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Indiana Urban League hosts Dr. James Johnson for Equal Opportunity Day Luncheon

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Declining fertility rates, forced early retirements and deaths of despair are all issues plaguing our nation.

Dr. James Johnson addressed these issues and more in an exclusive interview with the Recorder ahead of his keynote address at Indiana Urban League’s Equal Opportunity Luncheon on Sept. 23. Johnson, who studies community and economic development at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said the nation is becoming more diverse, and data from the 2020 census reveals possible difficulties in the future regarding America’s standing in the global marketplace.

“Our nation, in every region, state and city has been undergoing a profound structural demographic transformation for more than three decades,” Johnson said in an interview before his speech. “These are six disruptive changes that have been going on.”

Johnson examined census data from 2020 and compared it with data from previous years. Looking at declining fertility levels across the board, unemployment levels and increasing death rates. The researcher refers to the data as “gale force winds that we have to prepare for.”

Last year, roughly 1.7 million Americans 55 or older retired involuntarily during the pandemic, with an average net savings of $9,000. Further, Johnson said the pandemic highlighted the need for a better child care system because nearly 2 million women left the workforce when their children started learning virtually.

“They have to get back to work, and we have to find a way to get them back,” Johnson said.

Johnson also noted there was a 30% increase in 2020 for deaths of despair — deaths related to suicide and substance abuse — which mostly affected people aged 25 to 44. Johnson said this, mixed with an aging population and more people are dying faster than babies are born, is cause for concern.

“These are prime working age people that need to be in the system paying for the sustainability of Social Security,” Johnson said. “… I’ll be framing these things in the context of what’s going on nationally and globally.”

Johnson hopes the audience — which included over 700 business leaders — walked away knowing they aren’t alone in the challenges they face. Johnson encouraged leaders and entrepreneurs to localize the solutions to the needs of the community. In doing so, and by focusing on competitive business strategies, equity and job retention, Johnson said America can strengthen its position in the global marketplace.

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

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