Demographics are at the core of what we do here at Zeihan on Geopolitics. More than just a count of population, demographic data–often expressed as a pyramid-shaped graph–can deliver a wealth of information about a society. Is the country in question rapidly aging? Are they going to experience a labor or tax revenue shortage, or a windfall? Coupled with other information, a firm grasp of a demographic profile can help you easily start to put together a country’s geopolitical reality.
Here in the United States, our demographic realities have long been dominated by the Baby Boomers. The largest generation in American history, they have had an outsized impact on the rapid social and economic transformation of the American post-War era. And as the Boomers enter mass retirement, their exit from the labor force is going to have a similar impact on the American economy.
But these impacts won’t be felt equally across the board. Cultural and generational differences mean that in certain fields–such as the trades–American Boomers occupy an outsized percentage of jobs. Society pushed Gen X and millennials toward higher education and away from things like blue-collar work. The United States was able to lean on immigrant labor, chiefly from Mexico, to fill gaps. But it was still mainly Mexican Boomers coming to do the work.
With the Baby Boomers aging out of the labor pool en masse, and with immigrant flows from Mexico unlikely to ever reach their heyday of the late 1990s and early aughts, significant pressures on the US labor market are here to stay. One of the industries most impacted? Trucking. And the reverberations of that reality are being felt across the entire US supply chain.
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