Blog Post

Fast Forward: Major trends with the potential to reshape Utah

By: Natalie Gochnour

Originally published in Utah Business

Alvin Toffler was a futurist who wrote extensively about the digital revolution. He popularized the term “information overload” and wrote the landmark book Future Shock, which has sold millions of copies and remains in print today. He died last year, but left a legacy of compelling ideas. I thought about him and his words recently as I led a discussion with the executive committee of the Salt Lake Chamber Board of Governors. We discussed major trends impacting Utah. I thought Utah Business readers would enjoy a quick synopsis of our discussion.

Toffler said, “The future always comes too fast and in the wrong order.” It’s true. We have a hard time keeping pace with and predicting change. I think, however, there are several significant issues and trends right in front of us that we need to better understand.

Debt

The first is the rise in U.S. public debt. Economists like to measure fiscal sustainability by comparing the size of public debt to the size of the economy. The ratio of public debt to gross domestic product (GDP) provides an indication of our ability to make future payments on our debt. It is also a general measure of economic health.

For most of my professional life, the U.S. debt-to-GDP ratio has hovered around 60 percent. Today it stands at 105 percent. By way of reference, Germany’s current debt-to-GDP ratio is 68 percent, France’s is 96 percent, and Japan’s is 250 percent.

I think it’s fair to ask the question, “Do we have a looming debt crisis?” I’m particularly concerned about the impact of rising interest rates on our ability to service growing debt.

Living arrangements

It’s no secret that millennials live differently than their parents. What’s less talked about is how much they live with their parents. In 2015, approximately one in three adults in Utah between the ages of 18 and 34 lived as a “ch