: Also, three states saw an absolute decline in the number of young adults (18-34) from 2010 to 2015: West Virginia, Maine, and Illinois. Even in Chicago alone, the annual growth rate was near-zero (0.2%). Other states with very slow young-adult growth rates were just north and south of Illinois: Wisconsin, Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama.
  • YouTube now labels all videos that come from state-funded broadcasters, and is considering placing credibly sourced videos alongside ones promoting conspiracy theories. Russian election meddling, the “fake news” epidemic, and “brand safety” hysteria are transforming services that used to be mere content aggregators into guardians of truthful, brand-friendly content. (The Wall Street Journal)
    • NH: Google and Facebook are starting to run scared. Realizing that "no problem" stonewalling no longer works, they are now backpedaling furiously to try to get back in front of public opinion before legislators start imposing "fairness" regulations. Google says it will hire 10,000 actual people to comb over YouTube content. At the very least this outlay (say $1 billion) will come out of its bottom line. More likely, it will raise the question: If Google has to hire censors to answer to the public interest, why not have these censors answerable directly to the public? No society in history has, for long, allowed its media and communications monopolies to be entirely self-regulated. (See: "The Next Big Thing: Danger Ahead for Google and Facebook?")
  • Amazon is preparing to launch its own delivery service, “Shipping with Amazon,” that will compete directly with FedEx and UPS. While some analysts are skeptical about Amazon’s ability to roll out a vast transportation infrastructure on par with those of other carriers, the company has a long history of exceeding expectations. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • Last year was the second-lowest on record for major work stoppages—which economist Chris Rupkey attributes to generational turnover. With Boomers aging out of the workforce and being replaced by non-confrontational Millennials, Rupkey maintains that “it’s a different era for labor unions.” (Bloomberg Business)
    • NH: The decline in labor stoppages roughly parallels the decline in the union share of all jobs. In 1952, near the apogee of union membership (and Big Labor power in Washington, D.C.), work stoppages accounted for 3.6 out of every 1,000 hours worked. Ever since 2008, it hasn't even rounded up to 0.1 hour.
  • Demographer William H. Frey asks whether Millennials will bridge America’s generational fault lines to make our country whole again. He observes that “Millennials of all racial backgrounds will undoubtedly continue to make the case that investing in a more inclusive, younger America is essential to the nation’s economic success and can only help today’s older populations.” (Los Angeles Times)
    • NH: I like Bill Frey, but I find this piece a bit Pollyannish, as though ceding power to Millennials will automatically solve America's problems. While the political center of gravity does shift--in a blue-zone direction--from older to younger age brackets, Millennials themselves remain deeply divided. For example: Most Millennial males (of all races and ethnicities) voted for Trump; and most Millennial whites (of either gender) voted for Trump. As we recently reported, "identitarian" feelings among younger while Millennials are growing. (See: "Trendspotting: 1/29/18.") This country has yet to sort out some deep and potentially painful issues.
  • Fully 28% of Millennials say that they plan a surprise for their significant other at least once a month—more than Xers and Boomers, who tend to save gifts for holidays or birthdays. While Millennials are often accused of killing romance with apps like Tinder and Bumble, it appears as though this experience-loving generation has a different way of expressing their love. (Reed Public Relations)


      Trump’s Core Weakens. Donald Trump’s job approval ratings are historically low for a first-term president. But does this broad-based measure discount the fervent support of the core that voted Trump into office? That’s the question at the heart of a new wide-ranging analysis of over 600,000 interviews carried out by SurveyMonkey over the past year, which breaks down approval ratings by race, gender, education level, and age. The conclusion: Even Trump’s core support is wavering. In 2016, Trump’s best demographic group was noncollege white voters, 66 percent of whom cast their ballots for the eventual commander-in-chief. But SurveyMonkey finds that just 56 percent of this group approve of Trump’s performance. A similar trend occurs among college-educated white voters: While 48 percent of this group voted for Trump in 2016, just 40% approve of his performance today. Trump is also losing his already-tenuous grasp of certain sociodemographic groups. For instance, approval ratings among white Millennials (who as a whole narrowly turned out for Trump) now range from 49 percent to as low as 24 percent depending on gender and education level.

      © 2020 Hedgeye Risk Management, LLC. The information contained herein is the property of Hedgeye, which reserves all rights thereto. Redistribution of any part of this information is prohibited without the express written consent of Hedgeye. Hedgeye is not responsible for any errors in or omissions to this information, or for any consequences that may result from the use of this information.