One trends I’ve been tracking through FTTE is the transition of our economy from analog to digital. Today I want to draw your attention to one particular dimension of that historical change: the shift away from cash and towards digital exchanges.
The Pew Research team is, as ever, our friend here, having just released a new report on the topic. Let me pull forth some highlights from a futures perspective.
In the United States people are gradually spending less with cash, and more with credit, as least when measured by how we buy stuff on a typical week:
In the period Pew tracked we don’t see a major change, but an incremental one. If the trend continues, we will eventually see the majority of purchases being done digitally.
Pew then slices the data by demographics and class.
Class: the wealthier you are, the less likely you are to use cash. The poorer, the more likely:
Race: black Americans are much more likely to use cash than Hispanics or white people.
Blacks are more likely than whites or Hispanics to rely on cash: 34% use cash for all or almost all of their purchases, compared with 15% of whites and 17% of Hispanics.
Age: as one might suspect, older folks are more likely to purchase items with cash than younger people. “34% of adults under the age of 50 make no purchases in a typical week using cash, compared with 23% of those ages 50 and older.” On a related note,
Americans under the age of 50 are more likely than those ages 50 and older to say they don’t really worry much about having cash on hand: 52% of 18- to 49-year-olds say this, compared with 38% of those 50 and older.
So while the trend pushes towards less use of cash, certain groups stand out for their persistent use of it: the poor, the black, the old. How will these tensions be resolved?
I would love to see the data sliced in other directions, namely in terms of geography (betting rural is more pro-cash) and education (guessing more education means more credit). I’d like to see other races added to the mix, notably Asian-Americans.
What does this mean for education?
The most direct implication is for financial literacy teaching, when students are traditional age or just need the content. Such classes will have to adjust to a new world, mostly credit, with marginalized use of cash.
At the same time we face teaching a society more divided that ever, with social roles hardening. This has all kinds of implications for student recruitment, teaching practice, the role of academics as public intellectuals, and so on.