"The idea that the future is unpredictable is undermined every day by the ease with which the past is explained."
-#8212; Daniel Kahneman, psychologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002.
As any prognosticator will tell you, predicting the future is not difficult. Being right is the hard part.
When it comes to looking at what's ahead, we really have only ourselves and our past to analyze. And in that way, people are like stocks: Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
Nonetheless, it's all we've really got when it comes to looking at where we're going. So with that in mind, I present my own year-opening analysis -#8212; the State of Us.
This is not a State of the Union, which you will get on Tuesday (6 p.m. Pacific time) or a State of the State, which you got in a compact 17-minute we've-got-a-surplus-don't-blow-it message on Wednesday from the governor. Nor is it like the we're-OK-the-Central-Valley's-not State of the County address and economic forecast you heard Friday.
This is a state of us.
First, it should come as no surprise, but we are growing older, heavier -#8212; and more Latino.
Latinos now equal the number of whites in California -#8212; 39 percent -#8212; and sometime in the coming days, if not already, are projected to become the largest ethnic group in California. It's a landmark moment.
In Sonoma County, roughly one in four residents is Latino. But Latino families also are disproportionately struggling to make ends meet. More than 60 percent of Latino households in Sonoma County are surviving on $25,000 or less a year. For the county as a whole, less than 19 percent are.
Meanwhile, we also are growing more gray. We are ground zero of what is known as the "Silver Tsunami."
Today, one in seven Sonoma County residents is 65 or older. By 2030 -#8212; just 16 years from now -#8212; that share will grow to one in four people, a demographic balance that's expected to hold steady for at least three decades. The number of people 85 or older is expected to triple by 2060, from 11,183 in 2010 to 34,341 in 2060.
Meanwhile, we also are becoming more overweight. In Sonoma County, more than one in three fifth-, seventh- and eighth-graders is considered at high risk for body composition and body fat. In 1999, 74 percent of Sonoma County seventh-graders were considered in the "healthy fitness zone" for body composition. A decade and a half later, that was down to 58 percent.
Yes, we are growing in number as well -#8212; but slowly. Far more slowly than we were in the 1980s and 1990s and during the early part of last decade. Sonoma County grew just 0.8 percent from 2011 to 2012 to 491,829 residents. Still, that trend is expected to inch along, with Sonoma County's population projected to jump 24 percent to nearly 600,000 people by 2040.
Meanwhile, we also are becoming more mobile -#8212; at least with our technology.
Two out of three people in the United States are expected to have a smartphone or a tablet, or both, by 2015. That is remarkable, especially when you consider that the first iPhone didn't hit the market until the year before Barack Obama was elected into office.