A couple of early warning signs for us. One I’ve written about before (here’s one such): the demographics of Social Security.
When Social Security was instituted…there were roughly 7 workers paying into the system for every retiree and a retiree lifespan in retirement was about 6 years.
Today…the number of workers paying into the system is around 3 for each retiree, and that number is falling. Then, each retiree is expected to live for 17+ years in retirement.
Now we’re seeing the beginnings of a regional realization of that demographic crisis. Although this example specifically concerns the legal industry in the Midwestern rust belt, I think it’s symptomatic of the larger problem.
- The Great Lakes/Midwest region…will fall short of recreating the base of manufacturing activity that produced a strong upwardly mobile middle class of the kind that sustains high-level educational activity.
- The region’s populations are static, aging, or declining with the result that the applicant pool for law schools in the geographic area is falling.
- The region’s lawyer job markets are saturated to the point that there are not a significant number of new jobs being created, and the replacement market that depends on the deaths or retirement of lawyers currently in practice is slow moving.
These come against a backdrop of our national fertility rate, the average number of children born to a healthy woman over her lifetime, of around 1.9. This is relatively high compared to most other nations, but it’s below a population replacement, the rate at which a population is maintained at its current level rate of around 2.1.
This is the beneficial effect of immigration. Immigrants easily make up for these population shortfalls. Immigration, for instance, will contribute to alleviating the population/labor shortage in the Midwest, and by their existence, those workers will contribute to mitigating the worker-to-retiree ratio.
Certainly, we need secure borders, and certainly, we need to allow in only those who do us economic good. But just as certainly, if we don’t make legal immigration easy to do, if we don’t have a positive immigration rate, we won’t solve this problem. We’ll just continue our slide.