By Leigh Howe 

Which trends will be influencing our lives, our communities, and our businesses in the coming years?

Boom, Baby, Boom.  Nothing new here.  We’ve all heard about the changes that are coming as the Baby Boomers age, and the first Baby Boomers turned 55 in 2001.  Soon, the 55- to 64-year old age group will grow to 38 million people– the highest growth rate of any 10-year age group.  The group’s household income and spending will also rapidly increase.  This is all good news for full-service restaurants, the travel industry, builders of second homes, and the health and fitness industry.

The Changing Workforce.  According to the 2000 Census, more than half of all workers are employed in management, professional work, sales, or other office-based jobs.  The available jobs of the future will also require more intellectual than physical skills.  Also, workers continue to pursue education opportunities even after getting established in their careers.  You don’t have to be young to go to school now! 

The Better Half?  Women continue to become a force in business. Women’s thinking is influencing how businesses operate, shifting them away from a hierarchical model to a more relational one.  The number of women pursuing higher education continues to outpace the number of men.  According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 37.2% of women between the ages of 18 and 24 were in college in 2002, compared to 30.7% of men.  Also, women own 8 million businesses in the U.S., nearly 1/3 of all firms.  This figure has risen 78% since 1987.

Rising Hispanic Influences.  Hispanics constitute the largest minority group in the U.S. with 35 million people.  This number is expected to increase 35% in this decade, with the majority of the immigrants coming from Latin America.  The Hispanic population is young and households are large.  This will translate into more money spent on food, clothing, and other items for families.

Widening Geographic Differences.  This trend contains two components: the increasing differences between cities, suburbs, and rural areas, and the growth of regional consumer markets.  Half of all Americans now live in suburbia and this population will continue to grow the fastest.  The other half breaks down to 30% in central cities and 20% in rural areas.  Rural area will see the slowest growth.  Also, the gaps in the demographics of regions continue to widen from median age to average income levels to ethnic makeup. For example, the median age in New England is 37 versus 33 in Texas, and on top of that the non-Hispanic white population in New England is 84% of the total population versus 54% percent on the west coast (American Demographics Magazine).  These trends will lead to more distinctive population regions, so local marketing will gain importance over generalized national marketing efforts.

Additional trends to watch might include mass customization of products and services, increased focus on germs and spreading diseases, a revival of the family, and the growing pursuit of the “simple” life.  If you want to read more about predictions of trends and what they might mean for the future, visit the following websites:

º (American Demographics)

º (Faith Popcorn)