trendSCAN - November 2019

trendSCAN November 2019


In this version:

  • Did You Know?
  • Signs of the Times
  • Key Structural Drivers of the Economic Outlook
  • Key Structural Drivers of the Economic Outlook
  • The Heat is On:  Generational Wild Fire
  • Millennials Not Doing Well on Health
  • Kindness Makes a Comeback
  • New Climate Realities
  • E-sports Shows the Money
  • Use of Social Media by Teens and Associated Risks
  • Bird Emergency:  Even California’s State Bird
  • Takeaways 




Takeaways, a set of quick comments or questions as to how a particular trend or innovation potentially impacts parks and recreation.  It is featured right at the beginning of every trendSCAN so that readers and innovators can quickly identify trends and ideas and then move on to added insight identified in the body of information. 

Not Everybody Can Afford Our Opportunities. Occasionally, trendSCAN takes a quick look at the program brochure and rental policies of some of the better-known public agencies. It likely comes as no surprise that many of these ‘better known’ agencies are in communities with relatively high median incomes. In these communities there is usually a 10% - 12% level of people living below the poverty level as there is likely everywhere. In addition, there are just as many families living below that high median income level. The surprise is the consistently high levels of fees being charged for basic services such as children’s’ swimming lessons or youth sports. It is important to remember that median income refers to the most frequent level of income and does not necessarily reflect the financial resources of everyone in the community even those who are reported to be below the poverty level. Try to make sure you are not inadvertently leaving some children out. (Did You Know? Low Earners)

The General Public Loves Us. Building on that Brand Loyalty. A recent survey by the National Recreation and Park Association found that nearly 95% of people surveyed believe local parks and recreation to be valuable. Great news and now agencies can build upon that belief by determining just what it is that their community values most and creating brand loyalty around that. (Did You Know? Americans Love Their Parks and Brand Loyalty)

Kids Have Fallen out of Favor. During the era of Baby Boomers when there were so many babies and children around, the focus of society was upon those youth. Communities built schools and play fields and the federal government did their part as well. Look how far the attention and value has fallen as federal funding for services are at the lowest level in a decade and public and nonprofit agencies are compelled to recoup full expenses through revenue even for children’s programs. (Did You Know? Children in Poverty, Federal Spending for Children and Cost of Infant Care)

Mental Health. Fear of job loss, All work and no play. There is likely a connection between fear of job loss and losing paid vacation time at the end of the year. There is really little parks and recreation can do about this other than the good things they are doing now but it is a good reminder of the stress under which people play. (Did You Know? AI and Fear of Job Loss AND Signs of the Times – All Work and Less Play)


Did You Know?

California is Home to Innovation. According to Forbes Magazine, California is home to five of the six most innovative companies in the world.

American Debt Reaches All Time High. According to Motley Fool, American debt has reached a record. Consumer debt is $13.3 trillion and credit card debt is $834 billion.

Children in Poverty. While unemployment is down and income is slightly up, children remain the largest group in poverty in this country. According to the most recent Economic Poverty Report is back to its 2000 level as 18.4% of children live in poverty and 13% of children live in areas of concentrated poverty.

Low Wage Earners. A substantial number of American workers are employed in low hourly wage work. There are 53 million or 44% of the people ages 18 to 64 who fall into this situation and 56% of them are in their prime working years ages 25 – 50. In addition, 43% are raising children (Brookings)

Federal Spending for Children Lowest in a Decade. The $4 trillion federal budget spends about 9% on children and 8% to paying the interest on the national debt. According to the Urban Institute’s Annual Kids Share report, the proportion of federal spending dropped by 2.5% between 2017 and 2018 making it the lowest percentage in the decade.

AI and Fear of Job Loss. According to the quarterly CNBC/SurveyMonkey Workplace Happiness Survey, 37% of workers between the ages of 18 and 24 are worried about new technology eliminating their jobs. That’s nearly 10% higher than any other demographic. Industries such as retail, business and logistics, automotives, and marketing and advertising have the highest levels of fear about technology-caused job losses.
Economic Impact of Trails, Walking, and Biking Infrastructure. Recently released research from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy found that the public investments of such projects have potential economic benefits of $138.5 billion annually.

Americans Love Their Parks and Value Nature. Newly released report from the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) reveals that more than 9 in 10 people agree parks and recreation is an important local government service and nearly 93% of those surveyed believe it is important to protect natural resources, including fresh air and clean water, through the acquisition and maintenance of local parks, trails and green spaces.

Brand Loyalty. A recent survey of U.S. Consumers found that 66% of those surveyed wanted brands to engage in social and political issues. The same preference is true for 18 to 34-year-olds who recorded this preference at 73% (Forbes)

Cost of Infant Child Care and In-State College Tuition. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services the average full-time infant childcare is more than the average cost of in-state tuition at a public university and is nearly 20% of median household incomes.


Signs of the Times

HBO’s Mental Health Warnings. HBO has decided to run mental health warnings before several of its shows that feature suicidal or depressed characters as well other characters with mental health issues. These shows will include Euphoria, the Sopranos, Barry, and the Girls. It is intended to raise awareness and conversations about mental health. (Bloomberg)’

Waze Car-Pool App’s First Year. Waze, the Google owned car app, was intended to cut down on traffic problems by showing drivers the quickest ways to get to their destinations. However, that initial purpose didn’t seem to make much of a dent in congestion, so Google expanded the program to carpools and had one million people sign up in year one. People put in their zip code and state a day, time, and general locations where they are headed and neighbors going that way have the option of picking these people up. No guaranteed ride like Uber or Lyft (USA Today)

Amazon Wants Good Behavior. The Echo Dot Kids Edition encourages good behavior and politeness as Alexa solves problems or provides information only when they are asked politely (USA Today)

The eRosary. The traditions of the Catholic Church have now met technology with the eRosary. The wearable bracelet with 10 beads and a cross costs $110. You begin a prayer session by making a sign of the cross. That’s when an accelerometer inside the beads recognizes movement, connects to your phone via Bluetooth, and kicks off your session, tracking your progress as you go. (USA Today)

‘Sliming’ Pays Off. Nicolette Waltzer is a 23-year-old living in Westchester County, NY made a million dollars in her first-year sliming. She has more than 2 million followers on Instagram; and travels all over the country to appear at weekend slime festivals. Waltzer is not the only one attending these events which are becoming popular all over the country or making money at this latest fad. (Sarasota Herald)

Gen Z Makes Gains on Wages. The new entrants to the workforce ages 20 to 24 are experiencing a better job market as they are receiving wage increases that average 6% over the annual wage gains of all in the U.S. workforce (the Conference Board)

All Work and Less Play make both Jack and Jill dull and stressed. Over half (53%) of the U.S. workforce will leave the end of the year with more than half their paid vacation given to them by employers un-used. And among those who do go on vacation, 29% indicated that their supervisors expect them to be available for work during that time and 38% of them check their email while gone. (2019 Priceline Work-Life Balance Report)

Black News Channel in 2020. Co-founded by J.C. Watts and CEO Bob Brillante a 24/7 news channel specifically designed for African American viewers will hit the airwaves, wireless cellular services, and streaming video early in 2020.


Key Structural Drivers of the Economic Outlook

The head of the Dallas Federal Reserve, Robert Kaplan, provided the following information that he feels explains the economic outlook of the United States.  Kaplan outlines what he calls ‘structural drivers’ in the U.S. Economy as follows:The head of the Dallas Federal Reserve, Robert Kaplan, provided the following information that he feels explains the economic outlook of the United States.  Kaplan outlines what he calls ‘structural drivers’ in the U.S. Economy as follows:

  • Demographic Trends
  • Technology
  • Globalization
  • U.S. Government Debt and GDP

Kaplan also indicates that there are other major trends such as climate change leading to increased frequency and intensity of severe weather events, such as hurricanes, droughts, floods, and other disruptive impacts that shape the economy, but does not address it in this particular column. 

Demographic Trends and Issues

  • The median age of the population has risen from approximately 35.3 years in 2000 to 38.2 in 2018.
  • The share of population 65 years or older has risen from 12.4 % in 2000 to 16.0% in 2018.
  • As baby boomers leave the workforce, U.S. labor force growth is slowing, and slower labor force growth is critically important because GDP growth is made up of growth in the workforce plus growth in labor productivity.
  • Labor force growth is key to providing for sustained economic growth. 
    • Increasing female labor force participation boosted growth from the 1950s to the 1990s.
    • Since the 1990s, U.S. labor force growth has been helped by older workers staying in the workforce longer.
    • Throughout our history, immigration of workers has also been a key aspect of U.S. labor force growth.
    • More than 50 % of workforce growth over the past 20 years has come from immigrants and their children.

The biggest takeaway from an economic point of view related to demographics is the slowing workforce growth. 

Technology, Technology-Enabled Disruption, and Education/Skills Training

Technology has many benefits but it also leads to disruptions and changes in society. One of the more important areas to examine is the way that these technologies have impacted a number of industries and subsequently the work force.  The Dallas Fed article maintains that intensifying technology and technology-enabled disruption is improving the productivity of a substantial number of U.S. companies and industries. However, productivity improvement is measured not by industry, but by improvement in average output per worker in the overall economy.  

Impact;  Technology is obviously experienced differently by workers based on their educational attainment and/or skill levels.

  • Those who are one of the 46 million workers in this country with a high school education or less, and/or have a routine type of middle-skills job are likely finding jobs being either restructured or eliminated as a result of technology.
  • Many workers with less education may find that ‘real’ wages and productivity are declining in a new age in which skills training and educational achievement levels are increasingly critical to adapting to the jobs market.

Dallas Fed economists believe that in order to address the powerful structural driver of technology and technology-enabled disruption, the U.S. must do more to improve early-childhood literacy, college readiness, and skills training at our high schools and community colleges. These efforts should be a powerful investment in improving the quality and productivity of our human capital which, in a technological age, are essential to higher levels of GDP growth in the U.S.

Globalization and Trade

Global competitiveness is the future.  The U.S. makes up less than 5 % of the world’s population but it is believed that the Standard and Poor’s 500 companies in the U.S. now generate in excess of 40 % of their revenues from outside the U.S.

Dallas Fed economists have suggested that U.S. trade analysis should segment our trading relationships into those which are primarily final goods versus those which are largely intermediate goods. Our trade with China is primarily on final goods while with a country like Mexico is primarily intermediate.   Having more final good production and important makes for a stronger economy.

U.S. Government Debt to GDP

Today the percentage of U.S. government debt is about 76% of our Gross Domestic Product. And unfunded entitlements are estimated at $59 trillion.  These two statistics suggest that when the deficit exceeds $1 trillion as projected in the next year or so that the country’s ability to deal with the next recession is diminished.

The United States presumes that the U.S. dollar will remain the world’s reserve currency which is beneficial for our economic picture but that may not always be the case.


The Heat is On: Generational Wildfire

Past issues of trendSCAN have included substantial information about generations and how the generation in which a person is born shapes many aspects of their lives particularly experiences that carry over to lifelong attitudes and behaviors.  For a substantial period of time trendSCAN focused upon baby boomers especially how they will age differently than the Greatest Generation that preceded them.  More recently, trendSCAN has included trend information about the Millennials and Gen Z, the two youngest cohort groups in our country.

It may well be time to revisit the specifics of generational cohorts due in part to recent discord between generations.  The Boomer OK communication war that initially came out of TikTok has re-ignited a generational war that could potentially become as serious as the one started by the Baby Boomers against the Vietnam War and increasing social permissiveness.

Here’s how it goes.

  • The use of the term, boomer and most especially Boomer OK, can appear to be an insult to the Baby Boomers who are currently between the ages of 55 and 73 years.
  • The term is an effort used mostly by Millennials who make fun of Baby Boomers who are out of touch with the world.
  • The term is used to suggest that older people who may or not actually be a baby boomers who do not understand the challenges of today’s generations, its values and struggles and often don’t care about them either.
  • Baby boomers not offended by the term and its accompanying meaning are usually not offended because they keep more current with the reality of today’s world.

Source:  NBC News


Millennials Not Doing Well on Health

Every generational group differs from one another and sometimes those differences can range from amusing to serious and serious is the nature of one of the differences between Millennials and Gen X .  In this report, Millennials are referenced as people born between 1981 and 1996 and Gen Xers born between 1965 and 1980.  Every generational group differs from one another and sometimes those differences can range from amusing to serious and serious is the nature of one of the differences between Millennials and Gen X .  In this report, Millennials are referenced as people born between 1981 and 1996 and Gen Xers born between 1965 and 1980.  

Millennials may fill many of the gyms and exercise classes across the county and are likely behind the popularity of avocado toast but their health does not reflect those factors.  According to a new Moody’s Analytics Report prepared for the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, the health of the nearly 73 million millennials is declining.

This recently released research found that millennials’ physical and mental health is declining faster than that of the generation before them, Generation X.  The conditions found to be a part of this decline include hypertension, high cholesterol, and behavioral health conditions, including major depression and hyperactivity.  And of course, depression which plagues this group with as alcohol and substance abuse also playing a role.

Serious Potential Impacts

Every trend and accompanying stats come with a potential impact.  This report indicates that:

  • If left unchecked, mortality rates of millennials could rise to a rate over 40% compared to the Gen Xers
  • Health care costs which are already an issue could increase as much as 33% compared to Gen Xers when they were in this same life stage.
  • Other related factors such as more absenteeism from work, unemployment, and slower income growth  could results in $4,500  annual per capita income loss.

Other Conclusions from the Report

The 32-page report suggests:

  • “the beginnings of troubling generational health patterns that could seriously impact the future prosperity of millennials”
  • the subsequent prosperity of the U.S. if the health decline continues
  • such increased health care costs would likely include contributions by individuals, businesses and state and federal governments 

Closing Reminder

The report includes a closing reminder:The U.S. spends 17.9% of its gross domestic product on healthcare, according to the federal government’s National Health Expenditure Accounts and that is more than any other federal government spends in the developed world.

Source:  Fast Company


Kindness Makes a Comeback

Thanks to California and UCLA for being on the cutting edge of trends and change. UCLA has created a new institute dedicated to researching ways in which kindness can benefits individuals and society overall. The UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute is made possible by the kindness of a $20 million alumnus donation from Matthew Harris, the founder of Global Infrastructure Partners.

Its purpose is to learn more about the conditions that make people more likely to be emphatic and kind to others. Officials with this institute hope that by the first full year of operations that they will be able to identify tangible results as to how students and the general public can make kindness a part of daily life. (USA Today)


New Climate Realities

The wildfires that have been ravaging California for months now and have become a fixture over the past few years aren’t  the only evidence of natural disasters in this country.  There are the saltwater-ravaged tunnels in New York, repeated flooding in Houston, and water loss along the Colorado River.  The cost is overwhelming.  Some of those costs include:The wildfires that have been ravaging California for months now and have become a fixture over the past few years aren’t  the only evidence of natural disasters in this country.  There are the saltwater-ravaged tunnels in New York, repeated flooding in Houston, and water loss along the Colorado River.  The cost is overwhelming.  Some of those costs include:

  • Estimated $400 billion in losses from 2018’s wildfires
  • Massive liability costs for the utility companies
  • Residents enduring cost of higher energy bills, higher insurance premiums, and property losses
  • Genuine pain and suffering of people directly impacted.

While decision-makers debate the merits of climate change and address the challenges of restoring such losses, there is little attention paid to the infrastructure itself.  In fact, the reality is that communities continue to build new housing on flood plains or rebuild in areas with repeated physical disasters. The Midwest and other portions of the country seemingly not impacted by these natural disasters continue to build and replace more parking lots, roads, etc.

What is required is new design and approaches to infrastructure are required as continuing to pay for these disasters. 

Globally, the net benefit can be as high as $4 for every $1 invested in more resilient infrastructure

Source:  Metropolitan Policy Program


E-sports Shows the Money

E-gaming and sports were once perceived as being the purview of teenage boys and young adult males but over the years that has changed and it has moved into the arena of BIG money. 

What’s the evidence of that growth in popularity and money?

  • U.S. esports spending by consumers and advertisers including media rights and sponsorship revenues is expected to increase from $221.6 million in 2018 to nearly $516 million in 2023 according to PricewaterhouseCooper.
  • Major esports competitions can draw tens of thousands of attendees or more with prize money in the millions.
  • Pro gamers can make six-figure incomes, not counting sponsorships.
  • Activision Blizzard plans to begin the new Call of Duty league's competition next year. Franchises reportedly sold for $25 million each and is aired on one of the ESPN channels 

What are the signs of growing potential?

  • Owners of traditional professional sports teams including New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft have paid tens of millions to own esports teams. Kraft owns the Boston Uprising, a team in the Overwatch League
  • Sterling Equities that belongs to the owner of the New York Mets bought one of the five Call of Duty World League franchises
  • Viewership has been growing as well with 258 million viewers globally in 2017 according to research firm SuperData.  Putting it into perspective this number compares favorably with the 204 million U.S. viewers who tuned into the 2016 National Football League regular season.  

Source:  PrincewaterhouseCooper and Nielsen Data


Use of Social Media by Teens and Associated Risks

More recently released survey reports on youth and their use of social media.  More recently released survey reports on youth and their use of social media.  

The nonprofit Common Sense Media found that in their survey that more than one-half of 11 year olds now own a smartphone.  Society is down-aging on this form of technology.  Other findings included:

  • Most youth used their phones to watch YouTube even though the company has a policy that viewers must be 13 years or older
  • 56% of 8 to 12 years and older watch video daily; an increase from 24% in 2015

A report released by John Hopkins and published in JAMA reports that 12 to 15-year olds who spend three or more hours a day on social media were about twice as likely to experience depression, anxiety, loneliness, aggression than teens who did not use social media.  Other findings included in this study.  Youth who spend six hours a day were four times more likely than nonusers to have these problems.

Of the nationally representative sample of youth of 6,595 teens surveyed at the time of the study between 2013 and 2014, the following was reported:

  • only 17% said they did not use social media
  • 32% reported using it 30 minutes or less a day
  • 31% indicated 30 minutes of use per day
  • 12% said they were on social media between 3 to 6 hours daily
  • 8% of teens reported use of more than 6 hours a day

The study did not determine the reasons behind the connection between high use of social media and mental health issues but researchers suggested that lack of sleep may lead to increased problems

Source:  The Washington Post


Bird Emergency - Even California's State Bird is at Risk

The Audubon Society’s scientists studied 604 North American birds using 140 million records across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.  The results are not good.  They report indicated that 2/3 of America’s birds will be threatened with extinction if global warming tops 5.4 degrees by 2100.  In addition to global warming, the climate changes in the lower 48 states such as sea-level rise, urbanization, cropland growth, droughts, fires, and heavy rains will also play a role in this emergency.

There are reportedly 389 bird species out of the 604 studied that are at risk.  The state bird of California, the quail; the state bird of Minnesota, the common look, and the state bird of New Jersey, the gold finch are among the candidates for extinction. (Survival by Degrees:  Bird Species on the Brink)

trendSCAN is created by Dr. Ellen O’Sullivan for the California Park & Recreation Society.  Ellen welcomes your comments, questions, and feedback and can be reached at