The world is changing at a fast pace making it difficult to keep up and even more difficult to know what it all means for us and our children and grandchildren.
Only a generation ago, sixty percent of college students in American colleges were men. Today, that is reversed; sixty percent of college students are women.
When men were drafted for military service during World War One, government administrators were surprised to discover that those men typically had only six or seven years of schooling. Today, sixty-one percent of young people say that completing a good education is extremely important. They are on to something. Increasingly, jobs that pay well will be available only to people who have advanced education. The consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts that automation will eliminate 38 percent of U.S. jobs during the next 15 years.
A generation ago, about 85 percent of American women were married by age 29. Now, only about 45 percent are married by that age. The fertility rate among American women is half of what it was in mid-twentieth century. It is now 1.86. The replacement rate for the U.S. is 2.08. The fraction after the decimal accounts for childhood mortality, and it varies from country to country depending on health care systems, war, and wealth. Fertility rates can be important to national power and well-being. The Japanese, who attempt to maintain racial purity and do not allow immigration, have a low fertility rate (1.42) and a declining population. If something doesn’t change, Japan will become an unproductive home for the elderly. Germany also has a low fertility rate (1.39), but Germany is accepting refugees in an attempt to prevent state decline.
Women now hold 47 percent of the jobs in the U.S. That percentage will very probably increase to greater than half of the jobs in the foreseeable future. Women are becoming more influential in America with every passing day. Those among us who have fond impressions of mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, and teachers are not disappointed. America will be a better society.
One hundred and thirty-one years ago the Sears & Roebuck company opened for business. It was America’s largest retail merchandiser for 103 years. Now, it is rapidly declining and may be failing. The company sold its famous Craftsman brand of tools, and has been closing brick and mortar stores during the past few years. Sears is undoubtedly getting a lot of competition from the online merchandising companies that accept orders, electronically, and ship the merchandise to the customers. Ironically, Sears operated in a similar manner during its first 39 years of existence. People ordered from catalogs and Sears shipped the merchandise to the customers. Too much success can be a problem. It becomes difficult to recognize when it is time to change.
Economic changes and the concentration of political influence among the wealthy is a fact we need to confront. In the words of Vanderbilt Law School professor Ganesh Sitaraman writing in The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution, “The number one threat to American constitutional government today is the collapse of the middle class.” Peter Temin, professor of economics emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology puts it this way in his book, The Vanishing Middle Class, “…the stretch of incomes is fraying the unity of the nation.” “…the earnings of median-income workers have not risen for forty years.” However, you probably notice that prices continually increase even if wages do not.
Even stock car auto racing has changed. The 160,000 seat NASCAR venue at Bristol, TN, had 55 consecutive sellouts—until 2016 when the facility was only half full.
One very influential change is in our face every day: social media. The social media aspect of our lives continues to change faster than a hummingbird heartbeat. In urban areas, people seem to have an electronic device in hand no matter what they are doing. These systems provide vast benefits, but the “social” part raises some questions. Electronic friendship is not really very social. There is an old expression, “Out of touch.” Maybe that means something.
Jack Stevenson is retired, served two years in Vietnam as an infantry officer, retired from military service, and worked three years as a U.S. Civil Service employee. He also worked in Egypt as an employee of the former Radio Corporation of America (RCA). Currently, he reads history, follows issues important to Americans, and writes commentary for community newspapers.