Age and productivity have an out-sized effect on the global economy. The challenge of the next hundred years is to figure out how fewer workers can support an increasingly older population. Greg Ip wrote an in-depth exploration in The Wall Street Journal of how shifting demographics are changing the global economy.
Ever since the global financial crisis, economists have groped for reasons to explain why growth in the U.S. and abroad has repeatedly disappointed, citing everything from fiscal austerity to the euro meltdown. They are now coming to realize that one of the stiffest headwinds is also one of the hardest to overcome: demographics.
Little by little, the world is becoming a better place for the humans who live here, and no amount of bad news seems to slow it down. Improvements in broad economic, health, and security trends are making life better for millions.
Progress is slower than many would want, but there is progress. Poverty and hunger are falling, life expectancy and leisure time are increasing, violence is diminishing, education and literacy are increasing, technology is moving forward fast, and fewer children are dying from preventable diseases.
The press — and humans in general — have a strong negativity bias. Bad economic news gets more coverage than good news. Negative experiences affect people more, and for longer, than positive ones. So it’s natural for things like Russia’s incursion into Ukraine or the rise of ISIS or the Ebola outbreak to weigh on us more than, say, the fact that extreme poverty has fallen by half since 1990, or that life expectancy is increasing, especially in poor countries.
It makes sense that bad news gets more coverage. Bad news is what people tune in for, and people tuning in is what advertisers pay for.
But could there be a better way to distribute news? It would be interesting to see advertisers sponsor news outlets dedicated to good news. It seems that would be a more attractive narrative with which to associate a brand. And I’m sure there is a large audience out there who are hungry for the good news of the day.
Derek Thompson and Jordan Weissmann writing in The Atlantic:
[T]he shift away from traditional suburbs toward denser, urban-light living could have major economic-growth implications on its own. Economic research shows that doubling a community’s population density tends to increase productivity by anywhere between 6 percent and 28 percent. Economists have found that more than half of the variation in output per worker across U.S. states can be explained by density. Our wealth, after all, is determined not only by our own skills and talents, but by our ability to access the ideas of those around us; there’s a lot to be gained by increasing the odds that smart people might bump against each other.
Tyler Cowen1 once walked into class the day of the final exam and he said. “Here is the exam. Write your own questions. Write your own answers. Harder questions and better answers get more points.” Then he walked out.
I don’t think I could handle that kind of test. via