Social Change and How the Great Recession Has Accelerated It

In my last conversation with the Millennials we discussed whether global capitalism was shifting to another economic system and whether we were undergoing a Copernican Revolution of sorts with regard to the economy. We also discussed how best to describe this change and how the Great Recession is changing society.

In an effort to provide context for the discussion I shared the following statistics with the guests. As some of these statistics surprised many of my guests, including my co-host Dawna Jones, I felt that they were worth sharing with a larger audience in an effort to generate a much larger discussion.

The Statistics:

Startup Growth

Startup formations have dropped significantly over the past 30 to 40 years. Contrary to public perception, Boomers are starting up companies faster than Millennials. In the past 20 years the portion of young entrepreneurs has almost halved.

  • Startup formations: According to Census Bureau data reported by the Kauffman Foundation and the Brookings Institution, the number of new companies as a share of all U.S. businesses has dropped 44 percent since 1978.
  • The Boomers are a startup-happy bunch–over the past decade, the portion of founders in their 50s and 60s has increased, according to Kauffman data. By contrast, the portion of 20- and 30-year-old entrepreneurs has declined. In 1996, young people launched 35 percent of startups. By 2014, it was 18 percent.

As a startup it is difficult to compete against monopolies with great concentrations of capital. 

Demographic Shifts

The populations of the advanced economies are shrinking and aging.

  • U.S. population growth is shrinking.
  • The population is also graying. Like Europe and Japan, it is an aging society.

Life Expectancy

Life expectancy in the U.S. is stagnating, and declining for some populations.


Americans are straddled with debilitating debt, and it will continue to grow. Cost of living increases are outpacing income growth.


In the past 75 years the percentage of Americans with college degrees has increased by about 5 times for men and by over 9 times for women. Women are now earning more degrees than men. College achievement in the U.S. has been falling internationally.

Only a small percentage of the jobs available TODAY require a college degree.

However, by 2020 more than 65 percent of all jobs will require some form of postsecondary education.

  • Jamie Merisotis believes, however, that we are interpreting the data incorrectly. The BLS’ data aren’t meant to measure education demand or whether people are in jobs appropriate for their skills.
  • Data designed to forecast education demand show the integral role increasing higher education attainment plays in individuals’ and the nation’s success. The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, for example, has calculated that by 2020, more than 65 percent of all jobs will require some form of postsecondary education.
  • With current graduation rates, the U.S. will be 19.8 million credentials short of the number that are needed in a decade.


Over half a million people are homeless on a given night in the U.S.

Wage Growth

U.S. salaries have fallen since the beginning of the Great Recession, and lag other countries in wage growth.

  • Canada notched the best pay recovery among the nations, with inflation-adjusted salaries rising 7.2% since 2008. Pay rose 5.9% in Australia, 5.2% in France, 5% in Germany and 2.4% in Italy. Salaries fell 0.1% in the UK.

Prison Population

The U.S. has the largest prison population in the world by orders of magnitude.

Employment Crisis

The U.S. is undergoing a major employment crisis, and the economy is far weaker than being reported.

Labor Force Participation

The percentage of working age men that do not have a job today is similar to the Great Depression.

Economic inequality

Economic inequality is accelerating globally.



Which group of statistics strike you most profoundly?

Which statistics do you disagree with most?

What questions do you have?


About Dan & Agile and Beyond:

Dan Feldman is the creator and host of the Agile and Beyond podcast. With Agile practitioners, design thinkers, team builders, organization designers, entrepreneurs, and visionaries, he explores the future of work, education, and society. With the digital age demanding greater collaboration, enhanced creativity, and heightened agility, he examines avant-garde, responsive, collaborative team and organization designs as well as the shifts in our individual and collective perception of experience and purpose. Tune in!

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