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The Next America: Boomers, Millennials, and the Looming Generational Showdown Hardcover – March 4, 2014
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The book's greatest strength lies in its detailed analysis of significant trendsfrom politics to lifestyle choicesamong the four generational groups surveyed .Taylor proves a plainspoken translator of survey data, and makes statistical techniques accessible to the lay reader.”Publishers Weekly
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 examines the demographic, economic, social, cultural and technological changes that are reshaping the nation . An authoritative report and required reading for policymakers.” Kirkus
Well-written, fact-packed, neatly graphed, comprehensive description of the contemporary US Highly recommended.”CHOICE
An eye-opening and wonderfully written account of how swiftly our country is changing, and how we can preserve our social compact across the generational and ethnic divide. A brilliant analyst of public policy and social trends, Paul Taylor offers a hopeful look at America's future in challenging timesstudded with fact, and penetrating and revealing from page to page. The Next America is an indispensable book for anyone who wants to know where we are, and where we are going.” Richard North Patterson, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Loss of Innocence
Informed by decades of research data, The Next America is a lucid exploration of the social, cultural, economic, and demographic trends that are reshaping every corner of our society. Taylor's focus is the fundamental generational shifts that are redefining who we are as a people. His analysis of where we've been and where we're headed is the best and most comprehensive you'll read this year.” Neil Howe, author of The Fourth Turn and Millennials Rising
The Next America provides a lively, readable guided tour through the numbers that will influence how well the young adults of today will support the seniors of tomorrow.” Andrew Cherlin, Griswold Professor of Public Policy at Johns Hopkins University and author of The Marriage Go-Round
About 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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I'd summarize the biggest takeaways as follows:
- The combination of immigration, intermarriage, and changing social morés among younger generations (the author identifies today's primary generational groups from oldest to youngest as Silent, Boomers, GenX, and Millennials) mean that the social attitudes of current and future voters lean overwhelmingly towards what most people would associate with "progressive values" or with the Democratic Party. In particular, as the Republican Party has tacked farther and farther to the right, the segment of the electorate receptive to their messages is shrinking and in fact dying. On the other hand, these younger-but-growing segments of the electorate have a much poorer voter-turnout record than their older and more conservative counterparts. This combination of elements has profound consequences for future elections.
- The biggest coming "showdown" (to which the subtitle alludes) is the aging of the world's population. Japan, China, and some European nations will get there ahead of the US, in part because although birth rates are falling everywhere throughout the developed world, in the US that effect is partially offset by immigration, especially economically (since most immigrants arrive ready to work rather than newborn). But all these countries are rapidly approaching a point where fewer and fewer working people are supporting more and more seniors. (In Japan the ratio will approach 1:1 by about 2040 if current trends continue.) There is an unfortunate positive feedback loop in countries like the US where most legislation is made democratically: the older generations constitute a large and growing voter bloc to whom politicians must cater, and that bloc has been using its influence to appropriate a growing share of government wealth redistribution. In the US, Social Security and Medicare are basically on the ropes. At some level most of us know this, but the statistics and trends presented to quantify the situation are stark.
In other words: not only will the older and younger generations find themselves at odds on how to redistribute wealth, but their positions will be even farther apart because their social contexts are so different. As the author states in the introduction, "either transformation by itself would be the dominant demographic story of its era."
The book does a nice job of including enough charts and graphs inline when necessary to illustrate or back up a point, but relegating vastly more charts and tables to an Appendix you can browse at leisure or for more detail.
There is also a fascinating and well written appendix describing in high level terms the survey methodologies used by Pew and other professional research organizations, for those who think surveys are just a matter of asking some questions and tabulating answers. The appendix covers random sampling; a lay-person explanation of sampling error and reweighting; various biases including recency, confirmation, and self-selection; running meta-surveys to test the effect of different phrasings or presentations of the same questions; and much more. Indeed, this appendix is useful reading for anyone involved in doing rigorous surveys, whether they are interested in the rest of the book's content or not.
Whether it cheers you up, depresses you, or just causes you to raise an eyebrow may depend on where you fall on the political spectrum, but regardless of where you do, this is essential and well-reported information.