TIME People

Uber Wants Your Parents to Be Drivers If They Can Use a Smartphone

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The new economy is welcoming older Americans with open arms

“Companies don’t hire 50-year-olds. They just don’t.”

So says 50-year-old Sherry Singer. After decades of being a professional matchmaker, Singer wanted to change gears and start a non-profit, but still needed to pay the rent in L.A. Feeling she had few places to turn in the traditional job market, she looked to a more disruptive space: the booming on-demand economy led by Uber. Singer, who has now worked several of these freelancing jobs that didn’t exist a few years ago, found she could land a gig within a week.

Agism might be rampant in Silicon Valley, but some of the Bay Area’s leading companies are now actively trying to engage the senior crowd, recognizing the huge potential of experienced workers and responsible adults.

On Thursday, Uber announced a partnership with Life Reimagined, an organization under the AARP umbrella that exists to help older people figure out “what’s next?” after life transitions. The same day, Airbnb released data aimed at “celebrating” older hosts and guests, amid their executives attending summits on aging around the country.

“To overlook them participating in new activities would be really short-sighted,” says Airbnb’s Anita Roth, who attended a recent conference on aging hosted by the White House.

When these companies were startups that didn’t know how long they might survive, being short-sighted may have made sense. New tech companies have been started by young people who hire their young friends to help create solutions to problems they’re encountering in their own young lives. Their first customers are often their young, early-adopting friends who live in the Bay Area. But with valuations north of $25 billion, these “startups” are focusing on expansions into a more untapped demographic, which also happens to be huge and growing.

By 2032, Americans over the age of 65 will outnumber those under the age of 15. While bands of young companies are starting to pay more respect to the buying power of this demographic, Uber’s new effort is about recognizing their potential as workers. Life Reimagined bills itself as a helping hand for any adult in need of some direction—whether that person is a 42-year-old divorcee, 55-year-old empty nester or 66-year-old retiree bored nearly to death. Their mission isn’t just about helping people find new jobs or careers, but that’s often involved for participants who range from their late 30s to early 70s.

“The reality is there are far more adults looking for work than venues that are seeking to hire them,” says Emilio Pardo, Life Reimagined’s president. Their effort with Uber is explicitly targeting the “40-plus” crowd. The rideshare company said they don’t have a particular goal for how many drivers they hope to recruit.

Uber already has hundreds of thousands drivers coming onto their platform worldwide every month and expects perhaps another hundred thousand join their ranks in the U.S. over the next few years. Still, says Uber executive David Richter, they need to actively recruit. “We have the high-class problem of ever-increasing demand,” he says.

Uber previously engaged in targeted demographic outreach by trying to sell veterans on becoming drivers. The theory was that many veterans are task-oriented, disciplined and also looking for a healthy outlet “to bring those traits to bear,” says Richter. Those drivers turned out to get higher-than-average ratings; Uber hopes to repeat those results by capitalizing on older drivers who might provide a “more cautious, reliable ride.” According to a white paper released in January, Uber drivers are more likely to be young, female and highly educated than taxi drivers or chauffeurs. Still, about half of them are already over the age of 39.

What about the stereotype that grandma is a haphazard driver who goes everywhere with her blinker on and can operate a smartphone about as well as nuclear submarine? Ken Smith and Martha Deevy, experts from Stanford’s Center on Longevity, generally have a positive attitude about older people driving for Uber, saying that the flexibility those jobs provide will likely be attractive to retirees who need income but want flexible schedules. They also point out that if age 40 is the starting point, that means “there are 30 unambiguously safe years there.” If you look at fatal crash statistics, they point out, you could argue that getting into a car with a 65-year-old is safer than doing so with a driver who is less than 30.

Smartphones are required to do the job of being an Uber driver—as well as most new jobs in the on-demand economy—because it involves accepting and completing requests for rides through the Uber app. Just over half of 50- to 64-year-olds own smartphones, according to Pew, but those numbers are going up. In 2012, only 34% of them did. And, Richter says, new drivers can always lease a smartphone from Uber if needed.

The Center on Longevity is a leading organization dedicated to trying to figure out how Americans can all lead better, longer lives, a crucial mission given that our life expectancies have jumped 20 years since 1925. Airbnb worked with the group to develop a survey to learn more about their older users. Turns out, about one million of Airbnb’s guests and hosts are over 60. Considering 25 million people used Airbnb to find accommodations in the past year, that leaves a lot of room for growth, especially among a demographic that is more likely to own their own home. Like Uber’s veteran drivers, Airbnb’s older hosts also tend to get better reviews than the general population, Airbnb says. The majority of those hosts are either retirees or empty-nesters who start renting out rooms for the extra money; according to Airbnb’s survey, 49% of them are on a fixed income. But, Roth says, many people who come to the platform for the money end up staying for the social engagement and “renewed sense of purpose.” Isolation among older Americans, Life Reimagined’s Pardo says, “is fatal.”

Of course, the sharing and on-demand economies are not without their uncertainties and pitfalls. Lawsuits are alleging that companies like Uber are exploiting their workers, and cities like San Francisco are hotly debating how much home-sharing to allow. Though 50-year-old Singer continues to work for an on-demand ride company, she’s also a lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against Postmates, an on-demand delivery service for which she used to be a courier. The business models of these companies may have to change, but the fact that companies can benefit from giving older Americans more opportunities and attention will remain. “People are in a moment in America where either they can’t retire, don’t want to retire or they’re retired but they’re not done yet,” says Pardo. “It’s all about using the latest technology to actually open up a new opportunity, to give you options.”

TIME India

India Will Become the World’s Most Populous Country by 2022, the U.N. Says

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That's much earlier than previously thought

India is on track to become the world’s most populous nation in less than a decade — or six years earlier than previously thought, according to the U.N.

With 1.38 billion people compared with India’s 1.31 billion, China is currently the world’s most populous country. Figures for both countries are expected to swell to around 1.4 billion by 2022, at which point India’s population is likely to expand beyond China’s.

At the end of the next decade, in 2030, India is projected to have 1.5 billion people, a figure that’s forecast to balloon to 1.7 billion by 2050. China’s population, on the other hand, is forecast to remain relatively stable until the 2030s, at which point the U.N. says it is likely to “slightly decrease.” In a forecast published two years ago, India had been expected to overtake China around the year 2028.

The projections from the population division of the U.N.’s economic and social affairs unit were published in a new report that also forecast an expansion in the world’s overall population to 8.5 billion by 2030. By the middle of the century, there are likely to be as many as 9.7 billion people worldwide, with six of the 10 largest countries — India, China, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan and the U.S. — expected to have populations exceeding 300 million people.

“While the global projections should not be cause for alarm, we must recognize that the concentration of population growth in the poorest countries presents a distinct set of challenges, making it more difficult to eradicate poverty and inequality, to combat hunger and malnutrition, and to expand educational enrollment and health systems,” John Wilmoth, who heads the U.N. division that produced the report, told the Associated Press.

India’s population is not growing the fastest, however, with Nigeria growing at such a rapid pace that it is expected to have more people than the U.S. by 2050, at which point it is likely to become the third most populous country in the world.

TIME

Find Out if Your State Is America’s Past or Future

The demographics of the United States will look radically different in the next several decades. But you don’t have to wait 45 years to see a picture of that America. Just go to Texas.

The racial and ethnic makeup of the Lone Star State today closely resembles what the entire country is expected to look like half-a-century from now. Roughly a third of population is Hispanic and less than half the population is white.

It’s possible, using projections the Census Bureau has released for every year through 2060, to match each state’s current demographics to the year it most resembles on a national level—past, present or future. For example, the Florida of today very closely resembles where the nation is expected to be in 2029. Meanwhile, Connecticut is frozen in the demographic amber of 2001, and neighboring Massachusetts looks like the America of 1993. North Dakota is like the America of 1930.

To produce a year for each state, TIME compared the current percentage of white, black, Hispanic and Asian residents to the same percentages on a national level for every year from 1900 through 2060.

Some matches are closer than others. States with small black populations, like Iowa, are typically matched to the year 1930, the year with the lowest percentage of black residents nationally. States with large Hispanic populations typically match to future projections.

TIME Demography

U.S. Steps Closer to a Future Where Minorities Are the Majority

Census finds the country's minority population has risen to 37.9%

Minority births in the U.S. are far outpacing deaths as the white population remains all but stagnant, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Thursday, driving the country closer to the point at which minorities outnumber whites.

The country’s minority population increased from 32.9% of U.S. residents in 2004 to 37.9% in 2014, according to the Census, and four states — Hawaii, California, New Mexico and Texas — along with Washington, D.C., are now majority-minority. Nevada, which has 48.5% minority population, is likely next.

Non-Hispanic deaths outpaced births in 2014 for a third year in a row, something University of New Hampshire demographer Ken Johnson says has never happened before in the U.S.

“We expected to see non-Hispanic white natural decrease in the future, but it wasn’t expected to start for another decade or so,” Johnson says, adding that the recession and low fertility rates have contributed to the dip. “The white population is considerably older than any other part of the population. This means it has higher mortality. Fewer women are in their prime child-bearing years.”

The slowdown in white population increases is coupled with minority births that are outpacing deaths by three to one. An estimated 95% of the country’s population gain – a 2,360,000 increase – came from minorities last year, while whites made up almost 80% of deaths. However, the non-Hispanic white population did see a bump thanks to 155,000 immigrants, mostly from Europe. The population for whites grew by just 94,000.

“Ironically, non-Hispanic whites are now more dependent on immigration for population increase than any other group,” Johnson says.

Demographers predict that the U.S. will be majority-minority for the first time by the mid-2040s. Millennials, meanwhile, who number 83.1 million, have now surpassed Baby Boomers at 75.4 million and are the most diverse generation in history. But Census numbers show that the generation after them will be the first to be majority-minority. More than half of all Americans aged five years or younger are non-white.

TIME Innovation

Fight Prison Gangs by Breaking Up Big Prisons

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. America’s biggest prisons are factories exporting prison gangs. Break them up.

By David Skarbek and Courtney Michaluk in Politico

2. Find out why demographics and a charismatic leader still aren’t enough to make a majority party.

By Suzy Khimm in the New Republic

3. Denied a seat at the table of global power, the BRICS nations are building their own table.

By Shashi Tharoor in Project Syndicate

4. With an implanted treatment that blocks a narcotic high, one doctor wants to end addiction.

By Sujata Gupta in Mosaic Science

5. Your next insurance inspector could be a drone.

By Cameron Graham in Technology Advice

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Research

Rising Birth Rates a Good Sign for the Economy

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First increase since the recession

The number of children born in the U.S. increased in 2014 for the first time since the Great Recession, a sign that some women may be feeling financially stable enough to start a family.

The National Center for Health Statistics released a study Wednesday showing that both the number of births and the fertility rate in the U.S. increased by 1% in 2014, the first rise since 2007, when both demographic markers began dropping.

Last year, the U.S. birth rate had fallen to a 15-year low, according to NCHS data, with the number of births decreasing from 4.3 million in 2007 to 3.9 million in 2013, a 9% drop. Based on 2007 birth rates, University of New Hampshire demographer Ken Johnson estimates that there were 2.3 million fewer babies born between 2008 and 2013 than there would have been if the birth rate remained stable.

The falling birth rate has been one of the indirect consequences of the recession and of particular concern for demographers. Low birth rates over the long term, barring an influx of immigrants, can mean a population decline that leads to a smaller tax base and fewer people to financially support programs like Social Security and Medicare as the population ages.

Demographers have been trying to determine whether the economy forced women to merely delay childbirth or forego starting a family altogether. The latest numbers, while preliminary, suggest that women may just have been delaying.

The birth rate for women aged 30-34, many of whom were graduating from college and looking for jobs when the recession hit, rose 3% in 2014 and has steadily increased since 2011. The rate for women aged 35-39 increased by 3% while the rate for those aged 40-44 rose 2%.

For women aged 20-24, however, the birth rate decreased by 2%, and it remained steady for those aged 25-29, suggesting that many millennials are still putting off starting a family.

“We won’t know how significant this is unless it continues for the next few years,” said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, of the overall rise in birth rates. “But it’s a glimmer of hope that demographic responses are reacting to an improving economy.”

TIME Polls

The Politics of Multiracial Americans

They're much less likely to identify as Republican or Democrat

Multiracial adults are more likely than the average American to dissociate themselves from the two major political parties, with nearly half identifying as neither Democrats nor Republicans, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center.

Pew’s survey—a comprehensive look at the attitudes, experiences and values of mixed-race Americans—found that 44% of multiracial adults identify as either political independents (28%) or “something else” (16%). Among the general public, just 36% profess no partisan leanings.

The trend is particularly pronounced among young multiracial adults. More than half of all mixed-race Americans ages 18 to 29 affiliate with neither Republican nor Democrat, with 29% classifying themselves as political independents and 23% identifying as “something else.”

Multiracial Americans’ diminished sense of partisanship has the potential to reshape electoral coalitions in an era of demographic change. The percentage of multiracial babies born in America has ballooned from just 1% in 1970 to 10% in 2013, according to Pew. The sense of alienation from the political process reported by mixed-race adults suggests the need for both parties to recalibrate their messaging to match a growing, increasingly nonpartisan segment of the country. It also underscores the potential for a third party to emerge as the U.S. evolves into the majority-minority country over the next three decades.

Despite their heightened aversion to partisanship, multiracial Americans tend to mirror the general public’s political leanings. Adults who are mix of white and Asian, white and black or black and American Indian are all more likely to affiliate with or lean Democratic—though slightly less so than single-race whites, blacks or Asians.

Of all the mixed-race groups surveyed by Pew, only Americans who are part white and part American Indian favor Republicans, 53% to 42%. That proportion is similar to the political leanings of single-race whites, who identify as or lean Republican by a 55% to 41% margin.

For Pew, one of the challenges of pinpointing mixed-race Americans’ political leanings was defining the size of the multiracial population. It has only been 15 years since the U.S. Census Bureau allowed respondents to identify as more than one race, and many of those who qualify as multiracial don’t self-identify as such.

As a result, Pew argues, the Census estimate that about 2% of the U.S. is mixed-race may undershoot the mark. Pew’s report found that 7% of the U.S. population could be considered multiracial, based on respondents’ answers and the races of their parents or grandparents.

The Pew Research Center survey polled 1,555 multiracial adults and 1,495 members of the general public from February to April.

MONEY Workplace

Minority Retail Workers Paid Less Than Whites

A higher minimum wage could help even things out.

A study revealed minority retail workers are paid less than white peers. Researchers say this feeds into poverty and recommend an increase in minimum wage. The minimum wage nationwide is $7.25 an hour, but many states have higher minimum wages. Fast food workers have been protesting for higher pay recently as well.

TIME Workplace & Careers

Millennials Now Largest Generation in the U.S. Workforce

They surpassed Generation X earlier this year

Millennials have now surpassed Generation X to become the largest generation in the American workforce, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

Adults between the ages of 18-34 now make up one in three American workers, Pew reports. They outnumbered working adults in Generation X, who were 18-33 in the year 1998, in early 2015 after overtaking Baby Boomers last year.

The estimated 53.5 million millennials in the work force are only expected to grow as millennials currently enrolled in college graduate and begin working. The generation is also growing thanks to recent immigration, as more than half of new immigrant workers have been millennials.

The millennial generation as a whole, not just those in the labor force, is also expected to surpass the Baby Boom generation as the largest living generation in the U.S.

 

MONEY Macroeconomic trends

8 Surprising Economic Trends That Will Shape the Next Century

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Here are the stories that will matter in the years ahead.

Forget monthly jobs reports, GDP releases, and quarterly earnings. As I see it, there are eight important economic stories worth tracking right now that could have a big impact in the coming decades.

1. The U.S. population age 30-44 declined by 3.8 million from 2002 to 2012. That cohort is now growing again. By 2023 there will be an estimated 5.8 million more Americans aged 30 to 44 than there are now, according to the Census Bureau. This is important, because this age group spends tons of money, buys lots of homes and cars, and start lots of new businesses.

2. U.S. companies have $2.1 trillion cash held abroad. Much of this is because we have an inane tax code that taxes foreign profits twice: Once in the country they’re earned in, and again when companies bring that money back to the United States. If Congress ends this rule and switches to a territorial tax system — in which countries can bring foreign-earned cash back to their home country without paying another layer of taxes, as every other developed country allows — there could be a flood of new dividends, buybacks, and investments in America. It’s huge, pent-up demand waiting to be spent.

3. U.S. infrastructure is in disastrous shape. Roads, bridges, dams, and other public infrastructure have been neglected for years. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that $3.6 trillion in new investment is needed by 2020 to bring the country’s infrastructure up to “good” condition. Will this happen soon? Of course not. This is Congress we’re talking about. But the good news is that this work must eventually be done. You can’t just let critical bridges and water structures fail and say, “Damn. That Brooklyn Bridge was nice while we had it.” Things will have to be repaired. Sooner rather than later would be smart, because we can borrow now for zero percent interest. But someday, it will happen. And it’ll be a huge boon to jobs and growth when it does.

4. The whole structure of modern business is changing. I’m not sure who said it first, but this quote has been floating around Twitter lately: “In 2015 Uber, the world’s largest taxi company owns no vehicles, Facebook the world’s most popular media owner creates no content, Alibaba, the most valuable retailer has no inventory, and Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider owns no real estate.” Fundamental assumptions about what is needed to be a successful business have changed in just the last few years.

5. California is one of the most important agricultural states, growing 99% of the nation’s artichokes, 94% of broccoli, 95% of celery, 95% of garlic, 85% of lettuce, 95% of tomatoes, 73% of spinach, 73% of melons, 69% of carrots, 99% of almonds, 98% of pistachios, and 89% of berries (the list goes on). And the state is basically running out of water. Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, wrote last week: “Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing. California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one (let alone a 20-plus-year megadrought), except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain.” This could change rapidly in one good winter, but it could also turn into a quick tailwind on food prices. It could also be a huge boost for desalination companies.

6. New home construction will probably need to rise 40% from current levels to keep up with long-term household formation. We’re now building about 1 million new homes a year. That will likely have to rise to an average of 1.4 million per year, which combines Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies’ projection of 1.2 million new households being formed each year and an annual average of 200,000 homes being lost to natural disaster or torn down. This is important because new home construction is, historically, one of the top drivers of economic growth.

7. American households have the lowest debt burden in more than three decades. And the largest portion of household debt is mortgages, most of which are fixed-rate. So when people ask, “What’s going to happen to debt burdens when interest rates rise?”, the answer is “Probably not that much.”

8. America has some of the best demographics among major economies. Between 2012 and 2050, America’s working-age population (those ages 15-64) is projected to rise by 47 million. China’s working-age population is set to shrink by 200 million, Russia’s to fall by 34 million, Japan’s by 27 million, Germany’s by 13 million, and France’s by 1 million. People worry about the impact of retiring U.S. baby boomers, but the truth is we have favorable demographics other countries can’t even dream about. This is massively overlooked and underappreciated.

There’s a lot more important stuff going on, of course. And the biggest news story of the next 20 years is almost certainly something that nobody is talking about today. But if I had to bet on eight big trends that will very likely make a difference, these would be them.

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