The Next America: Boomers, Millennials, and the Looming Generational Showdown

The Next America: Boomers, Millennials, and the Looming Generational Showdown

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by Paul Taylor, Pew Research Pew Research Center

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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 today’s chasm is


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 today’s chasm is unprecedented. By 2030, America’s age pyramid—the relationship between the number of working Americans asked to support retirees—will take on a shape it’s 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? Change Ahead 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 America’s 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 Center’s extensive archive of public opinion surveys, Paul Taylor explores how America’s 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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
An incisive survey of vast recent changes in American society and the ever-wider generation gap between baby boomers and millennials. In this well-written, data-rich book, Taylor (See How They Run: Electing the President in an Age of Mediaocracy, 1990, etc.), executive vice president of the Pew Research Center and a former Washington Post reporter, examines the demographic, economic, social, cultural and technological changes that are reshaping the nation. His key focus is on the problem of generational equity: "[A]s our population ages, how do we keep our promises to the old without bankrupting the young and starving the future?" Furthermore, he writes, the generations are "divided by race, politics, values, religion, and technology to a degree that's rare in our history." Some 76 million boomers are aging, worried about retirement and lamenting that they aren't young anymore. The 80 million millennials (born after 1980) are empowered by technology, coddled by parents, slow to embrace the responsibilities of adulthood, and comfortable with racial, ethnic and sexual diversity. At the same time, both groups face money troubles: Older Americans lack retirement savings, and young people have dismal job prospects. Yet the generations are highly interdependent; they are each others' children and parents, with 40 percent of millennial men (and 32 percent of women) living in their parents' homes in 2012. With the helpful charts and graphs, Taylor tells these generational stories against the larger background of a nation that is growing older, more unequal, more diverse, more mixed racially, more digitally linked, more tolerant, less married, less fertile, less religious, less mobile and less confident. He examines everything from intermarriage, the graying workforce and the gap-widening digital landscape to the new immigrants whose striving drives the growth of the country. Taylor is confident pragmatic Americans will avoid an intergenerational war and that the societal changes recounted here will ultimately compel reform of the social security and Medicare systems to provide for tomorrow's retirees. An authoritative report and required reading for policymakers.
From the Publisher
"The book's greatest strength lies in its detailed analysis of significant trends-from politics to lifestyle choices-among the four generational groups surveyed." —Publishers Weekly

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Meet the Author

Paul Taylor is the executive vice president of the Pew Research Center, and serves as the director of the center’s Social & Demographic Trends project and director of the Pew Hispanic Center. 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 national politics and served as a foreign correspondent. From 1992-1995, he was the Post’s bureau chief in South Africa and reported on the historic transformation from apartheid to democracy. He also covered four U.S. presidential campaigns. Taylor is the author of See How They Run (Knopf, 1990) and co-author of The Old News Versus the New News (Twentieth Century Fund, 1992). He twice served as the visiting Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University, in 1989 and 1995. He graduated in 1970 with a bachelor’s in American Studies from Yale University. Taylor has lectured at numerous colleges and frequently discusses Pew Research studies in print and broadcast media.

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The Next America: Boomers, Millennials, and the Looming Generational Showdown 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Paul Taylor admits that most of his information comes from Pew Research Group studies. He masters the obvious with details of changing America. In the chapters describing social differences in the generations, his observations are a useful summary. His thesis falls apart, however, through the lack of awareness of the 1 percent vs the 99 percent. No matter how rich the USA is presently or will be in the future, he is convinced that the "younger generations" cannot support the older generations through Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. By the concluding chapter he repeats the tired bromide that the older generations will have to give up benefits. Without mentioning any tax credits to offset payroll taxes, he concludes that the younger generation has no hope of getting as much back as they put in. And he does not consider at all the possibility of expanding support for the entitlement programs through taxes where the money is: investment income and estate taxes.
MichaelTravisJasper More than 1 year ago
This book is based on polls and studies of current trends in America. It is very informative and offers a great deal of insight on topics such as: Immigration, religion, aging, wealth and poverty, politics, racism, and homophobia. It analyzes most subjects by comparing generational attitudes and circumstances, and how various demographics interact in our nation. Anyone interested in these topics will find this book interesting, though you may not be happy about everything that you learn. Still, nothing is gained by avoiding reality. Michael Travis Jasper, Author of the Novel “To Be Chosen”
Joelds More than 1 year ago
A must read by anyone concerned about the apparent conflicting issues in our country's future. This book is an excellent compare and contrast between generations without all the gloom and doom of other authors. The book is easy to read even with all the statistics of many surveys conducted over four generations. The book is well written and easy to understand; providing clarity to an otherwise complex topic. This is a great book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago