Making a better future for the next generation in North Carolina.

What Worries Us About the 2040’s

Nov 1, 2022 | Economy, Education, Future, Government, North Carolina | 0 comments

We live in the present. There are bills to pay, appointments to make, work to do, and personal relationships to nurture. It takes an act of will to stop and think about the next twenty or thirty years. In 2018, the Pew Research Center – which bills itself as a “nonpartisan fact tank” — asked 2,524 Americans to make that act of will.

Pew’s survey asked what issues should be top, important, or low priorities, “to improve the quality of life for future generations.” Ten issues rose to the top in their survey. Republicans and Democrats expressed large differences of opinion on the first two issues, and broad consensus on the remaining eight. Just focusing on ten issues doesn’t do justice to the 57 page report Pew produced about their results, but here are the top ten worries they identified for the next generation:

  • Climate Change: 90% of Democrats were very or fairly worried.
  • Undocumented Immigrants: 65% of Republicans rated reducing the number of undocumented immigrants coming into the U.S. as their top priority.
  • Protecting Retirement Income: 72% expect people in the future will have a harder time paying their way in retirement. 84% believed that Social Security will either not be available or that benefits will be cut by 2050.
  • Healthcare Access and Affordability: 58% expect healthcare to be less affordable in the future and 68% said that providing high-quality, affordable health care to all Americans should be a top priority of government.
  • Technology-Driven Underemployment: 82% believed that robots and computers will do much of the work currently performed by people. 49% believed workers will have less job security by 2050.
  • Public Debt: 63% say the national debt will continue to grow.
  • Energy Security: 67% believed a world-wide energy crisis will definitely or probably happen before 2050.
  • Income Inequality: 73% believed the gap between rich and poor will widen and 62% believe the lower class will grow. Only 20% believed the average standard of living for American families would get better by 2050.
  • Government Effectiveness: 86% said they were very or fairly worried about the way the government works.
  • Educational Quality: 77% worried about the ability of public schools to provide a quality education for students in the future.

This seems like a pretty good list of issues for NC2040. Every one of the items worries me when I think about the legacy we are leaving for our next generation.

Many of these issues require national or international responses

On the other hand, some of the issues are national or global in scope. A single state cannot do much about preserving social security, controlling the flow of undocumented immigrants, or preventing climate change. Where states have the authority and resources to act, though, they should. Looking at this list, a sample of the issues that I believe deserve some research for NC2040 are:

  • Education — because states have the primary responsibility.
  • Healthcare access and affordability — because of states’ responsibility to regulate healthcare within their borders and the design of their program for low-income citizens.
  • Climate change – states can promote resilience through strong building codes and infrastructure.
  • Energy security — through states’ encouragement of sustainable energy and their regulation of utilities.
  • Income inequality — through states’ promotion of economic growth, fair taxation, and the design of safety-net programs.

We can make our states better places for today’s children to live when they become adults in the 2040s. There are many areas where the people of the 50 states can take the lead and not wait for the federal government to act. In NC2040, we will be exploring all of them. Let’s give the old dogs of our state something to chew on.

Your turn: Looking ahead to the 2040s in North Carolina, what major problems do you think our kids will face? What could we and our leaders do in the present to make their future lives better?



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