Up Next

Market-Based Solutions to Vital Economic Issues


Market-Based Solutions to Vital Economic Issues



Seven powerful demographic trends—analogous to gale force wind gusts in an adverse weather event—constitute potentially powerful disruptors of business and commerce in the years ahead. Four of the gale force demographic disruptors—slowing total and foreign-born population growth, white population loss, and declining fertility— have evolved over the past several decades.

The factors that determine our health go far beyond what happens in the doctor’s office. In this Kenan Insight, we explore how the physical well-being of many Americans has been placed in jeopardy by upstream social and economic factors such as racism, food and job insecurity, and a lack of community and social support systems.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has named Dr. James H. Johnson Jr., William R. Kenan Distinguished Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship and director of the Kenan Institute-affiliated Urban Investment Strategies Center, to the newly created Andrea Harris Social, Economic, Environmental, and Health Equity Task Force.

African American older adults face a major retirement crisis (Rhee, 2013; Vinik, 2015)). Owing to a legacy of racial discrimination in education, housing, employment, and wages or salaries, they are less likely than their white counterparts to have accumulated wealth over the course of their lives (Sykes, 2016). In 2013, the median net worth of African American older adult households ($56,700) was roughly one-fifth of the median net worth of white older adult households ($255,000) (Rosnick and Baker, 2014). Not surprising, given these disparities in net worth, African American older adult males (17%) and females (21%) were much more likely than their white male (5%) and female (10%) counterparts to live in poverty (Johnson and Parnell, 2016; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2013a). They also were more likely to experience disabilities earlier in life and to have shorter life expectancies (Freedman and Spillman, 2016).

In this paper, we develop a sociodemographic profile of the most vulnerable African American older adult households. To do so, we draw data from the 2011–15 American Community Survey, which contains linked housing and person records for a 5 percent sample of U.S. population. This dataset literally allows us to peer inside of African American older adult households and in the process identify the major barriers or obstacles to aging in place.

Older adults will drive U.S. population growth over the next quarter century. Projected to grow four times as fast as the total population, older adults will make up 22 percent of the population in 2040, up from 15 percent in 2015.

On October 27, 2017 the Frank H. Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise (Kenan Institute) hosted The Business of Healthcare: Adapting to an Aging Economy at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The conference brought together more than 100 attendees representing the diverse interests and perspectives of health care and elder care organizations, medical and pharmaceutical companies, patient advocacy organizations, government agencies and the academic research sector.

Older adults will drive U.S. population growth over the next quarter century. Projected to grow four times as fast as the total population, older adults will make up of 22 percent of the population in 2040, up from 15% in 2015. We believe this population aging can be a new engine for innovation, business development, and employment growth in the U.S.

Older adults prefer to age in their homes rather than in an institution. However, in order to successfully age in place, age-friendly modifications are usually necessary to prevent life-threatening accidental falls and exposure to other environmental risks or hazards that unfortunately are all too common among older adults living in their own homes today.

American Community Survey data are used to develop typologies of the generational dynamics and living arrangements of the estimated 1.6 million U.S. older adult households who will likely encounter the most difficulty aging in place. Policy recommendations and strategies are offered to address the specific barriers and challenges that must be overcome in order for these older adults to successfully live out their lives in their homes and community.

Jim Johnson presented at the North Carolina Local Government Budget Association's 2017 Summer Conference in Wilmington about signs of global aging, key drivers, and opportunities for economic development.

A pooled Public Use Microdata Sample File of the Census Bureau’s Annual American Community Survey (2011-2015) is used to (1) create a demographic profile of the nation’s older adult population; (2) develop an older adult household typology which encapsulates both generational dynamics and diverse living arrangements; and (3) identify older adults who face the greatest barriers to aging in place. Policies and strategies that support and facilitate successful aging in place for the most vulnerable older adults are discussed.