The Next America: Boomers, Millennials, and the Looming Generational Showdown
by Paul Taylor
“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.“ -Goodreads
I am one who struggles reading non-fiction, not necessarily because the topics of the books are boring, but because they lack the action and adventure of fiction. That is why it took me almost seven months to get through this one. The Next America, despite how long it took me, is a very fascinating book, and it has more facts to back up its statements than any other book I’ve ever read. It’s co-author being the Pew Research Center reinforces this.
I first heard of this book, like many other Americans, on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show last year. You can view the clip here.The idea of trying to understand the political and social leanings of the different generations appealed to me. In my household alone are three of the identified generations. My father is in the middle of the Baby Boomers, my mother is at the beginning of the Gen X, and myself and my siblings are all Millennials.
Since reaching what is considered adulthood I’ve begun to notice the political leanings of my father, mother, and myself differ on many points. While a lot of that is just us, a lot of the differences are actually norms when comparing these generations as a whole. While I am socially liberal, which is a pronounced trend among Millennials, my father is not very, an attribute of many Baby Boomers. It is interesting to read Taylor’s book and see all the variances.
Not only does the research focus on the generations alone, it goes into the demographics of the nation as well. How soon America will be a majority minority and how immigration has changed. The author states, “Our twentieth-century metaphor was ‘melting pot.’ Our twenty-first-century metaphor, in a much more racially and ethnically diverse nation, is ‘mosaic.’ Each piece contributes to a whole, but not by losing its distinctiveness.” (Taylor, Ch. 6) The idea of a mosaic nation sounds much more poetic and beautiful than a bowl of soup.
Another topic discussed is gay marriage. Taylor tells us that a majority of gay rights supporters are of the younger generations and that, “quite literally the opposition of gay marriage is dying.” (Taylor, Ch. 8) Meaning that when the Silent generation and the Baby Boomers leave the political spectrum, a good portion of those who oppose this movement will be gone.
Other issues discussed are aging, and where our social security will be, how marriage is changing, how the digital age has affected all generations, and how religiously unaffiliated, or the nones, are becoming more common. My favorite line from the book is Taylor’s last remark, “The demographics have changed. The old math doesn’t work anymore.” (Taylor, Ch. 13) This meaning that how we approached the world fifty years ago is not necessarily the best way to approach the world now.
On another note, the book is aesthetically appealing, I love the colors and infographics used to entice readers. It is bold and lets the reader know that we need a new direction, we need, not the current one, but the Next America.
Overall I rated the book at four stars because it took me so long to read it. Also, occasionally some terms confused me and I felt they could have been explained better.