Welcome to Demography Unplugged.
I’m Neil Howe. I am the author of a dozen books on generations, history, global aging, and economic policy. I am also managing director of demography at Hedgeye Risk Management. My latest book, The Fourth Turning is Here, is now out from Simon & Schuster.
Most readers know me for my theories about generational change and cycles of history in the modern world. The foundation for this approach was first laid out in the books Generations: The History of America’s Future (1991) and The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy (1997), which I wrote with my late collaborator Bill Strauss.
Other readers, especially my business and public-sector clients, know me better for my work on demographic and economic trends, population aging, long-term economic policy, and the impact of generational aging on the social mood as a whole and on how our institutions (political, cultural, business, and military) function.
Demography Unplugged is an attempt to bring together these interdisciplinary interests. I define “demography” very broadly to include all the ways in which people behave in large groups. This definition includes not just people's births and deaths, but also extends to their behavior in every other sphere of social life (elections, employment, leadership, investment, entertainment)—indeed to the very hopes and fears that motivate them. This is the "unplugged" part. What’s more, the goal here will not be merely to describe, but to forecast. A fundamental axiom of all my work is that social behavior is to some degree predictable. If it weren't, all our discussion would be a waste of time.
The content will be broad and diverse, but in general we will cover:
Breaking demographic trends (birth rates, life expectancy, migration, population change, and so on), and their impact on politics, society, and culture. So yes, we start with demography in the narrow sense.
Breaking economic trends, with a special (monthly) focus on U.S. cyclical economic indicators.
Generational trends, both national and global, together with population-wide shifts in social mood and public opinion.
My own latest reflections on turnings and generational archetypes in history—and especially on where America and the world stands in our current Fourth Turning.
The newsletter is a collaborative effort between me and my team: analysts Christian Ford, Jennifer Shen, and Matthew Ahern. If there are two goals that we all share in putting out this newsletter, it’s that we want to remain analytical, interdisciplinary, and future-oriented. Because we’re eager to know where we’re going next, we’re insatiably curious about the current state of the world and how we got here. Our primary goal is to analyze and predict, not to praise, blame, or take sides. We would love for you to join us.
How does it work?
Free and paid subscribers
We generally publish 3-5 posts per week for paid subscribers. Free subscribers receive 1-2 of these posts per week. Our regular features include:
NewsWires: our takes on demographic and social trends, current events, and social science research. Monday NewsWires are longer, more essay-like reads; Saturdays are bite-sized; and midweek roundup posts cover several interesting news items and data for your week. Recent Monday topics include Americans’ fertility aspirations since the 1950s and the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs.
Signal & Noise: my column. Here I may choose to write about anything. Yet readers of my books on historical cycles and generational personalities will often find me, in this column, offering my latest thoughts about how to apply the Strauss-and-Howe paradigm to current events.
Trend Watch: our podcast. Yes, it’s back. When I began working on my latest book, I had to put our podcast—then also called Demography Unplugged—on hold due to time constraints. I’ve always enjoyed recording these with Christian and look forward to doing them regularly again.
All About the Indicators (paid subs only): a monthly video series on macro economic indicators. Matthew and I take viewers through the whole waterfront of recognized macro signals, explains their various strengths and weaknesses, and offer our take on the current recession outlook. Paid subscribers receive these videos via e-mail after a one-week delay.
Indicator Alerts: occasional written commentary on recession indicators. These are followups to the All About the Indicators videos.
We will periodically release videos, interviews with special guests, and Q&A sessions with me for paid subscribers. Paid readers are also able to leave comments and view all of our past newsletters. Sign up for $15 monthly, or $150 annually.
Premium subscribers receive all of the content mentioned above, as well as immediate access to the All About the Indicators videos and exclusive access to their accompanying chartbooks. In addition, they have exclusive access to:
BlackBooks, deep-dive presentations into U.S. and global demographic indicators, in both video and print.
Premium subscribers also receive invites to group Zoom calls, where I will share updates on my work and answer any questions. Sign up at $400 annually, or another amount at your discretion.
What are my subscription options?
As part of our launch, most of the posts we publish are now free for a limited time, with the exception of the content that is exclusively for Premium subscribers. A paid subscription is also required to comment and access our large archive of posts.
After the launch period ends, the subscription options will be:
Free - Posts 1-2x/week.
Paid ($15/month, $150/year) - Posts 3-5x/week (including all NewsWires, the Trend Watch podcast, and Signal & Noise) + the ability to comment, read all past posts, and participate in Q&A sessions. AATI videos will be sent on a one-week delay without the accompanying PDF chartbooks.
Premium ($400/year) - All content above + immediate access to our in-depth videos on demographics and the economy (All About the Indicators and BlackBooks) and their PDF chartbooks + invites to group Zoom calls.
Who’s this for?
We welcome all readers. Some of you are finance or demography wonks who are here for the indicators and projections; others are Fourth Turning fans. Still others just find the trends we highlight to be unusually interesting. Our hope is that those who come for one purpose may find our other content engaging as well.
Bill and I began working on both the theory of cyclical generations and our forecast for the future back in the late 1980s. Remarkably, readers’ interest in our approach has steadily increased over time as recent global events have appeared to vindicate the vision of the future that we first proposed nearly 30 years ago.
I hope this Substack will provide an outlet for people who are interested in generational theory to connect and share their thoughts. The most valuable lesson I have learned from engaging with readers over the years is that being part of a larger community leads to insights that no single person can discover.
Please note that due to my writing commitments, I will not be able to respond to individual comments most of the time. But I read them all, and I look forward to engaging with your ideas in my column and in Q&As.
Substack is a new venture for me and my team. For the past several years, our work has mostly been available only to institutional clients. But I wanted to do more—to offer options that are affordable to readers who simply find these topics interesting while still remaining accessible to those whose demand for analysis is more professional. Demography Unplugged, we hope, will enable us to keep writing and talking while investing in more data research and even bigger projects.
If you value the time and effort that go into our work, please consider signing up for a paid subscription. Your support makes this newsletter possible.