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Below is a complimentary Demography Unplugged research note written by Hedgeye Demography analyst Neil Howe. Click here to learn more and subscribe.

Howe: Goodbye To The Sharing Economy? - 6 4 2020 11 58 50 AM

With issues like sanitation and flexible booking top of mind, hotels may now have an edge over home-sharing services like Airbnb. While the entire travel industry is suffering, Airbnb is likely to have a harder time convincing customers that their offerings are virus-free. (The New York Times)

NH: In the age of social distancing, sharing is not caring. While the pre-COVID world was all about crowdsourcing and carefree togetherness, the new marketplace will look much different. And the sharing economy will be especially hit hard by coronavirus.

To begin with, our world will become more formal. With Airbnb, we causally slept in strangers' homes. But now that we are obsessed with cleanliness, the formal hotel, where the staff is paid to wear masks and do deep cleanings, becomes more attractive.

Or think of WeWork where different startups all casually worked in the same space. Forget about "hoteling" your workspace.

Something similar may appear with premium limos and taxis: Rather than take an Uber, many people may prefer a more formal contract with a more regulated carrier. 

People are also going to become more self sufficient. We're all familiar with the so-called "blow-dryer economy" (I'll pay you to do my hair and you pay me to do yours). That sort of redundant marketplace complexity has exploded since the 1980s--and has contributed hugely to accelerated GDP growth.

From preparing our meals to raising our kids to exercising our bodies, we weren't actually doing any more of it. We were all simply paying each other to do it.

As Americans congregate into autarkic family "bubbles," we're no longer paying each other for all these services. We're acting more like real households again. (Reminder: the very word "economy" comes from the ancient Greek word for household, a place where substantial production was supposed to take place.)

This contraction in the scope of marketplace activity has parallels to the 1930s. IMO, it will be one of the most profound and durable consequences of the pandemic recession.

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ABOUT NEIL HOWE

Neil Howe is a renowned authority on generations and social change in America. An acclaimed bestselling author and speaker, he is the nation's leading thinker on today's generations—who they are, what motivates them, and how they will shape America's future.

A historian, economist, and demographer, Howe is also a recognized authority on global aging, long-term fiscal policy, and migration. He is a senior associate to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C., where he helps direct the CSIS Global Aging Initiative.

Howe has written over a dozen books on generations, demographic change, and fiscal policy, many of them with William Strauss. Howe and Strauss' first book, Generations is a history of America told as a sequence of generational biographies. Vice President Al Gore called it "the most stimulating book on American history that I have ever read" and sent a copy to every member of Congress. Newt Gingrich called it "an intellectual tour de force." Of their book, The Fourth Turning, The Boston Globe wrote, "If Howe and Strauss are right, they will take their place among the great American prophets."

Howe and Strauss originally coined the term "Millennial Generation" in 1991, and wrote the pioneering book on this generation, Millennials Rising. His work has been featured frequently in the media, including USA Today, CNN, the New York Times, and CBS' 60 Minutes.

Previously, with Peter G. Peterson, Howe co-authored On Borrowed Time, a pioneering call for budgetary reform and The Graying of the Great Powers with Richard Jackson.

Howe received his B.A. at U.C. Berkeley and later earned graduate degrees in economics and history from Yale University.