“The Boomers Ruined Everything.”
If you’re trying to start a civil conversation, particularly in a room full of people born between 1946 and 1964, that phrase might ruffle some feathers. It is, however, the title of an article written by demographer Lyman Stone, our current podcast guest.
To be fair, I probably only read the article because of the title. “An in-depth look at the regulatory and policy decisions of the 1990s and corresponding effects on prospects for millennials” would not have had the same appeal, and I doubt I would’ve clicked on it.
Like many headlines these days, the title doesn’t tell the whole story, which is far more nuanced and thought provoking.
Millennials are special
I hope you’ll listen to my conversation with Lyman, because he understands the complexity of societal problems and the challenge of finding solutions. Both require careful thinking and lots of data, and you can tell listening to our conversation that his concerns for younger Americans are warranted.
For instance, even before the COVID crisis, people born between 1981 and 1996 faced exceptional economic difficulty. The oldest millennials entered the workforce during the instability following the 9/11 attacks, and younger millennials had to find jobs during the Great Recession. Now, millennials are bearing most of the economic cost of COVID.
This generation may be the most educated our country has ever seen, but they also carry more student debt than any previous generation. Recent studies suggest that millennials are on track to become the unhealthiest generation, too. And they hit the important milestones in life—marriage, having children, becoming homeowners—later than their parents, the baby boomers, did.
Millennials are often derisively described as “special snowflakes,” but I doubt any of them wanted to be unique like this.
How did we get here?
Lyman argues that the life experiences of millennials has been worse than their parents because of political decisions made by older Americans. Policymakers always face decisions about the level of regulation and centralization in government, and when the baby boomers acquired political power, they opted for more bureaucracy and less decentralization. Those choices resulted in, among other things, stricter occupational licensing and restrictive zoning laws.
Now, years later, young people are living with the consequences of those decisions. It’s harder for them to get jobs than it was for their parents. If they do get jobs, it’s harder for them to rent or buy a home. And because both of those things are true, they put off having children longer, if they ever do.
It’s not funny
Jokes about millennials and avocado toast are just as easy to make as “Ok Boomer” memes, but there’s nothing funny about the challenge every generation now faces recovering from the pandemic. Pinning the blame is less important than figuring out how we all flourish. Lyman believes we need to invest in “interpersonal institutions that have some purpose beyond entertainment” if we are, in fact, going to recover. This week, our five links include Lyman’s article and other sources that provide further detail about the situation he describes. Please check them out and listen to the podcast, then consider finding some young people and some older people to discuss how we put down our memes and move forward to face these challenges together!
5 links worth your time
- The boomers ruined everything.
- This author describes these two generations as “natural enemies.”
- Who is the unluckiest generation in U.S. history?
- Millennials are on track to be one of the unhealthiest generations in United States history.
- Covid Ruined Our Hangout Spots. Here’s How They Come Back.
Photo from Volodymyr on Adobe Stock