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The Next America: Boomers, Millennials, and the Looming Generational Showdownby Paul Taylor
Synopses & Reviews
Young and old in America are poles apart, with dramatically different views about government, politics, race, religion, immigration, family, marriage, and technology. As members of the Millennial generation age into the workforce and electorate at the rate of 10,000 a day, theyre changing the nations racial makeup and many of its social and political values. As the Baby Boomers retire at the same rate, theyll soon constitute what is, by far, the largest cohort of older adults in Americas history—and in the process, theyll drive Social Security and Medicare into insolvency.
Is there a great Battle of the Ages looming on our horizon—one that pits a mostly white generation of older adults against an increasingly non-white generation of younger ones? The Next America presents a surgical examination of a wide array of economic, demographic, social, and political data to illuminate the tectonic changes that are remaking America.
The book profiles the nations four living generations: Millennials, who are empowered by digital technology, slow to adulthood, and already deep in debt; Gen Xers, who are savvy entrepreneurial loners, distrustful of institutions; Baby Boomers, who led the exuberant counter-cultural upheavals of the 1960s, but are gloomy and insecure as they head into retirement; and the Silent Generation, conservative and conformist, relatively well-off financially but uneasy with the pace of change. It finds that while these generations clash in their politics, they are increasingly interdependent in their family lives.
Drawing on trend data from the Pew Research Centers extensive archive of public opinion surveys, Paul Taylor explores how Americas polarized political system can honor its obligations to the old without bankrupting the young or starving the future; how new family structures will be hard-pressed to mend holes in the public safety net that are sure to widen as the population grays; and how the rising generations of conservative, white retirees and liberal, non-white workers can seek common ground as they divvy up their equitable shares of the American dream.
"The latest book from Pew Research Center executive vice-president Taylor (See How They Run) is structured around the titular generational showdown, which the author sees chiefly in the graying of America and the wider world. The wealth of statistical data found here, based on the Pew Research Center's archive of public opinion surveys (covering topics such as church attendance and sense of progress) proves tantalizing on its own, but chapters repeat conventional wisdom familiar to any newspaper reader. The old concern about fewer young workers supporting too many benefit-consuming baby boomer retirees resurfaces here, but without unique insight. The book's greatest strength lies in its detailed analysis of significant trends — from politics to lifestyle choices — among the four generational groups surveyed. A real treat that might justify the price of admission can be found in the 'Living Digital' chapter. While the chapter suffers from making too much of a 'representative' interviewee, it nevertheless furnishes readers with a detailed picture of how the younger generation has grown up with technology. At best, Taylor proves a plainspoken translator of sometimes opaque survey data, and makes esoteric statistical techniques accessible to the lay reader." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
The America of the near future will look nothing like the America of the recent past.
America is in the throes of a demographic overhaul. Huge generation gaps have opened up in our political and social values, our economic well-being, our family structure, our racial and ethnic identity, our gender norms, our religious affiliation, and our technology use.
Todayand#8217;s Millennialsand#151;well-educated, tech savvy, underemployed twenty-somethingsand#151;are at risk of becoming the first generation in American history to have a lower standard of living than their parents. Meantime, more than 10,000 Baby Boomers are retiring every single day, most of them not as well prepared financially as theyand#8217;d hoped. This graying of our population has helped polarize our politics, put stresses on our social safety net, and presented our elected leaders with a daunting challenge: How to keep faith with the old without bankrupting the young and starving the future.
Every aspect of our demography is being fundamentally transformed. By mid-century, the population of the United States will be majority non-white and our median age will edge above 40and#151;both unprecedented milestones. But other rapidly-aging economic powers like China, Germany, and Japan will have populations that are much older. With our heavy immigration flows, the US is poised to remain relatively young. If we can get our spending priorities and generational equities in order, we can keep our economy second to none. But doing so means we have to rebalance the social compact that binds young and old. In tomorrowand#8217;s world, yesterdayand#8217;s math will not add up.
Drawing on Pew Research Centerand#8217;s extensive archive of public opinion surveys and demographic data, The Next America is a rich portrait of where we are as a nation and where weand#8217;re headedand#151;toward a future marked by the most striking social, racial, and economic shifts the country has seen in a century.
For the first time in its recent history, America faces the prospect of intergenerational conflict. The affluent baby boomers—self-indulgent, easy going, and the beneficiaries of the greatest welfare program in American history—are bankrupting the young, the Millennials. Young and old in America are poles apart and the breadth of todays chasm is unprecedented. By 2030, Americas age pyramid—the relationship between the number of working Americans asked to support retirees—will take on a shape its never been before.
Is there a great Battle of the Ages looming on our horizon—one that pits a mostly white generation of older adults against a mostly non-white generation of younger ones? The Next America presents a surgical examination of the wide array of economic, demographic, social, and political data to illuminate the tectonic changes affecting the make-up of Americas demographic today.
There are four generations that comprise America's current demographic: Millennials are empowered by digital technology and slow to adulthood. Gen Xers are those savvy entrepreneurial loners, distrustful of institutions. Baby Boomers led the counter-cultural upheavals of the 1960s, but are now gloomy, and worried about retirement. And the silent generation can be counted on to be conservative and conformist, uneasy with the pace of change today.
Drawing on trend data from the Pew Research Centers extensive archive of public opinion surveys, Paul Taylor explores how Americas polarized political system must honor its obligations to the old without bankrupting the young, at how new family structures can mend holes in the public safety net that are sure to widen as the population grays, and whether the rising generations of conservative, white retirees and liberal, non-white workers will work in harmony as they figure out how to divvy up their respective shares of the American dream in an age of austerity.
About the Author
Paul Taylor is the executive vice president of the Pew Research Center, where he oversees the centers research on demographic, social and generational change. From 1996 through 2003, he served as president and board chairman of the Alliance for Better Campaigns. Before that, he was a newspaper reporter for 25 years, the last 14 at The Washington Post, where he covered presidential politics and served as a foreign correspondent. From 1992-1995, he was the Posts bureau chief in South Africa and reported on the historic transformation from apartheid to democracy. Taylor is the author of See How They Run and co-author of The Old News Versus the New News. He twice served as the visiting Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University, in 1989 and 1995. He graduated in 1970 with a bachelors in American Studies from Yale University. Taylor has lectured at numerous colleges and frequently discusses Pew Research studies in print and broadcast media. He lives in Maryland.
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