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

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Overview

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.

Today’s Millennials—well-educated, tech savvy, underemployed twenty-somethings—are at risk...

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

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Overview

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.

Today’s Millennials—well-educated, tech savvy, underemployed twenty-somethings—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 they’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 40—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 tomorrow’s world, yesterday’s math will not add up.

Drawing on Pew Research Center’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 we’re headed—toward a future marked by the most striking social, racial, and economic shifts the country has seen in a century.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
01/27/2014
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
2014-01-16
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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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781610393508
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • Publication date: 3/4/2014
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 50,440
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 2.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Taylor is a Senior Fellow at the Pew Research Center, where he oversees demographic, social, and generational research. He is the author of See How They Run and coauthor of The Old News Versus the New News. He is a former reporter with the Washington Post, where he covered presidential politics and served as a foreign correspondent. He and his wife live in Bethesda, Maryland.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 11, 2014

    Highly Recommended

    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!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2014

    Paul Taylor admits that most of his information comes from Pew R

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 31, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    This book is based on polls and studies of current trends in Ame

    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”

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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