The Puzzle of the American Economy
How Changing Demographics Will Affect Our Future and Influence Our Politics
by Mark A. Pisano
March 2017, 166pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-5310-4
$51, £38, 44€, A69
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-5311-1
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

The effects of demographic changes are causing a rapid political and economic transformation—one that will require new and unconventional thinking and strategies.

This book explains how sweeping demographic changes have resulted in the ineffectiveness of recent monetary and fiscal policies, and it identifies corrective actions that will start to reverse the trends of low economic growth and widespread government deficits.

The field of demographics does not focus on the economic impacts and the funding issues resulting from demographic change. Similarly, economics does not take into account demographic changes. The omissions in both fields are negatively impacting the nation: income reductions caused by demographic changes that have not been accounted for are so large that current fiscal policies are not able to mitigate them. The Puzzle of the American Economy: How Changing Demographics Will Affect Our Future and Influence Our Politics exposes the factors that are undermining the nation’s prospects for improving the rate of economic growth and keeping up with citizens’ needs for government-provided services.

Author Mark A. Pisano explains the hidden drag on the economy that has led to the ineffectiveness of recent monetary and fiscal policies, how uncertainty in economic policymaking is affecting America politically as well as at the individual household level, and why those who are adversely impacted are becoming politically disaffected. He also presents an agenda for corrective individual action. Readers will understand how the results of changes in demographics will last for decades and extend beyond the United States to many developed countries—particularly Japan and nations in Europe—as well as to some developing countries. The book will be of value to students studying macro and micro economics; those in public policy at all levels of government, public administration, and governmental budgeting; and anyone attempting to understand the current dilemma in economic policymaking and our disjointed political process.


  • Spotlights how serious economic problems in the United States are the result of demographic changes many U.S. citizens don't yet recognize are occurring
  • Documents how changing demography results from collective individual choice, a phenomenon that is occurring so rapidly and is having such a large impact that the nation is unable to respond to this change
  • Suggests radically different ways of thinking and of executing strategies to harness the power of collective individual choice and address the driving force behind sweeping demographic changes
Mark A. Pisano, BA, MA, MBA, is professor of practice of public administration at the University of Southern California, Sol Price School of Public Policy. He is cochair of the Federal System Panel of the National Academy of Public Administration.


"Since the collapse of the bipolar world order in the late 1980s, American social sciences have been slowly awakening to the reality that demography—if not necessarily destiny—is a powerful shaper of the future. This reality is reflected in America’s aging population, with its fewer workers, consumers, and taxpayers, and its ever-more retirees, a quadruple whammy on national economic and fiscal capacity. Mark Pisano now interprets American demography with a new framework bolstered by quantitative support to demonstrate just how powerfully our changing population has already reshaped America’s prospects in the world economy. He links this framework to a wide range of practices and perspectives that until recently have hovered in the shadows of mainstream social science and policy thinking, topics such as regional governance and economic development, the critical role of institutions, the inadequacy of contemporary civic expression, and the accumulating structural constraints on economic growth. Pisano uses the demographic platform to integrate these related forces and provide a fresh and sorely needed perspective on the puzzle that is the American economy."—Scott Fosler, Mayor, Town of Chevy Chase, MD; former president, National Academy of Public Administration

"A prescient, readable guide to the intensifying merger of economics and politics into the singular political and governance issue of our time. Pisano shows how American people, parties, and politicians must and can address it to preserve the national and fiscal coherence of our society."—Van Gordon Sauter, Former president, CBS News

"Mark Pisano focuses on an oft-overlooked connection between our low-growth economy and disturbing population trends in the United States. Unless we solve the 'worker's gap' he describes, we will encounter economic decline, more cultural strife, and rising political rancor. Solutions he sees, such as increasing fertility rates and embracing immigration, won't come easily. But his plea that we treat 'no one as disposable' has the ring of moral authority."—Timothy B. Clark, Editor-at-Large, Government Executive Media Group, Atlantic Media Co.
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