Our Methodology

Saeculum Research’s methodology rests on our thorough understanding of the demographic, generational, and historical fundamentals that drive economic, financial, and market behavior. By understanding these three dimensions (or research perspectives), we utilize a multidisciplinary approach, combined with analysis of historical and real-time behavior and attitudinal data, to explain and forecast how the fundamentals are changing.

Demography

While nearly all economists concede that demographic change is important, not many understand it or give it much attention. This leads to frequent confusion among experts on questions that really do have clear answers—like why economic recoveries are so much slower now than they used to be (answer: a slowing pace of labor force growth), why U.S. immigration has recently been declining (answer: lower fertility rates in Latin America), or why public transfer spending is growing so much faster under Obama than under Clinton (answer: today, the ranks of new retirees are unusually large; back in the 1990s, they were unusually small).

Saeculum Research explains the implications of breaking demographic news and offers clients early warning signs on any changes in the most plausible demographic outlook–when the new U.S. fertility downturn will impact housing starts, for example, or why an "echo youth boom” is now rocking the Middle East and how the impending age wave in China will redirect global investment.

Generations

The generational dimension of our research program is driven by Neil Howe’s work on generational change in America. Howe is America’s leading authority on today’s generations: who they are, what motivates them, and how they will shape the nation’s future. Howe coined the term “Millennial Generation” and has written over a dozen books on generational forecasting.

Saeculum Research can make accurate long-term forecasts of the future behavior and attitudes of people in any age bracket by implementing an exclusive “historical cohort method.” Once generations are shaped, they tend to carry a recognizable set of values and attitudes with them as they grow older. This produces actionable forecasts about the way consumers, voters, families, or workers will think and act. These forecasts are often non-linear and are thus orthogonal to the mainstream consensus.

Historical Analogues

Designing long-term strategies requires choosing a best-guess scenario about how the future will play out–and this usually means creating some sort of link between the future and the past. Historical analogues are dense with implicit content, suggestive of countless parallels in everything from politics and family life to brand preferences and market volatility. Saeculum Research has developed a method of describing and comparing eras by dividing up history into generation-length units called “turnings.” For two turnings to be truly analogous, they must manifest deep similarities in social behavior and attitudes, and these attitudes must be driven by generational forces. Because types of turnings tend to follow each other in a seasonal order, they offer a powerful set of tools for forecasting the next decade’s economic, political, or market environment.

Putting Methods Together

As Saeculum Research, we rarely use just one perspective when working on a research question. We typically combine two or three. For example:

  • For long-term planners at the U.S. Navy’s Chief of Naval Operations, we recently looked at how the generational transition from Millennial to post-Millennial recruits would be affected by turnings-driven changes in the social mood.
  • For an investment firm in the Czech Republic, we created a sectoral consumer demand forecast for Central Europe by overlaying generational change on top of demographic projections.
  • For a Fortune 500 hotel chain, we are again using both demographic and generational drivers—but here we are adding turnings-based contingency planning to prepare for extreme economic (and market) volatility.

Ideally, we like to bring together all the perspectives, which allows us to be both methodical and holistic, to dive into the details without losing sight of the big picture.