Originally published in Medium by the author
Another new year is here, although there is not much to look forward to if you are part of the American middle class. We can dedicate a post to describe the maladies faced by the middle class. Each generation in the middle class is facing its own unique set of problems and is contributing to generational mistrust.
“Ok Boomer” meme is one vocal indicator of that sentiment. Americans made significant social progress under Boomers than any previous generations in history, yet Millennials believe that Boomers are standing in the way of making real social progress in America. The following periods have forgotten their success in pushing civil rights forward. They are facing an under-appreciated retirement.
Generation X, much like silent generation, is suffering silently scarred by endless wars and economic bust cycles. They created much of the technological progress that millennial’s depend on day to day basis. They are looking at a future with no real retirement. This generation does not believe that Social Security and Medicare will be there to guarantee their retirement. Two economic crashes since 2000 have left them with less than $70,000 in retirement savings. Further, they are caught in the middle of the generational war between Millennial and Boomers. At most workplaces and kitchen tables, they have taken up the task of bridging the gap between the two generations.
Spoiled is the word that the previous generation uses to define a Millennial. They pay more attention to social issues and pay attention to work for companies that share their values. They deeply care about working for innovative companies that help them to grow in their skill, but millennials are held back by unprecedented levels of student debt. Studies put this figure at $498 billion spread across 15.1 million borrowers. That means the average Millennial is has a debt load of 33000$ when they pass out of the college. They have traded critical life milestones such as Marriage and House purchases due to the debt load. These trends are reshaping the American economic forces, such as the housing market and entrepreneurship.
Further, the impact is now spreading to more complex variables such as childbirth. For the first time in decades, the population trend has reversed. New census data indicates that we have 1.1 million fewer children.
Some of these variables can have a long term impact. Social Security and Medicare will fail to meet their goals when the number of contributors is less than retirees. We can see the ill effects in developed economies such as Japan and Advanced economies such as China. The cost of public pensions, health care, and welfare services has skyrocketed in Japan. Historically it was not an immigrant-friendly country, but the rapid ageing population has forced Japan to open up its immigration policies. From the outside, it does not look like China- the most populous country in the world has a demographic problem. China believed that a low birth rate is critical for sustainable development, but the one-child policy has resulted in 62 million missing women over four decades. China reversed this policy in 2014. It was too late in the game.
All of these trends indicate a fundamental shift in the way American society operates. The goal of this series is to explore the course correction required to position us to take advantage of the fourth industrial revolution and thrive.
References & Notes
This article is part of a series that explores how to revitalize the American economy.