5 Emerging trends from the recession

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As the recession persists, we can watch social shifts and cultural trends. Some are good, some are bad. But in either case, one way to control how the recession affects you is to watch the larger trends and decide where you want to fit.

Here are five trends that are emerging in the face of the largest job-loss numbers in the last four decades.

1. Being cost-conscious is cool.
These days, for the wives of the few investment bankers who still have jobs, shopping couture is something to do in secret. Hermes gives unmarked bags for customers who request it. The Obama girls showed up to the inauguration wearing J. Crew. And they looked adorable, which should inspire the reasonably-priced shopper in all of us.

And cost-cutting isn’t just about fashion. Michelle Obama has to overhaul the White House décor. (Great quote from Barack: “I’m not a plates-on-the-walls kind of guy.”) And she’s heading toward Pottery Barn. I love that!

This trend is very freeing to me because my favorite dress for this winter is from Target. It is velvet but not really velvet — sort of crap, cheap velvet. And when I bought it, in September, I worried that it was over-the-top-cheap. But now, I feel more uncomfortable wearing my $400 boots than I do wearing the $20 dress.

2. An increasing backlash against baby boomers.
Newsflash: The baby boomers got us into this mess. They borrowed against future generations. They mishandled SEC regulations. They ignored the environment. They set up a social security system that is going to break as soon as they’re done taking from it. And they took the best education this country had to offer, and then depleted the education system for the next generation.

Obama is the first Gen-X president. And, to the surprise of all the baby boomers who have been trash-talking Gen-X forever, it’s Gen-X that will bail this country out of the mess the baby boomers got us into.

In the meantime, Generation X is the first generation in the US ever that will earn less than their parents. And Generation Y has an incredible amount of debt due to baby boomers pushing up college costs and housing costs while real wages went down.

The under-45’s are stunned by the selfishness of the baby boomer era.

3. More Sex.
When I was a Boston Globe reporter, one of my best interviews was with David Blanchflower, professor of economics at Dartmouth, who has analyzed the relationship between money and sex.

He says that more money does not get people more sex, it merely gets them more choices of people to have sex with. This makes sense. I’ve never heard of someone abstaining from sex until they make enough money to date a model. And anyway, we know from Dan Airley’s research that if someone has too many choices, they don’t do anything. Sure, this research applies to jam samples in grocery stores, but maybe someone should investigate if people actually have less sex when they earn so much money that they can choose from anyone.

Okay. But back to the recession. Amazingly, it turns out that less money equals more sex. I am not totally sure why this is, because the research comes from what is now one of my most favorite resources, Durex condoms, a site that does provide a lot of qualitative analysis for their statistics.

Still, Durex reports that drugstore sales of their condoms were up 6% during the time Lehman went under. And sales in the New York City sex toy emporium Babeland increased 25% in that same time period. So the deeper the recession, the more sex people are having.

4. Women are earning all the money.
We already knew that in big cities women earn more than men. The trend is probably going to spread to smaller cities because the men comprise the majority of people being laid off during this recession: finance, manufacturing, construction, all men.

What will this mean for social fabric? If the pitches I receive from publicists are any indicator of what’s coming, things will be very bad at home. More than one press release has instructed women to use the fact that they are earning the money to force the guy to do more around the house.

Here’s a pitch for the book, Breakdown, Breakthrough: The Professional Woman’s Guide to Claiming a Life of Passion, Power, and Purpose. She encourages women to use their earning power to “commit to breaking the female pattern of overfunctioninig.” Presumably this means getting the guy to do more cleaning even though we know that men absolutely do not think the toilet needs cleaning as soon as the woman does.

So basically, women are being encouraged to use the fact that their husbands were laid off as a way to get the men to act like women at home. Bad. Very bad.

5. Companies are finding more cost-effective ways to recruit.
Business Week reports that the recruiting models are broken, and in the downturn, companies aren’t spending money on stuff that doesn’t work. Instead, companies are turning to online networks. And pundits are declaring that 2009 will be the year that corporations understand how cost-effective it is to leverage social media for corporate messaging.

What this all adds up to is a shift in recruiting. Candidates have known for years that sending a resume to Monster is like sending it into a black hole. Online networks are finally giving recruiters an alternative to the old ways of doing business.

And really, that’s the silver lining of the whole recession, right? It’s an opportunity for each of us to look at what we’ve been doing before that wasn’t working anyway. Because in a bad economy the stuff that we could sort of get by ignoring will kill us if we don’t take action. And taking action to do things better is what we’d want for ourselves in any economy.

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  1. Diogo Slov
    Diogo Slov says:

    Hey Penelope. I was halfway through #4 and I already knew this was one of your finest articles. REALLY good.

    #2 (babyboomers mess) is oh-so-true, #3 (sex) made me laugh, #4 (men-women) is something I fully agree (I’m a guy!) and #5 (throw away the underperfoming) is the richness of this crisis.

    May we all have the wisdom to recognize that there’s always a bright side to things — and the bravery to work our bottoms off to make things better.

    Cheers, D.

  2. Rhona Gilmour
    Rhona Gilmour says:

    I suspect condom sales rise as people realise their realtionships are more important than their jobs and will sustain them for longer. Thankfully human interaction is much more important long term than a huge salary.

    Now I’m off to appreciate my lovely boyfriend….

  3. Matt Tillotson
    Matt Tillotson says:

    Provoking thoughts as always. As a Gen Xer, I don’t feel like we’re bailing anybody out. If Obama is a Gen X president, and he’s just signed this staggering deficit spending bill, isn’t what we’re doing far worse than the Baby Boomers?

    • David
      David says:

      Isn’t this spending bill (which, by the way is not nearly as big, percentage-wise as the fundamental economic moves of of Reagan, Bush I or Bush II) the bailout.

  4. Derek Scruggs
    Derek Scruggs says:

    From my company’s perspective, recruiting got a whole lot easier. We posted a job notice for a customer service position on Craigslist and got over 100 responses. 20 of them made the initial cut. For comparison, we recruited for the same position last summer and got about 30 and 5, respectively.

    We also do a lot to pre-sell people on the company and make them jump through a couple of (reasonable) hoops before we look at their resume. The req is closed, but anyone interested can see our process here.

    • Steve Cook
      Steve Cook says:

      Derek, just curious about the hoops you make ad respondents jump through before you review resumes. I’m involved in Job-fit assessments and wonder if this is what you are referring to. Very interesting business by the way.

  5. Raven Moore
    Raven Moore says:

    Wow. Only 4 comments? This is such a great post! I’m not sure how many people (especially baby boomers) will necessarily agree that there will be a backlash against baby boomers – but I do think this nation’s attitude toward debt/spending will change significantly. I am sure Gen Y’s will be a lot more cautious about spending, making major purchases and living life a lot different from their parents. I’m also sure that the wave of “cheap chic” will take over as well. On that note, it’s interesting that you mention the JCrew/Obama relationship.
    As a JCrew fanatic, I’ve noticed that JCrew used very few African Americans in its ad campaigns/catalogs. I wonder how this marketing willl change now that the Obamas are so openly connected to the clothing.

  6. TrendObsever
    TrendObsever says:

    Penelope…you have such a great blog and are usually so ahead of the curve that I’m genuinely shocked to see you say that Obama is an Xer. That’s so clearly not what current thinking is among experts. I could have sworn that I’ve seen you before acknowledge the existence of Obama’s actual generation:

    As many nationally influential voices have repeatedly noted, Obama–born 1961–is part of Generation Jones, born 1954-1965, between the Boomers and Generation X. Google Generation Jones, and you’ll see it's gotten a ton of media attention, and many top commentators from many top publications and networks (Washington Post, Time magazine, NBC, Newsweek, ABC, etc.) specifically use this term to describe Obama.

    Virtually no prominent voices have said that Obama is an Xer. The writer you link to–John Avalon–is one of the only writers anywhere who has said that Obama is an Xer, and Avalon is an obscure writer who isn’t even remotely a prominent voice. A long list of prominent voices has said Obama is part of GenJones, including : David Brooks (New York Times), Karen Tumulty (Time Magazine), Clarence Page (Chicago Tribune), Jonathan Alter (Newsweek), Roland Martin (CNN), Michael Steele (Chairman, RNC), Chris Van Hollen (Chairman, DCCC), Stuart Rothenberg (Roll Call), Juan Williams (Fox News Channel), Howard Wolfson (Political Advisor), Mel Martinez (U.S. Senator [R-Florida]), Carl Leubsdorf (Dallas Morning News), and Peter Fenn (MSNBC) and many more top journalists, generations experts and political and social pundits.

    Polling offers yet more evidence. Several polls have confirmed that those born between the mid-1950s and mid-1960s clearly identify with GenJones over its surrounding generations. One particularly interesting poll a few months ago had a nationally representative sample of 500 people all born in 1961–the same birth year as Obama. They overwhelmingly chose GenJones over GenX or the Baby Boom Generation as the generation which they felt they fit into.

    Excellent op-ed on Obama as the first Generation Jones President in USA TODAY a couple of weeks ago:

    And here is a video with over 20 top pundits talking about Obama as a GenJoneser, with many specifically saying that he is obviously not an Xer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ta_Du5K0jk&feature=related

    The Associated Press’ annual trend report chose The Rise of Generation Jones as the #1 trend of 2009, specifically because of Jonesers Obama, Geitner, Summers, etc. taking over leadership of the U.S. CNN and several other major media outlets have also listed Generation Jones as among 2009’s top trends. So when you’re doing a piece on “5 emerging trends”, I encourage you to get this one right, to help maintain the excellent reputation that your blog has rightfully earned.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I understand that Obama is born in the year that counts as Generation Jones. There is a great comment below from Jen67 about this discussion, but I’ll add to it here.

      I do not believe that peoples’ generation is defined by the year they are born. I have written about this before, and I developed a test, in conjunction with reserachers at MIT, to determine what your generation is. Obama is an Xer.


      Also, click the link I have in the post to the rest of the world that considers Obama the first Gen X president.


    • gregcnorca*AT*aim
      gregcnorca*AT*aim says:

      I as born in 1971 and no way do I consider Obama in my generation (x-gen)as he is an older guy now, I am only on the verge of being that :)

      I havent heard of Gen Jones yet, but I would think it more applies to Obama and those born 10 years ahead of me.

    • Kay Frommelt
      Kay Frommelt says:

      A shared experience of Generation Jones is graduating into the recession of 1980-82 which redefined employment expectations for all who followed. Another characteristic is the emergence of word processing and computer literacy. There is a shift that occurred in this eight year period of early adulthood and many resisted developing keyboard skills and had to catch up.
      Dont claim Obama for yourself, Gen X!

  7. Marie
    Marie says:

    Maybe having lots of people to choose from for a sex partner doesn’t result in less sex, rather less enjoyment of sex. You waste time wondering “Did I pick the right/best person?” rather than just enjoying your time together.

    And maybe it isn’t simply an increase in sex, as much as it is an increase in sex that won’t get you pregnant?

    Great post!

  8. factchecker
    factchecker says:

    Obama is a boomer, and the boomers did not setup the Social Security ponzi scheme. It’d be nice to blame them, but it’s inaccurate.

  9. jenx67
    jenx67 says:

    i wish everyone would stop already about generation jones. a generation that does not exist according to the leading researchers in generational studies; moreover, 1958-1962 does not constitute a generation, but rather a bunch of tail end baby boomers trying to avoid association, and older gen xers, who like the rest of gen x, don’t even know they have a generation.

    i love how gen x finally gets their first president and the whole world then debates how he’s not really an xer. what is the freakish point? his wife was born in 1964. she’s not an xer either, huh?

    as far as these trends – i’d argue that they aren’t emerging. they’ve already a emerged; some of them a long time ago – although I hadn’t heard about plain sacks…wild.

    here are some trends i’ve noticed:
    1. tiny stuff is cool – including tiny houses.
    2. living in places formerly considered unhip – like Omaha, and my hometown, OKC.
    3. more churches largely represented by brick and mortar will close and church will be more and more defined by a small knit community.
    4. urban gardens will replace backyard lawns as people attempt to reconnect with their agrarian roots and figure out how we got here…(recession/economic nightmares)
    just a few – i’ve noticed many more.

  10. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    Great post. Love “the condom effect,” which perhaps is the new “Lipstick Effect.” The President of Este Lauder once noted that during recessions lipstick sales go up. Presumably lipstick (or sex) is a cheaper indulgence to look and feel better than say, your $400 boots.

    And to Marie’s point: I suppose in America, birth control pills are harder to get during recessions because of their costs and needing a prescription, which means seeing a doctor, which not everyone can afford.

  11. MW
    MW says:

    How is Obama the first “Gen X president”? He was born in 1961, so he’s an even older Baby Boomer than I am. Let’s give credit where credit is due already, and please stop generalizing about the Baby Boomers, some of which are a scant four years older than you, and just like Gen Xers are waiting for them to retire or die before we can advance…

    • pip
      pip says:

      I second that. I am allegedly a baby boomer albeit the fact that I have never been able to enjoy the same standard of living as my parents. I knew this was going to be the primary fact of my life as soon as I graduated college.
      If you really research this, you will undoubtedly realize that this mess is the sum total of the United States being under the rule of conservative ideology for the last 30 some odd years. Deregulation,no oversight,putting business above people has decimated (destroyed?) the middle class and consequently,landed Gen-X,Y,Z and so forth into the same sinking boat that I find myself in (with alot of other so-called baby boomers). And if you don’t believe me, I will send you the very well researched grad school paper I am writing on this very subject. Oh yes- the conservative Republicans had a good deal of help from the centrist Democrats of the 1990s in creating this debacle.

  12. MW
    MW says:

    p.s. it’s not the policies of ‘a generation’ that put us into this mess, it’s the policies of a couple of ancient, greedy white guys, none of which anyone I know — Baby Boomer or otherwise — ever voted for.

  13. Taylor at Household Management 101
    Taylor at Household Management 101 says:

    Penelope,I guess I am struggling to figure out your point when you say, “So basically, women are being encouraged to use the fact that their husbands were laid off as a way to get the men to act like women at home. Bad. Very bad. Cheaper recruiting that is actually better for the candidate too.”

    Is there something wrong with expecting everyone who lives in a house to be a part of maintaining that house? I think that is a fair expectation, and I can’t tell if that is your opinion or not.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Did you click the link in that sentence? I link to research (just one of a million pieces of research) that shows that men actually do not see clean/not clean the same way women do.

      So the idea that men and women will share housecleaning responsibilities is inane. Men do not see the same way. They cannot clean the way a woman would want. It would not look clean to a woman. It’s a different way of seeing things.

      It would be really easy to just divide everything down the middle and make marriages perfectly equal. But people are different. Men and women are very different.


      • Natalia Real
        Natalia Real says:

        Enter communication and compromise.

        Talk about each other’s cleanliness standards and decide how to tell whether something needs cleaning and whose job it is.


        And really, truly not impossible. I’m living it.

      • jcg1013
        jcg1013 says:

        absent the sweeping generalization, this is right on the money – people see “clean” differently, but women aren’t always on the “cleaner” side. when i shovel the walk, my wife sees “clean” much earlier than i do (if i had a flamethrower, i could really do a good job [sublimate the last bits of ice and packed snow], but having almost cut my fingertip off with a hedge trimmer, maybe that’s not such a good idea).

        but in general, the generalization (and hence its name) holds true – she likes clean-clean and i shoot for 80%, particularly in places that will just go from 100% clean to 80% in less than a day (litter box, bathroom, etc) – so why bother. if, on first glance, it “looks” clean, then for me, it’s clean.

        so i do the things where she can accept “looks clean” and agrees not to watch (so she can convince herself that it really is clean) and she does the rest. over time, more and more moves into my realm – as she realizes that her time is more important than the 20% extra clean she would do. and that’s ok with me since i can 80% clean a bathroom (that hasn’t been cleaned in a month) in about 30 min vs a half day for her. less “couple time” spent.

  14. Teri
    Teri says:

    Women as a group do not earn more than men. ANYWHERE. Do your research and for the love of God, stop saying that – you are grossly misinformed. Start by reading this: http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpswom2007.pdf

    Whenever I read your men vs. women’s earnings error, it makes me mistrust everything else you say.

  15. T. Meehan
    T. Meehan says:

    Hi Penelope–

    Thought provoking post, as always!

    However, people aren’t necessarily having more sex– maybe they’re just being more careful– the increase in condom sales could be due to the fact that many people can’t afford to risk pregnancy right now. And an increase in sex toy sales could mean more people are engaging in self-love. Maybe there are a few upsides to the down economy! ;)

  16. Jason Taylor
    Jason Taylor says:

    Wow, this post sure got everyone fired up.


    We should be talking about this stuff. Right or wrong, agree or disagree, thanks Penelope for posting clear, articulate thoughts.

  17. Laura
    Laura says:

    I was born in 1966 and anyone who wants to call me a Boomer had better stand waaay back, because I *will* take a swing at them. Sheesh. Yes, Obama is our first Gen X president and it is entirely typical that a roundup of people would deny it, because nobody wants to give Gen X credit for anything, ever. @#$% ’em if they don’t get it.

    • Orlando
      Orlando says:

      I think that President Obama will do a good job turning this country around, remember it took 8 years for Bush to steer us in the ground, how long will it take to turn it around, might take just as long. Nobody knows, not even the “glorious” Ex-president Bush has a clue…

  18. Carol
    Carol says:

    Interesting comments Penelope. Although I find interesting that you think the Pottery Barn and J. Crew are “bargains.” Living and working in Montana, most of the people here always thought it was cool to be bargain hunters. Four hundred dollar boots? Will you send all of your old clothes to me please? And the Generation thing. Please. Another division. If we’d all look at each other as people and we’d see that we really all want the same things and would be a lot better off. And if you look at the definition of Obama, he’s a boomer. I’m a boomer although I relate better to the Xers.

    Sex comment is funny. Probably because people can’t go out and spend money like they could before.

    As always, you post elicits many emotions and comments.

    The social security system was set up in the 1930s during the last great depression before most of the boomers were even born.

  19. TrendObserver
    TrendObserver says:

    Penelope, I’m kinda amazed to see your approach with this issue of Obama’s generational identity, because generally I think you have a very insightful take on issues, but part of the beauty of blogs is they allow us to debate issues like this in a spirit of mutual respect. You strike me as someone who has an open mind, so I offer these comments for your consideration:

    (1) No generation expert anywhere avocates determining generations by subjective variables like how people use media. Sociologists, demographers, pundits, journalists and other experts always use birth dates to determine generations for a variety of obvious reasons. If you think through the implications of trying to do this with the kind of subjective variable you suggest, I think you would see how completely unworkable that would be. For generations to have meaning, it must be done by birth years, which is why all experts do it that way.

    For starters, who would determine these subjective variables? And which ones would they choose? Do you honsetly believe that the one you chose–how people use media–is the only relevant variable?! What about all the other many political, cultural, economic variables that are factored into determining collective generational personalities? Generational science is very complicated, and experts use mountains of attitudinal, behavioral and other data to arrive at these generational birth ranges. It really is hard for me to believe that someone of your obvious intelligence could believe that generations should be determined by one issue and the thousands of other issues considered regularly by generations experts should all be ignored.

    (2) I looked through your post and cannot find the link you say is in your post “to the rest of the world that considers Obama the first Gen X president”. That I would like to see. I follow this closely, and can assure you that virtually no credible experts say Obama is an Xer. If you can provide specific names of experts who say Obama is an Xer, please do. With all respect, there is no such list. Again, by contrast, there is a long list of experts who say he is a GenJoneser.

    (3) I’d be very curious to know what could cause you conclude that JenX67’s comment is “great”. Let me briefly address this, not with any malice toward JenX7, but in the spirit of a candid debate. If you read JenX67’s blog, you will quickly see that she has very little knowledge about genrations. She may be a very nice person, but she clearly has not developed anything close to expertise on this topic and her posts are often filled with blatant inaccuracies. Let’s break down her comment here, for example…
    a) she says she wishes “everyone would stop already about generation jones”. You’ll find this theme in her blog, what is so striking is how it always comes back to her emotional desire to claim rock star Obama as one of her own. She’s made numerous comments which clearly show that this is driven by her personal desire to be have Obama be part of the same group. I’ve read her comments and been reminded of how passionately some people cling to local sports teams, feeling like if their hometown team becomes a champion, it somehow makes them as a fan a champion.

    b) she claims that Generation Jones is “a generation that does not exist according to the leading researchers in generational studies”. Jenx67 might find it helpful to actually do research before making claims that are so embarrassingly wrong. Many, many leading researchers in generational studies believe in the existence of Generation Jones…most new books about generations now automatically include GenJones, most experts in the field absolutely believe in its existence, conferences about generations regularly include it. A consensus has unequivocally emerged among experts that GenJones exists.

    c) she defines GenJones as those born 1958-1962. Again, if Jenx67 chose at some point to do even the tiniest amount of research on this topic which she regularly “informs” the public about, she would find that nobody uses these years for GenJones. If she actually took the time to google this, she’d find hundreds of articles which all define GenJones as born 1954-1965. I just googled 1958-1962 and couldn’t find one reference anywhere using these birh years. That makes me wonder whther JenX67 makes up these years which she knows are false to try to fool people into believing her hard-to-defend postion, or is it innocent ignorance?

    Again, no personal attack intended in my sincere views here, just an attempt to bring actual facts and expertise into this discussion.

    • Sara
      Sara says:

      Um, not to offend you, but I can think of few things more boring than debating whether someone is a member of what generation. Generations to me are just arbitrary segmentations of people. I can’t fathom why you would get so worked up about them so as to call another commenter’s observations “embarrassingly wrong.”

    • jenx67
      jenx67 says:

      Oh, boy. Penelope writes about emerging trends, and it spirals down into a generational debate. Yawn. Let me just waste space and defend myself against the non-attack. First of all – there are no blatant inaccuracies relating to Generation X on my blog. I primarily link to conversations in the Blogopshere. I provide a quasi news/blog aggregate. I rarely write “about” generations in the academic sense because I know I’m not expert. And, I’m not trying to play one in the Blogopshere. I’ve lived Generation X, and I am here to bear witness to my life and times and to provide some validation for what a variety of people have defined as the collective persona of my generation. Thus, the memoir and revelation subhead on my blog.

      Moreover, if you actually read my blog then you would know that I didn’t even vote for Obama — or Bush in the last election, so your assessment of me and my motivation for the point I made about Obama being an expert could not be more wrong. According to Neil and Strauss, the most widely recognized experts in generational research, Generation X (or the 13th Generation) comprises peeps born between 1961 and 1981. Obama was born in 1961.

      Regarding the 1958 to 1962 figure, I recalled that from a video on YouTube. You are right and I stand corrected. I reviewed that video again and reported the years incorrectly. What I remembered was that the years defining Generation Jones included birth years of two of my siblings. The one born in ’58 is a classic Boomer. The one born in ’62 – a classic Xer. Thus, my own assessment of Generation Jones being junk theory.

      Finally, there are many kinds of research. Qualitative and quantitative; secondary and primary. You call yourself a trend observer. How, then, can you deny all the people placing Generation Jones on the same level as the tooth fairy? You will discover this in secondary qualitative research, which I do in fact perform every week.

      Oh, and one more thing. I don’t blog anonymously, and I don’t leave anonymous comments. If I say someone doesn’t know what they are talking about I show my face. So, why not state your name and show your face if you really are an expert?

  20. MariaH
    MariaH says:

    I agree with Laura (born in the same year!) And I agree with the idea that even though I am on the edge of the Baby Boomer generation and Obama is technically one – it is just more of a philosophical thing than the exact year. So THANK YOU for #2. I was so relieved that we finally broke the “age barrier” with a president – I could identify with him so much more. I don’t know if he can “save” us, but I have hope that we may get some different ideas going.

    I get really tired of hearing that I am so cynical I cannot possibly function at work, especially as a manager. That I am so technically-phobic and so threatened by Gen Y that I cry myself to sleep. You would think I should be balled up in a corner gnashing my teeth considering I am in the middle of a bank merger. Nothing could be farther from the truth – I am seeing some great possibilities and so are many of the people my age – in fact we are some of the ones who stand to gain the most in our new larger organization.

  21. Elle
    Elle says:

    Couldn’t an increase in condom sales also (at least in part) be a consequence of women losing health care coverage when they’re laid off? Without insurance, I certainly would not be able to stay on the pill.

    I don’t have any statistics to support this — just a thought.

  22. finance girl
    finance girl says:

    Dirty little secret: It’s super easy to fix Social Security. Here’s how: No cap on FICA/FUTA for wages (currently indexed ~ $102k).

    Remove the cap remove the gap.

  23. Bill
    Bill says:

    Obama is GenX because he uses a BlackBerry. Okay, some Boomers use BlackBerries, but they don’t look as cool doing it.

    People who are unemployed have more time for sex.

  24. Susan
    Susan says:

    I think people are getting it on more often because sex is free (most of the time). It’s also a temporary high and stress buster. Not to mention I have a feeling that when money goes out the door, people start re-evaluating what’s really important in life. Like love, family, relationships, etc. Also, when people are unemployed they freak out and have too much time on their hands. Sex is a good way to kill some time.

    I sort of got the impression that Penelope meant Obama is the first president who appeals to a Gen-X audience, is generally like-minded (I’m generalizing here) and utilizes social networking, etc. I think she’s too smart not to know Obama is too old to be a Gen-Xer.

  25. mimsey tove
    mimsey tove says:

    1. For someone who is running a business on borrowed money it probably isn’t a good idea to broadcast the fact you spent that money on $400 boots. For the larger percentage of people in this country J. Crew is upscale and expensive. Boots or any item of apparel costing $400 will never be in their wardrobes.

    2. Wall Street is populated primarily by people under 45, not the baby boomers. Granted the long view of this mess goes back to the 70’s, but the immediate financial crisis and the events that created it are the result of those in Gen-X, not the baby boomers.

    3. The current crisis originated in the greed of the American people who tried to get something for nothing. The financial people saw that greed and pounced. A $35,000 a year family cannot afford a $500,000 house and they know it. People who refinanced their homes so they could put in swimming pools, take vacations, get plastic surgery, deserve to lose it all. If these people would pay back the money they borrowed we wouldn’t be in this mess. Instead they are playing the role of victim when they caused this mess themselves.

  26. TrendObserver
    TrendObserver says:

    Good point, Susan…I agree that Penelope does seem too smart to think that Obama is literally an Xer. And yes, he is the first to appeal to Xers. So perhaps I misunderstood Penelope’s comments, for which I apologize.

  27. Natalia Real
    Natalia Real says:

    “So basically, women are being encouraged to use the fact that their husbands were laid off as a way to get the men to act like women at home.”

    No, actually it’s about dividing up chores fairly contingent on how much free time you have, whether you’re a hermaphrodite, a woman, a man, or however you want to be classified.

  28. Kathy
    Kathy says:

    Barak Obama was born in 1961 – by some definitions that makes him a baby boomer. Even if you don’t subscribe to that – does one year in or out have such a magical effect that you attribute a whole set of values to a person by date of birth?

    • Veronica Sawyer
      Veronica Sawyer says:

      My maternal grandparents had 6 kids born from 1949 to 1965. Their daugher born in 1949 had a daughter of her own in 1969. She is 3 years younger than her aunt but is she the same generation? Of course not, and it isn’t because of some arbitrary cut-off date.

      The cut-off points for generations always seem to be changing and people who don’t identify with the generation they’re lumped in with are always complaining about it.

      As Penelope says, everyone thinks they’re unique. So no one wants to be defined by their generation, especially when generational stereotypes are usually negative, but get over it and be an individual. Just because you’re born at a certain time doesn’t mean you have to act a certain way.

  29. That Mike
    That Mike says:

    Just wondering if you had a nip at breakfast.

    You might try some Tia Marie or Kahlua with your AM coffee. Works with PM coffee too.

    I believe that Starbux will find this to be a hit in the recession. Remember, you heard it here first.

    Still awaiting the address to send the corkscrew. Until then, Manischewitz is screwtop and it is cost-conscious.

  30. Kandi
    Kandi says:

    It would be really easy to just divide everything down the middle and make marriages perfectly equal. But people are different. Men and women are very different.

    No excuses. Especially if they’re at home. Men are raised not to see when things need to be cleaned, not that they’re born that way. There are no social consequences for them (people don’t reprimand men for not keeping a clean house or that the kids look unkept, they reprimand women). There need to be more consequences and they need to step up and learn how to be accountable for work inside the home, seeing as that’s where they’ll be. Now’s a really good time for that.

    • LuckyK
      LuckyK says:

      People don’t reprimand anyone for unclean houses and unkempt kids. If you’re hanging out with people who are judging you for what your kids look like I feel sorry for you.

  31. TrendObserver
    TrendObserver says:

    Of course, there is an arbitrary element to generations. It’s like being in one country and walking five feet away over an international border and suddenly you’re in a completely different country, even though the landscape looks identical. But that doesn’t mean that there is no such things as countries, just like the former point doesn’t mean there is no such thing as generations.

    Another point which needs clarification is the difference between the demographic boom in birth for approximately 20 years after the second world war vs. cultural generations. Two very different generations were born during that birth boom. Many experts now see it this way:

    Demographic baby boom = 1946-1964
    Baby Boom GENERATION = 1942-1953
    Generation Jones = 1954-1965
    Generation X = 1966-1979

  32. Don B.
    Don B. says:

    It’s all the boomers fault? As with most problems the cause is a set of circumstances no one considered possible that occurs anyway. The lesson to be learned is to assume all your assumptions are wrong and then examine whether your plan has risks you did not consider. Also look for unintended consequences of your choices. Then if you start getting stressed, consider some romance and find a smile.

    • Anthony
      Anthony says:

      100% pure bull. This has all happened before. The Great Depression was caused in large part by rampant speculation, The safe guards that were put in place to prevent it from happening again were removed by those who were either greedier or thought they were somehow wiser than those who had lived through carnage. Not only that, but fraud was committed on several levels, from the individuals who lied on loan applications to the financial wizards who knew those loans were junk but sold them as top grade investments. I called this three years ago when I was studying the depression, and several others have called it before me. This wasn’t some freak that no one could have predicted. It’s been painfully obvious for years to anyone who paid attention in history class. I’m not going to blame a whole generation for this, but let’s not pretend this was no one’s fault. It damn well was, and it could have been prevented.

  33. Ben
    Ben says:

    I think many of the people who have commented on the “More Sex” during recessions correlation to be erroneous. Condom sales measure the increased need or lust for sex and does not necessarily indicate that more people are doing it. Our studies show that conception rates ebb and flow with the stock market. .

  34. Harry
    Harry says:


    I think in your zeal to be provocative, your research doesn’t back up what you’re saying.

    1. Social Security was passed by 1 vote in the 1930’s by a Democratic majority. As you know, baby-boomers were NOT around then.

    2. Obama appeals to gen-x, but he’s not part of gen-x.

    3. Crises always spur more sex. See 9 months after 9/11 or nine months after the famous New York electrical blackout (1960’s). Births spiked.

    There’s more, but you’re a smart lady so I don’t think it’s necessary to go on.

    P.S. You might want to fact check Swan’s blog.

    • Harry
      Harry says:

      Point taken Ben. You are correct. I jumped the track on that one. Her real point was recessional not crises related. That’s what happens when you hurry too much.

  35. Teri
    Teri says:

    Arg, this is so dumb. Increased condom sales = more sex? Um, no…

    Increased condom sales = more people looking to prevent pregnancy because they don’t have gainful employment.

  36. Kathy Caprino
    Kathy Caprino says:

    Thanks very much, Penelope, for mentioning my book Breakdown, Breakthrough. I appreciate your insights – always fascinating and thought-provoking. I must add to the comments here that my point is that we (both men and women) need to shift gender inequities. It’s time. It’s not impossible, and it’s not hopeless. I know…I live what it is to have a marriage where we both work full-time, and both chip in domestically and share the weight (not the toilets, but almost everything else!) Thanks again for your views. (FYI, my blog about women and careers shares some more thinking about women, men and work, at http://www.breakdownbreakthrough.com/blog.)

  37. Mindspazzer
    Mindspazzer says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more on point #2. Baby Boomers were NOT concerned about future generations when they were taking out loans they could never afford to pay back, and living “comfortable” lifestyle far beyond their means fueled by high interest rate credit cards.

    I’m 23 and will be completely debt free in 1 to 1.5 year. I’ve always been leery of taking out large sums of money even for my college education. I’m glad I never fell into that ideology of “take out what you need and worry about paying for it later.”

  38. chip
    chip says:

    The Social Security System was set up by the G.I. generation, not the Boomers. The Environmental Movement was largely a creation of the Boomers.

  39. Amber Warren
    Amber Warren says:

    I see your trend #1 happening a lot around me (which elates me). And #4 (which saddens me. The pressure on women is immense. I’m glad my husband picks up the slack – I hope more do).

    I am wondering about another trend caused by this recession – are people buying less food from Whole Foods and other organic, local-based grocers? This one worries me – but I think in a great economy everyone touts being “green” to be trendy and “buying local” even if it is more expensive. But I see fewer and fewer people at Whole Foods than I used to. I (unfortunately) bet Wal-Mart is booming. I haven’t looked into it, but I will. Have you noticed this trend?

  40. Nicole
    Nicole says:

    I like the post and love the stores but am I the only one who knows J Crew and Pottery Barn is still expensive to most people?

    Since when has $100 sweaters been considered cost efficient?

  41. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    So far this century the escalated war on terror as a result of 9/11 and now this economic crisis has been a devastating one-two punch to this country.
    The war on terror has cost lives, cost money, and cost us some freedoms and privacy to name a few things. The economic crisis is directly and adversely affecting the economic well-being of this country as well as its people in major ways now as well as for some time to come.
    The blame, anger, jealousy, and revenge seems to me to be at an all time high in my lifetime. It’s corrosive and divides us. It’s why I hate #2 in this post – An increasing backlash against baby boomers – an emerging trend from the recession.
    I think it’s time to try reconciliation among the generations rather than place blame. Reconciliation happens when we listen and tell stories to find what we hold in common rather than what holds us apart.

  42. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    Of course, I’m always drawn more to the sex bullets than anything else (and why not?). Several people have commented that increased condom sales doesn’t necessarily mean an increase in sex. But I was reading some sex research around Valentine’s Day, and interestingly, people were spending less money on V-Day gifts like flowers and lingerie, but they were having just as much sex. The general theory was that people were saving money by spending intimate time together at home.

    I think that’ll continue as the recession continues. I also agree with some of the comments here that sex is a mood-booster, and we all need to feel a little better right now.

  43. Kenneth Wolman
    Kenneth Wolman says:

    Entertaining as ever, provocative as ever. I am surely the oldest of old farts here, and I stay around simply to nettle Penelope: I was born in 1944, and on Monday I’ll be (gasp!) sixty-five.

    An increase in sex? Hmmmm (that’s a hummmmm). I have finally achieved the status of Dirty Old Man, and sure as Hell I’ve worked hard enough to get there. I have no idea why women in their 20s might find someone my age even vaguely interesting, but they do. Maybe it’s because men my age can (1) take our time and (2) string together an English sentence without the standard connectives that constitute American sentence structure: Like and Y’know.

    Blaming Boomers? Well, allow me to apologize for my generation, say ten Hail Marys, and twelve Our Fathers. However, I missed official Boomerdom by one year. The Boomers are dated back to 1945. Nevertheless, I’m slightly surprised to see that I’m part of the Greediest Generation that took Social Security away from the rest of you. Were you actually planning to live on that stuff? Do you know what it pays? I’m trying to do so (along with working off the books like some gardener in Freehold) because of some interesting alimony laws in New Jersey, and let’s just say that poverty is not genteel. If I’m not fighting my cat for the canned food yet, it’s only because the cat come to an understanding with me: I stay out of his food, he doesn’t do a Travis-the-Chimp act on my face.

    Oh: why am I collecting now instead of at 65 or 66? Let’s just say I had to.

    The one about companies being more innovative in recruiting is preposterous and about as self-congratulatory and self-serving as it gets. The firms simply buy larger shredders into which to feed the increased numbers of desperation resumes. Anyone who needs a job is disqualified. That would mean anyone over 40, right? Anyone who has a learning curve, right? For someone on this board to crow that his company now gets 100 resumes where it used to get 30, and how they can be more “selective”…well, fella, I alternate between mere contempt and wanting to do a Mickey Rourke on your face.

    I have part-time students at a community college I teach at in Jersey, and I warn them that what’s out there is very much like the shitty part-time jobs they have now–that the future is 19 years old, and its employment names are WalMart, CVS, Tar-dzay, Costco, and the local gas station. In other words, don’t quit your day job because you may not get another.

    • Holly
      Holly says:

      Dear Mr. Wolman,
      Your posted comment on Penelope’s blog was HYSTERICAL, and I think you need to start your own blog! So nice to know that I, too, can look forward to mixing it up when I am a little older, but wiser. Glad you’re making the best of living in NJ (no offense; I lived there for the first half of my 40 yrs, so I have the right to rag on Jersey).
      P.S. Penelope, keep up the ‘sensational’ work.

  44. Dan Geiger
    Dan Geiger says:

    Love your articles, love your insights, and I take offense to your baby-boomer comments. Being 50 myself, i’m not sure how I drove up college costs nor housing costs. Structural issues that have been as problematic for me as for anyone else (got 3 kids going to college over next 10 years, and I’m feeling just a bit screwed too). If I and my generation are at fault, please provide me with some real fact-based insights, refer me to past articles, or do one in the future. Everyone loves a good pile-on, but let’s add some meaningful analysis where useful.

  45. The Scratched Cynic
    The Scratched Cynic says:

    I think taking action is the best advice. As dire as things seem to be, this kind of climate can provide opportunity. I have a friend who lost her job a few years ago and used that unfortunate circumstance as fuel to start a successful business. All she really needed was a push and she’s never been happier. Granted, things are a bit different today, but the principle still applies.

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