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.