Book Excerpt

Recently completed writing a non-fiction book—”Upside: Profiting from the Profound Demographic Shifts Ahead”—that details the influence of population dynamics on business and everyday life. The book, written for and in collaboration with demographic expert Ken Gronbach, was published by AMACOM in May 2017.


Here is an excerpt: 

Chapter XIII

The South Has Indeed Risen Again

Can you answer the following three questions:

How many college football teams from the south ended up on the Associated Press Top 25 list at the end of the 2015 season?

University sports teams from which NCAA conference have been dominating most college athletics for the past 25 years?

Which NCAA college football team has won the most national championships over the past 10 years?     

The answer to the first question is 15 college football teams from southern universities were on the AP Top 25 list at the end of the 2015 season.

The correct answer for the second question would be the Southeastern Conference (SEC), whose 14 member universities have both competed in, and won, far more National Championships in all the college sports combined than any other conference. Additionally, teams from the SEC tend to be highly ranked every season in most of the NCAA-sanctioned sports. 

With wins in four of the last seven college football championship games, the SEC’s University of Alabama has won the most college football national championships over the past 10 years. Oh and college football teams from the south have ended up as national champion or the equivalent for 20 of the past 25 years.

What am I getting at here? Why, Demographics, of course.

While the south has long held football and other sports in high regard, the south’s universities, while winning various championships over the years, only truly became dominant in the various sports with the rise of their population starting in the 1970s. Prior to 1975, college football teams from the south only won the equivalent of 17 national championships from among the 146 years in which a national champion has been named. Since 1975, southern teams have taken 29 of the past 40 national titles.

I would posit that the south’s dominance in sports is due in large part to the vast pool of talent that has arisen with its population over the past 40 years. And I am not alone in this thinking. As reported several years ago in a  Wall Street Journal article bemoaning the declining fortunes of the once vaunted NCAA Big Ten Conference, which is comprised of nine teams from the Midwest and one from Northeast.

According to the article–The Big Ten: Down and Out?– “college’s biggest, richest and oldest major conference,” has lost its powerhouse status and its teams have been on a bowl game losing streak because of a lack of local talent. The conference consists of 10 schools stretching across the demographically challenged midwest into Pennsylvania, and includes nationally recognized football teams from the University of Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State.

The article states that: “The main problem seems to be rooted in the population growth of the South and West, and the greater zeal for high-school football in those regions. Historically, Pennsylvania and Ohio ranked third and fourth all-time in terms of the number of NFL players born within their borders. Florida was fifth. But today, Florida has nearly twice as many active players as Ohio and more than three times as many as Pennsylvania. The South and West continue to benefit because of the national population trend: 47 of the 50 fastest-growing metropolitan areas between 2007 and 2008 were in those regions, according to the Census Bureau. Playing football also is just not as important to Northerners.  In the last school year, more high schoolers in Georgia played football than in Pennsylvania, according to data from the National Federation of State High School Associations, even though Pennsylvania has nearly three million more residents.”

With demographic trends forecast to favor the South and West over the Midwest and Northeast for at least the next 20 years, the Big Ten faces a continued struggle to find local talent.  And if demographics is the talent key, the SEC is best poised to dominate college football, and other collegiate sports, in the coming decades.

And, for the record, sports writers are already proclaiming the University of Alabama and the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Clemson University (South Carolina) to be the most likely contenders for 2017’s national championship.

The South, with just over a Census Bureau-estimated 121 million people as of 2015 representing about 36 percent of the U.S. population, is by a wide margin the most populated of the country’s four regions, and on a numeric basis been experiencing the greatest growth for decades. And despite a few hiccups along the way—population declines in Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina, and a first-time Florida population decline after the housing market meltdown and subsequent recession—the region is expected to maintain its population boom for at least the next 20 years, if not beyond.

At the turn of the 20th Century, the South, with a population of 24.5 million and an overall percentage share of the population of about 32.3 percent, was big, but the Midwest was more populated—26.3 million—and had a greater percentage share—34.7 percent—of the nation’s overall population. The northeast, with 21.1 million people and a 27.7 percent of the total U.S. population, did not lag the south by all that much, and combined the three regions held about 95 percent of the nation’s population, with the at-the-time sparsely populated West holding the last 5 percent.

By the year 2000, the South had more than quadrupled in population size, growing at a rate almost twice that of both the Midwest and Northeast, and led the nation in population both numerically and as a percentage of the U.S. total. It achieved this growth during a period which saw at least 60 years of relative economic stagnation as compared with its Northern and Midwestern neighbors, and despite a 65-year, 6.6 million-strong, outmigration of its black population primarily to those neighboring regions. In short, the South’s population managed to more than double during a 60-year period of economic stagnation and population outmigration, and then almost doubled again during the next 40 years, a period of strong economic expansion and reversal in migration patterns.

And while the South’s population growth is not projected to double again by 2040, its growth so far in the 21st Century leads the nation on many metrics, and should continue to do so for many years to come, according to U.S. government projections. 

The U.S. Census Bureau delineates the South Region as the states of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas and the District of Columbia.

Between 2010 and 2015 the South’s natural increase (remember, difference between births and deaths) was 2,741,639, with 7,944,524 births and 5,202,885 deaths, with all three counts being the highest among all regions, and the 34 percent birth-to-death ratio being the second highest of the regions. If not for most states in the region having among the highest mortality rates in the country, the South would undoubtedly have the highest birth-to-death ratio.

On this note, I am going to pause to ask you to consider what might be a prime business to be engaged with in the South based on what you’ve read in the above paragraph?

If you’ve immediately come up with several ideas I commend you for your demographic acuity. If among your ideas you’ve included the “end-of-life” industry” you get a gold star!

With the exception of West Virginia, with 5,558 more deaths than births, all of the Southern states experienced natural increases between 2010 and 2015. The most populated state, Texas, with about 27.5 million people, experienced by far the region’s biggest (and country’s second biggest after California) natural increase with more than 1.1 million, followed by Georgia, with just under 300,000, and Virginia, with almost 215,000. West Virginia was the sole anomaly with a natural “decline” rather than increase, though Delaware, Washington, D.C., and Alabama experienced low natural increases relative to their populations. While the region as a whole experienced the highest domestic migration increase in the country for the period, six—Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Virginia and West Virginia—of the region’s 16 states and District of Columbia experienced domestic outmigration. Texas and Florida were the most popular destination for domestic migrants, followed by the Carolinas. Texas and Florida also gained the most from international migration, followed by Virginia, Maryland, Georgia and North Carolina. Other pertinent details can be derived from the table below.Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 10.00.44 PM

Much like a picture is worth a thousand words, so is a table, and as a budding demographer you should be able to discern a plethora of information from the table. All of those numbers tell a demographic story, so based on those numbers can you tell me a story or two.

Like, say, what can you tell me about Texas?

Sure, it’s big…. Texas big! Everyone knows that.

How about something along the lines of “they must be having a lot of babies down in Texas?” Of course, because I haven’t broken down the natural increase birth-to-death ratio in the table it could be that not many folks are dying down in Texas. But death is pretty much a given, so, an initial reaction to attribute the high natural increase observation to births would be spot on. In fact, Texas, with more than 2 million births during the 2010 to 2015 period, has the highest birth to death ratio in America at about 120 percent.   

With that story told, what can you tell me about Florida?

If you were able to quickly discern that Florida, with a large population but relatively small natural increase, likely has one of the lowest birth-to-death ratios in the South, then your demographic acumen is growing by leaps and bounds, because Florida, with a birth-to-death ratio of 19 percent, has among the lowest ratios in the country.

Of course, that brings us to West Virginia, and…?

Yep, with that state you can hardly call it a “birth-to-death” ratio because it’s more of a “death-to-birth” ratio, what with the former representing about a negative-5 percent ratio of births to deaths.    

Well done!

Another factor you should have been able to deduce from that table was that the South’s growth is not by any means uniform among the states. Anyone can tell from that table that Texas led the region in growth on numerical basis for the 2010 to 2015 period, while West Virginia suffered with a population loss, but less clear might be how the other states fared. Well, as you can see from the table below, on a percentage basis Washington, DC saw the highest growth with 11.7 percent, followed by Florida at 7.7 percent. Despite the disparity among the states, and the few laggards, all in all the region experienced healthy growth, especially when measured against the Northeast and Midwest.

—And this chapter continues for another 10 pages. If you like what you’ve read so far, keep an eye out for the book’s release sometime in the spring of 2017. Oh, but the title might be changed, as editors pushing for a more “positive” title and suggesting: “Upside: Profiting from the Profound Demographic Shifts Ahead.” Also be advised that I am listed as “co-author,” even though 75 percent of the writing is mine (lead author is responsible for the ideas behind the book).