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25 ways America has changed in the last decade

  • 25 ways America has changed in the last decade

    The end of a decade usually marks the end of an era. There’s still debate around if the 2010s end in 2020 or 2021. Either way, the last 10 years brought major changes in the ways Americans work and live. The 2010s brought changes across industries with some dying out and others thriving and taking off. The American workplace shifted to one with more flexibility, but also much longer hours.

    Vast changes also occurred in the ways Americans communicate and interact with each other. It was a decade when smartphones became ubiquitous and Americans spent more time than ever before using social media—as did the new president who shifted official government communication to Twitter. There were also changes in education and across economic sectors. Even the ways Americans eat and specifically which types of foods shifted. Changes to the cultural landscape also took place with progressive advances and greater awareness about social justice and identity.

    The last 10 years saw the rise of Generation Z, sometimes known as the “post-millennials,” many of whom have just reached adulthood. While millennials now outnumber the boomers, the upcoming “zoomers” are on track to be the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in American history. Young Americans in the last decade demonstrated social and political awareness around identity, gun violence, and the environment. They’re also the first kids to come of age with new parenting styles in place. 

    Using various sources, Stacker compiled a list of how America has changed in the 2010s, including through impacts on our daily lives in the economy, politics, pop culture, technology, social media, education, and health care. Check out all the changes to America in the last decade, and some predictions for the ways American lives will shift in the future.

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  • Upsurge in gig economy jobs

    Temp jobs, freelancing, and single-contract gigs all rose over the last decade thanks to companies like Uber, Airbnb, Lyft, Etsy, and Fiverr, which make it easier to hook consumers up with workers. While these gigs offer flexibility, they also forgo the stability of traditional jobs—benefits, reliable salary, and advancement.

    The gig employment structure increased from a 15.8% workplace share in 2015 to 36% of U.S. workers engaged in some form of gigging in 2019. Gig growth continues to increase with 47% of millennials reportedly freelancing. However, reporting for Quartz, Ephrat Livni writes that “although gig work was initially seen as a way to maximize worker freedom and create opportunities, it has, in its short history, proven corrosive.”

    Gig workers often have significant costs (such as a car or ongoing repairs for rideshare gigs) and live without health insurance or other protections provided by traditional jobs. Gig workers get to be their own bosses, but they also rely on app algorithms geared toward corporate owners and other perils. Gigs are part and parcel to general economic insecurity and many workers feel pressure to take any job they’re offered.

  • College tuition costs rose alongside enormous increases in student loans

    Stacker’s Linda Childers notes that in the last decade, “college tuition has outpaced inflation and wages.” CNBC reports that the costs of higher education increased 55% in 10 years. Meanwhile, “real wages have barely budged in decades,” according to Pew Research Center.

    Student loan debt increased in tandem with rising tuition costs, with another Pew Research Center report stating that Americans now owe “more than two times” what they did a decade earlier. The total amount of debt increased to $1.6 trillion in 2019.

    PaymentsJournal details one study that found student loan debt at historically black colleges and universities “has worsened at an alarming rate when compared to other types of institutions.” At those schools the debt per borrower amount increased by 54.5 % compared to an increase overall of 46.67%.

  • Americans now spend more eating out than they do on groceries

    Americans spent more money eating out than they did on “at-home” foods for the first time in 2014, when 50.1% of total food spending went to restaurants. That trend continues with CNBC’s Kate Rogers reporting that restaurant spending is “surpassing grocery sales at just 3% year-over-year growth.” This upsurge relates to “convenience culture,” with much of the gains coming via quick service-style restaurants.

    Americans are flocking to more food trucks and establishments with carry-out and delivery options. Sophie Egan at “Bon Appétit describes this trend toward “fast casual” restaurants like Panera, Chipotle, and Blaze Pizza that come with “greater customization (build-your-own meals, assembly-line style), higher quality ingredients, and more upscale spaces in which to chow down.”

  • Working from home became the new normal

    Remote work positions have exploded in the last decade with 83% of U.S. workplaces offering either flexible options and policies or plans to introduce them, according to new research from International Workplace Group. In the same study, 74% of respondents called remote workplace policies “the new normal,” with 80% saying they would choose a job with a flexible workplace policy over one that didn’t.

    Analyses at Flexjobs report that “between 2005 to 2017, there was a 159% increase in remote work,” with 4.7 million workers currently in remote or work-from-home positions. Experts note these new workplace trends align with advances in technology that have led workers to become increasingly mobile. Videoconferencing and other advances in telecommunications allow easy connections among workers across industries and time zones.

    More and more companies are also noting the economic advantages of forgoing large-scale offices in favor of remote workers in their own spaces. At “Fast Company,” Jared Lindzon predicts the future of remote work to include VR (virtual reality) technologies to replace video options and an increase in AI technologies to oversee employee productivity.

  • Advances in gender identity acceptance and awareness

    GLAAD’s 2017 Accelerating Awareness survey found “remarkable progress for the LGBTQ community in the United States, with historic advancements achieved for both legal equality and cultural acceptance” in the last decades. The survey found an increase in LGBTQ identification in the millennial population, age 18 to 34—a segment much more likely to move away from “traditional” gender labels, thus “igniting an identity revolution.” There were huge shifts in the language used to identify gender in workplaces, health care facilities, and government agencies.

    Official public entities increasingly incorporated policies around inclusion that better recognize a range of gender identities that include nonbinary and gender non-conforming identities beyond “female” and “male.” Awareness around gender pronoun usage also grew with increased acceptance around honoring individual preferences. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary added the definition of the singular pronoun “they,” and the AP Style guide and services like Radical Copyeditor adapted grammar conventions to reflect these social changes.

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  • Presidential Twitter usage expands in Trump era

    In 2015, Barack Obama first tweeted from a verified @POTUS account handle, although he’d been using Twitter since 2007. Obama’s tweets from other accounts such as @WhiteHouse and @BarackObama were used “occasionally” and signed with his initials when not composed by staffers.

    Though Trump inherited the @POTUS handle when he became president, he continues to tweet from the @realDonaldTrump account he started in 2009. In contrast to Obama, NPR’s Rachel Treisman reports that “Trump has made unprecedented use of Twitter from the Oval Office and regularly uses it to share thoughts and announcements on politics and diplomacy.”

    Trump’s Twitter use (which includes deletions) has changed the 1978 Presidential Records Act which mandates presidential communication as public property with “established guidelines for their preservation.” Obama’s official tweets exist in a searchable archive. Trump has tweeted more than 11,000 times (over 266,000 words) between taking office in January 2017 and November 2019.

  • Same-sex marriage became legal in states across the nation

    In 2009, Vermont, Maine, and Iowa legalized same-sex marriage. Since Bill Clinton’s federal ban in 1996, countless court cases across the country fought against various state bans. The first half of the last decade gave way to countless legal battles in states both upholding the ban and challenging it while legislating various rights associated with same-sex marriage.

    In 2015, in a landmark case, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in a 5-4 ruling, nullifying bans in 14 states. As a result, the number of married LGBTQ+ cohabitating Americans rose from 38% pre-ruling to 61% after. According to Pew Research Center, support for same-sex increased, doubling from the rates in 2009 with 79% of “religiously unaffiliated” Americans in favor. General support increased from 37% in 2009 to 61% in 2019.

  • Veganism edges toward the mainstream

    The vegan food industry exploded over the last decade with plant-based options for staples like mayonnaise and meats becoming more mainstream. Writing at “Forbes,” Janet Forgrieve notes GlobalData’s report that “U.S. consumers identifying as vegan grew from 1% to 6% between 2014 and 2017, a 600% increase.” Further, in 2017 the plant-based food industry ($3.7 billion per year) grew 17% outpacing the 2% growth of overall food sales in the U.S.

    The vegan lifestyle is a cultural trend, but one based on animal and environmental activism, as well as health concerns, that many predict has long-term staying power. Newsweek describes the move toward veganism becoming more mainstream due to the millennial demographic, reporting a quarter of 25 to 34 year olds described themselves as vegan or vegetarian in 2019.

  • Music industry goes digital as CD sales slow

    Subscription radio services launched in the late-aughts and took over throughout the last decade with Pandora and Spotify offering personalized radio. Further, in 2014 digital music sales eclipsed physical sales for the first time.

    Amy X. Wang of Rolling Stone reports that music streaming services “shot up 35.4%” in 2018 while “album sales fell by 18.2%.” Meanwhile, the outlet notes, Best Buy stopped selling CDs since record labels were reluctant to “even issue them.” According to BGR, paid music subscriptions increased by 42% in 2018 topping over 50 million in receipts.

  • Climate change hit the U.S. with more extreme weather and higher costs

    Seven of the 10 hottest years on record happened in the last decade. Morgan McFall-Johnsen of Business Insider reports that “in 2018, the U.S. Northeast saw a median of one major sunny-day flood per year” with projections of five per year by 2030. Extreme weather events, hurricanes, wildfires, droughts, and various storms are predicted to continue to increase in the U.S.

    Stephen Leahy of National Geographic details that the costs of climate change in the coming decade (a projected $360 billion annually) could “cripple U.S. economic growth.” Doyle Rice in USA Today reports that “2019 concludes a decade of exceptional global heat, retreating ice and record sea levels driven by greenhouse gases from human activities.”

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