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.

182 replies
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  1. Bridget
    Bridget says:

    I think it is a bit opportunistic to claim Obama as a Xer and then later in the article describe boomers as over 45. I call myself the opposite of a math savant but that doesn’t add up. Good news, if he fails he can be regrouped with boomers.
    Sex- couple simple explanations. Guys are unemployed with nothing to do. They think about sex alot and now have time to and concentration to make a move. Everyone is so worried they need seratonin/endorphin lift. Sex it a handy way and no cost way to take care of ones mental health. Women are supporting them, they need to feel useful. Bullcrap to whoever said they are refocusing on things that really matter-they are looking to get high.

  2. Liz
    Liz says:

    I don’t think a man cleaning a toilet is someone forced to “act like a woman.” Someone has to clean the toilet or we will all die of germs, or be forced to endure a gross environment first thing in the morning.

    It’s a gender issue only when the member one sex is assumed to be the designated toilet cleaner. Otherwise, it’s just a job and should be negotiated. If you can’t do that, you don’t belong together.

  3. Allison
    Allison says:

    #4 is quite true, but could be re-titled Women Will Earn What’s Left of the Money, especially as salary scales ratchet down. This happens whenever a single job type or profession gets feminized, acquiring a propensity of female workers. What did the precious Gloria Steinem say? Something like, “I have yet to hear a man ask for advice on combining a career and family.” And THAT is the true unfulfilled promise of Baby Boomer mothers who might have burnt their bras, but were too chicken to teach their boys and teach their girls. Yeah it’s not fair to blame the female, but she was the only one there at child-rearing time. Men (not all, God bless the few who know who they are!) are still tourists in most families.

  4. Greenbushboy
    Greenbushboy says:

    The parents and grandparents of the Baby Boomers set up Social Security. The Baby Boom generation would have been far too selfish and stupid and greedy to set up a Social Security System not tied as a potential money trough for Wall Streeters to lick dry. If the value of Social Security had dropped 50% in value like most 401Ks, the riots happening in the streets right now would have made the Bonus March on Washington and the Haymarket throwdown look like a parochial school picnic.

    • chip
      chip says:

      In the instance of Social Security, The World War 2 Generation showed a streak of greed unique in American History and the arrogance worthy of the winners of WW2.

      • Michael Sebastian
        Michael Sebastian says:

        Uh, Chip: Social Security was passed in the 1930’s under the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. FDR. The four-term president? The one before Truman. The one whose policies prolonged and worsened the Great Depression. Yeah, that one.

        Greed? Arrogance. I wish I could figure out WTF you are talking about with regard to the “World War II generation”. Your difficulties in writing a standard-english sentence are hampering you here, fella.

      • pip
        pip says:

        prolonged and worsened the depression? Obviously the opinion (and not fact)of a delusional right wing nut. Have you actually talked to anyone who grew up in the depression?
        Grow up and face the music- free market fundamentalism is not only the cause of the mess we are in now but the root cause of the decline in the middle-class. Anyone with a molecule of brain in their heads knows that. It wouldn’t be so bad if your political ilk just damaged themselves with their destructive delusions, but do you have to take the rest of the country down with you?

  5. Pat Rocchi
    Pat Rocchi says:

    It’s about time you stopped your class warfare against baby boomers. Baby boomers did not ignore the environment; in fact it was the boomers who first raised awareness of the environment, staged the first “Earth Day” and pushed for the creation of the EPA. Oh, and did you get the memo that Social Security was created long before the first boomer was a gleam in the eye of a returning World War II vet? And that the boomers have only just turned old enough to collect Social Security?
    And how did boomers singelhandedly “deplete” education? Most of the people populating education ARE boomers. Plus, isn’t it a renewable resource, as succeeding generations all have the opportunity to enter education?
    And who are the boomers you claim are “trash-talking” Gen-X-ers? This post was filled with a number of wild and unsubstantiated generalizations, most of them aimed at a demographic you are too lazy to learn about. Your rant sounds suspiciously like the narrow minds who say “all people on welfare are black,” “all Democrats know how to do is tax and spend,” and “The Republicans are only out for the rich.” If you were truly a reporter, you are a sorry excuse for a journalist. Do some research.

  6. leslie
    leslie says:

    I think it is good to remember that President Bush wanted to privatize social security and hand over most of the money to wall street to manage. We dodged a bullet somehow and even his own party was against that crazy idea. Nevertheless, special interests will try again to privatize the only secure retirement plan there is. Gen X should not let them get away with that.

    • Michael Sebastian
      Michael Sebastian says:

      Leslie, what makes you so sure that Social Security is a “secure retirement plan”? It is nothing but a pile of IOU’s that can be swept away at any time at the whim of the genius economists in Congress.

      There is no legal entitlement to Social Security; there is no asset one owns in return for Social Security taxes paid. It is an intergenerational transfer program, pure and simple. Social Security “Trust Fund” or “Lock Box”? Doesn’t exist.

      You really need to read up on a few things.

  7. Celeste Piltingsrud Charlesworth
    Celeste Piltingsrud Charlesworth says:

    You could not have put it more perfectly. I am a Gen Y’er (just barely) and I am still shocked and frustrated but the spectacular selfishness of the boomers. They destroyed almost every facet of first world society and its institutions with their massive greed. Fortunately, Gen X’ers and Gen Y’ers have the audacity to look into the mess and not despair. Thanks for the post. It was very validating. Great blog! :)

  8. Caitlin
    Caitlin says:

    I don’t really see how we can blame the Boomers for the economic crisis – banking is mostly populated by Generation X and Y. And the people taking out the sub-prime mortgages were also primarily younger people and should take some responsibility as well.

    • Anthony
      Anthony says:

      While I’m not going to blame a whole generation, do you have any data to back up this claim? Let us not forget that most of the heads of the banks were boomers. Greenspan, who build up the credit bubbles that fueled this mess, is not a boomer. Regan, who came up with the idea that deficits don’t matter, was not a boomer either. The fact is that this has been building for two decades, and members from all generations are involved. Personally, I think instead of blaming a generation, we should take a deep look at our culture, which up until recently praised greed and materialism above all else. If we had been truly valuing integrity and hard work, we wouldn’t have gotten into this mess, and this is from a liberal Democrat.

  9. Alex
    Alex says:

    Obama is definitely a gen xer he’s in the middle of his 40’s not 60’s.

    what website are social website are companies predominantly using to post want ads??


  10. Chris
    Chris says:

    Nice post! Most of it makes pretty good sense to me.

    With regards to #3, I have a theory. I think that the reason for increased sex during these economic times, is rather simple. Movies, dinner, dancing, concerts and the like, generally cost money. Not to say that we stop going completely, but if we’re watching our wallets and bank accounts, sex is free (for most of us)!

    Of course the only logical way I can think of to back that up is with two studies: one that is similar to what you mentioned, that sees the increase in sex in these times. The other, to see if sex-for-money increases or decreases during the same period.

    Any thoughts?

  11. TrendObserver
    TrendObserver says:

    To JenX67, continuing in the spirit of constructive debate:

    (1) I give you credit for being honest in acknowledging that you have not developed expertise about these topics. But since you aren’t an expert, on what basis do you feel that you are qualified to say that there is no Generation Jones? You have often, on your blog and in comments on others’ blogs, disparaged Generation Jones, and repeatedly said it doesn’t exist. But you never offer any data or any other basis for this claim other than your intense desire for rock star Obama to be part of your generation–GenX. Personally, when I don’t have knowledge about a topic, I don’t go around opining about it, especially with the fervor that you have against GenJones. And you wrongly give the impression that you have a basis for making this claim, although again, I give you credit for finally acknowledging what I think was already obvious…that this is not an area that you really know about.

    (2) Your reference to Howe and Strauss exaggerates their influence. They first introduced their theory in 1991, the same year that Coupland published his book “Generation X” and when the whole GenX phenomenon began. Throughout this entire almost 20-year period, the mid-1960’s has overwhelmingly been the most popular, most widely-used starting birth years for GenX. While S&H have developed some following for their proposed 1961 start point for GenX, it certainly remains far less used and less accepted than 1965. Their “work” is treated as a joke by many experts. And Howe himself (Strauss is dead) acknowledges Generation Jones exists, even though he feels threatened by its popularity since it undermines his work. He just wrote a piece in The Washington Post in the last couple of months in which he acknowledges GenJones is a cohesive group (even though he puts down the intelligence of Jonesers).

    (3) I have no clue what your reference is to tooth faries is about, but I can tell you as someone who follows this closely, that the reaction to GenJones in mainstream media and the blogosphere is overwhelmingly positive. The fact there are a handful of people who have tiny blogs with almost no readership who are obsessed with trying to claim Obama as one of theirs, and feel the need to put down GenJones to achieve that goal, doesn’t change the overall extremely positive reaction to GenJones.

    (4) I, like most people who make comments on bogs, choose to use a handle or blog ID. You have the same option. You choose to use your name in your blogs, which is your right, but not really a basis by which to criticize the millions of us who choose not to.

    And to the few others here who claim Obama is an Xer: why do you think it is that so almost no experts say Obama is an Xer, yet so many experts say he is GenJoneser? Why is it that every poll that looks at this question reveals that people this age by a large percentage relate to being part of GenJones, not GenX? Why is it that these, and many other external objective criteria, clearly point to Obama being a Joneser if he is an Xer? Determining generational boundaries isn’t based on whether one happens to have a couple of siblings in this age group or singling out one criteria, like how people use media.

    There is a mountain of credible scientifically-sound evidence that GenJones exists and that Obama is part of it. It reminds me of how Boomers in their youth liked to think of JFK as one of their own, even though he was born in 1917! Sure, JFK was youthful looking and a rock star and Boomers wanted him claim him. But we laugh now at the silliness of calling him a Boomer, just like it is quite amusing to many generation experts that some GenXers and GenYers like to think of 47 year old Obama as one of theirs.

    • jenx67
      jenx67 says:


      I have been a public affairs and public relations pracitioner working in senior positions for military and government for nearly 20 years and I now own my own business. I’ve done more than my share of public opinion research and I have written extensively about the diffusion process. It is my opinion, based on the priciples of PR, and this theory, that Generation Jones will never reach Gladwell’s tipping point.

      Furthermore, Generation Jones is at the beginning stages of awareness in the diffusion process — nowhere near on par with Boomers, and not even close to Generation X. (For you newcomers to this theory – the diffusion process relates to how quickly people accept new ideas.) Generation Jones has four more stages to cycle through and I do not believe it will ever reach the final stage in this process known as adoption.

      You say you want to continue constructive debate – but the veil over your efforts to discount me is thin. You need to take it easy, b/c you’re coming off kind of weird and angry. And, I think I know exactly who you are. You should be more strategic. By participating in my blog community instead of being a lurker, you might have advanced dialogue about your cause.

      • TrendObserver
        TrendObserver says:

        jenx67…I would agree this is an underlying feeling of hostility in the subtext of both your and my posts directed at each other. Which is immature, and unhelpful. This shouldn’t be personal, we’re just debating ideas.

        This hostility primarily stems from the emotional connection each of us feels with our respective generations. I feel you initiate this problem by continually trashing GenJones. There are many of us who care passionately about GenJones being recognized as the full bona fide generation that it is, and are fed up being ludicrously lumped in with Boomers or Xers. I don’t think you realize just how many people across the country feel this way, and the strength of their feeling.

        GenJones has actually become a movement, and one that seems to building steam quickly. There are many of us who are experts in this field who teach it at Universities, write about it in academic journals, etc. Others who may not be expert have no less passion and committment toward it, and further it by calling in on radio talk shows, writing about it on blogs, etc. There is an email chain going around right now which is organizing a GenJones symposium in NY that looks likely to have more than a thousand attendees. It is a genuine grass roots movement driven by the clear and obvious belief by many of us in this long-mislabeled/misunderstood/ignored age group that this matters; by people who care about our collective voice being heard.

        Anyway, I digress. My point is that many, including myself, care about this in a personal way, and when you keep initiating disses against GenJones, you annoy people like me, particularly given that you diss based on little or no real knowledge about the topic, by your own admission. Having said that, I again take responsibity for my role of reacting with hostility below the surface, and acknowledge that it is dumb. My suggestion is that both sides stop with the dissing and hostility, and approach this with more maturity.

        So in that spirit, I’m genuinely interested in hearing the reasons why you think that GenJones won’t reach tipping point. I’m very familiar with Gladwell’s work (as well as Godin’ “Idea Virus”, and other related work). My judgement is that the GenJones idea virus is quite contagious, is spreading quickly, and will obviously reach tipping point. You’ve acknowledged that you’re not a generation expert, but say that you are an expert on Gladwell/diffusion/PR. So please share with us specific reasons why GenJones won’t continue on its current path and reach a high level of awareness. And again, to be clear, I am not being sarcastic or hostile with this question, I am genuinely curious to hear your reasoning, given your expertise.

        Oh, and no, you don’t know who I am. I can guess who you may think I am, but I’m not that person. But I am someone who cares a great deal about this, and who spends (too) much time studying it. Also: I understand “lurkers” to be people who read blogs but don’t participate with comments. Anyway, I think all of that is besides the point, the focus should be on the ideas being discussed, not on the commenters.

  12. Chip Noon
    Chip Noon says:

    This is the first time I’ve felt addressed as a “baby boomer”. Born in 1945, I’m actually preBB, but feel like one anyway, having survived the ’60’s. But you used language that reminded me of how we talked about people over 30 (never trust them, said Jack Weinberger of the Free Speech Movement.) But then, didn’t Socrates complain of the “younger generation”? Great blog! Great insights. Thanks.

  13. rennie
    rennie says:

    Chip Noon, you said it right about the boomers’ day of trash talking people over 30.

    I’m a Gen Joneser and as a pre-adolescent, I remember looking up to cool ’60’s radicals who ripped on “the system” (anyone older than 30). They spoke through their music, their rallies, and every day speech. They were going to change the world…you know…peace, love, not war, and all that. I really admired them.

    Flash forward 35 years and baby boomers are the very people they despised in their youth. They’ve done the same things, or worse, their parents did. They’ve become the system.

    So here’s what I realize, it’s pretty obvious: Each young generation trash talks the generations before them. All young people blame older people for the woes of their lives and problems of the world. Young people all think they can do better. In the end, no one ever does. They may do better at what their parents did wrong, but they do worse at something else and create a whole different set of problems.

    So Gen X, Gen Y…everybody. Quit bitchin’ about the old people. You’re going to screw up just as bad. And your kids are going to complain about you just as much.

    • Dree
      Dree says:

      OK, finally a side to pick. It’s not that boomers are selfish and greedy…

      It’s that people are. The types of delusion about this may be the only thing that’s generation-linked.

  14. pasher
    pasher says:

    I disagree with some of this.

    1) Terrible time to be thrifty in most economists opinion. Something done out of necessity and prudence doesn’t strike me as “cool” which is more of a devil may care attitude….

    2) Baby boomers suck, eh? Gen X/Y are becoming their parents! “Don’t trust anyone over 45”. I think on balance they’ll leave the world a better place than they found it. Debt is a pretty high class problem to have in comparison to racism, sexism, conscription to Vietnam, high inflation, nuclear holocaust, etc.

    3) Is Sex & the City considered a cultural record of Baby Boomer extravagance? Isn’t it more of a Gen X thing? Lotta college girls I know still consume it on DVD box sets. An SATC sequel would portray all 4 women as broke and unemployed. Somehow I think its creators and actors won’t go for that…

    4) Women may be earning all the money, but its not nearly enough to support the entire household. Aren’t their stats somewhere suggesting that most women work b/c they NEED to, not necessarily b/c they WANT to? Isn’t a dual income household a requirement these days to maintain a middle class existence for the avg family?

    5) I’ll believe that web 2.0 will be an effective recruiting tool when I see it… I

  15. curiously random
    curiously random 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. Bad. Very bad.”

    WTF? Please tell me you were being tongue-in-cheek here. That’s the most disgustingly sexist thing I’ve read all day.

    Other than that, good post. I scored 18 on that test thingie. I didn’t count the “do you text your parents?” as a yes, but I do text my firstborn. If you count that, I suppose it puts me at 20. Very much a product of Gen Y, circa early 1970’s.

  16. Jim C.
    Jim C. says:

    Our definitions of generations refer to people who grew up in this society and absorbed its culture. Barack Obama spent much of his childhood in Kenya and Indonesia, in Kenyan and Indonesian families. I’d say that makes him a part of neither the Baby Boom nor Generation X.

    (I’d say the same thing about someone who grew up in France or Brazil, so please don’t accuse me of anti-African or anti-Asian prejudice.)

  17. Odysseus Valise
    Odysseus Valise says:

    Hey Penelope!

    You don’t need a PhD in economics to figure out that in a recession people don’t want to produce VERY costly children as a result of their sex, so they buy more condoms.

    Check statistics for birth control mechanisms that are not “single use” and I suspect you find they are up too.

  18. Moneymonk
    Moneymonk says:

    “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”

    LOL, what’s wrong with that?

  19. Hayli @ Rise Smart
    Hayli @ Rise Smart says:

    On point 3: More layoffs=more time=more sex. Plus, if you lose your health insurance after a layoff, you are going to be very, very careful in the baby-making department.

    On point 4 – I have heard some analysts saying while fewer women are being laid off, these positions are not necessarily the higher-salary jobs. So we’re working, but it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re suddenly equaling or even outweighing men in the pay department.

    Furthermore, my husband just landed a job after a three-month layoff and since I was the sole breadwinner, you better believe he was providing practically 100% childcare/housecare. We both agreed that made sense. Now that we’re both working, we split the chores. It’s awesome!

  20. Barbara
    Barbara says:

    Penelope, thank God you saved me from having spending money on therapy because I don’t fit in with my peers.

    I took your quiz, and although I was born a Gen Joneser who has been thinking all along that I am a boomer, I am really a Gen Yer!

    I knew it in my heart all along :)

    I can’t wait to tell me fiance, because I’m sure he’d prefer a younger woman.

    Oh, and I also am grateful because now I can be absolved of my guilt over creating the financial mess!

    What a great day, and I think it’s all happening to me because I watched the Louise Hay movie yesterday and repeated a bunch of affirmations before bed last night.

    Ok, gotta go now…heading out to J Crew to buy a new wardrobe…

    All the best,

  21. Beth
    Beth says:

    My birth cert says I’m the tail end of the b-boomers or ‘generation jones’ just like Obama. The test says I’m a Gen-Y. Those are all just words and labels. Penelope, we know you are looking for great role models for the Gen-X’ers, but your posts have more credibility with me when you avoid the use of stereotypes.

  22. chris
    chris says:

    You made a typo on Dan Ariely’s name, you might want to fix it in case readers are interested in his work–it’s all really good.

  23. The Opinionator
    The Opinionator says:

    Wow, who knew that I would earn less than my parents? Especially since all six children earn more than they ever did.

    “Michelle Obama has to overhaul the White House décor” That is not the case. She and he husband CHOOSE to do so. I do not begrudge them, but let’s not confuse “have to” with “choose to”. Just because they get clothes at J. Crew does not make one cost-conscious. And I have at least $700b reasons to say that…

  24. Neuromancer
    Neuromancer says:

    umm it was all those NINJA loans to post boomergenerations that caused the problem they gorged them sleves of sweeties they could not aford and no they are blaiming the shop owner instaed of takeing some of the reponisibility on themselves

  25. Steve Cook
    Steve Cook says:

    It seems to me that any attempt to generalize and explain major life trends by broad categories such as “baby boomers” or “Gen X or Y or Jones” is doomed to miss a lot of valuable information, simply by overlooking the impact that individuals and special interest groups have had on events throughout history. Malcolm Gladwell has identified some much narrower time-periods and phenomena in “Outliers”, as factors in well-known success stories. There are just too many other factors and variables out there beyond large-block generational trends.
    Even the most carefully and thoroughly constructed research is still only a model, subject to white noise(random error) and overlooked or omitted variables. Sometimes variables are omitted for the sake of simplification, as often the most simple model provides the best and most important information; sometimes variables are omitted to assure that a desired result is obtained. Some times the models are just wrong. Either way, all studies need to be understood in this context and from this perspective. Your analysis of increased condom use is a point in case: maybe people have already hunkered down into a depression era mentality and are really seeking to minimize the chance of unwanted offspring, or unexpected health-care expenditures, rather than just having more sex. Maybe more people are just getting lucky. Trying to pull that kind of information out of sales data alone is ill-advised at best.
    Don’t know what a depression era mentality is? That doesn’t mean you are from an inferior “generation”, you just never hung around people whose lives and families never recovered from the depression, and you probably aren’t a historian, so you are just uninformed.
    Did George w. Bush lead this country into the war in Iraq simply to “man up” in his daddy’s eyes and avenge an assassination plot against the senior Bush? Why did Ronald Reagan decimate the Pell Grant program in his term in office? One can argue the cost and benefits of these events, but the drivers of these events were individuals, and we may never know what really drove them.
    Here are a couple thoughts that are more valuable than a google full of seat-of-the-pants armchair statistical analyses:
    The old saw that “those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it” is worth remembering.
    Wisdom is not the same as knowledge and IQ’s: It generally only comes from experience, and unless you pay attention to those who have the experience and wisdom, it takes a long time to acquire it, if you ever do.
    So don’t discount older(or younger) generations out of hand. Not only is it arrogant and disrespectful, you may be short-changing yourself.
    Steve C.

  26. Drunken Economist
    Drunken Economist says:

    Coupla things:

    1/ For all those Boomers out there looking for ‘proof’ you need look no further than the two worst presidents this country has EVER HAD. Carter, the old Boomer, and Bush, the relatively ‘younger’ one. Read the Time article ‘the lamest duck’ and see if it resonates with you.

    Bush was a chickenhawk Boomer surrounded by older Neo-Conservative zealots that his father #41, one of the war generation would not touch with a 10 foot pole.

    Both men went their own way to the detriment of this country. Carter was bar none the worst president of the 20th century. I’ll wager that of the entire 21st century to come, it will be hard to top Bush #43.

    Of course, now we have Obama surrounded by the now older, but not really wiser Boomer zealots like Pelosi & Biden. Haven’t we seen this script before? I hope that Barry’s just keeping them around for looks…..

    2/ More sex is a good idea. Due to the lack of confidence in the economy in the last 8 years [among those of us in the know] there’s been a definite motivation NOT to make kids.

    Birthrate worldwide in most 1st world countries is flattening if not crashing. We’re in another baby bust. Friends of mine in Japan where it’s REALLY BAD are seeing conventional middle and high schools go co-ed [meaning 50% enrollment down, one of the ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ sections becoming closed]. When 2 class sections cannot be filled then teachers get laid off. This has been happening for the past five years.

    The solution? ‘Illegal immigration’ and ‘outsourcing’ — our lawns get mowed and our software crashes/is bug ridden. Oh, and all the knowhow is in India and China, exported by Boomers. I wouldn’t call this solution a wash.

    3/ You can EASILY see the ‘women earning all the money’ if you look at the medical sector. Nurses are quite scarce, but the ones there are earning top dollar.

    4/ The death or atrophy of Facebook / MySpace. As folks are coming to understand, having your personal info on either of these sites is a *liability* and not an asset.

  27. Dudeman
    Dudeman says:

    There’s only so much usefull generalization to be learned from either ‘legit’ research or Mars v. Venus books. Bottom line is that the traditional paradigm of cleaning has been inverted in my household. You couldn’t convince my wife that anything was ever disgusting enough for her to clean up after herself, unless friends are coming over. I like to spend several hours a week cleaning…by myself. Come over and observe if you don’t believe me.

    Otherwise, great post. Love the GenX/Jones debate.

  28. Anonymous Me
    Anonymous Me says:

    Does higher condom sales necc’ly mean more sex? Couldn’t it also mean people are more adamant about not creating a new mouth to feed in a poor economy?

  29. Peggy
    Peggy says:

    I’m brand new, I love you already, but RE:
    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.

    NO NO NO – don’t blame it on the boomers (OK, I am one.) The REPUBLICANS are the ones who deregulated, cheated, brazenly ruined the environment, got us into a war, blah blah blah. Some of them were old (like me) but others were young…and REPUBLICAN.

  30. jenx67
    jenx67 says:

    I appreciate you bringing the debate back to center. I’m just now getting back here so I hope you return to find this comment.

    I can appreciate the fact that my comments dissing Generation Jones have been annoying and maybe even hurtful. That is not my intention.

    I understand the passion people feel for their said generations. Boomers have been trying to deny the existence of Generation X for 25 years. Sad, since most of them were their children. (Even as we pass into the decade of our 40s, they continue to treat us as wet behind the ears; young pups, etc. This has to do with their own fears of becoming irrelevant/aging – but I digress.)

    I view Generation Jones as a subculture that moves between the perforated lines of Baby Boomers and Generation X. It seems to lack the highly defined collective persona of Boomers and Xers. Those who identify with Generation Jones are going to borrow culture from one or the other and attempt to make it their own. Which means, you will have Gen Jones claiming the Breakfast Club AND Vietnam. How is that possible within the context of a collective persona which every other generation has? I underestimated the affection Gen Jones has for Gen Jones. I think my passion is that Xers have resisted generational identification, and thus generational pride has been sorely lacking. This bothers me so much. As if the number 13 (assigned by Howe and Strass) wasn’t unlucky enough, we became represented by an X – the unknown factor – the unbelievable file in the basement of FBI headquarters – which Boomers denied. (X Files reference/metaphor here.) Generation Jones seems founded on the principle of resisting association with the pompous Boomers and disaffected Xers. And, really, who could blame them?

    My reasons for blogging about Generation X are so personal – founded in the love I have had for three different men – my husband, my ex husband and my brother – all Xers – disaffected in one way or another. It’s time I write about why I write about Generation X. It will be my hardest, rawest post yet.

    Thank you, and the Brazen Careerist, for a forum for dialogue. This is what blogging is all about: EXPLORATION, DISCOVERY, CONVERSATION.

  31. Trina from Rhode Island
    Trina from Rhode Island says:

    I think the reason condom sales went up is because people have more free time due to lack of money and the need to feel better emotionally therefore: sex is a quick fix.
    Citizens namely my age group (40 and up) should revamp the social security system now by banding together after all we still have 20 plus years to contribute before benefiting from it. Our age group have been pretty quiet politically and now we can not afford to be silent any longer…Wake up people! We will make the difference for ourselves and for the generation that comes after us that will contribute to our debt/mistakes, etc.. so we must act and do something.

  32. Jon Hartman
    Jon Hartman says:

    I really didn’t expect to read this and acquire anything more than some basic information, at most. Instead, I found myself saying, “that’s an interesting point.”

    Thanks for sharing the perspective, Penelope.

  33. Dianna
    Dianna says:

    Barack is 47 which means that he is a baby boomer. I am also 47 and technically, a baby boomer but at the tail end. Maybe that’s why I don’t identify with them or Gen-X.

    Maybe less labels and more about the individual.

  34. Laocoon142
    Laocoon142 says:

    Let’s not fall for the generational warfare. Most boomers of my generation do not have the same financial security as their parents did at the same age. My father didn’t even have a full-time steady job for twenty years after he came home from WWII, and we were pillars of the comunity [I don’t know where this spoiled boomer idea came from, my mother bought groceries on credit at the local store}. When we got out of college, the competition for jobs was so extreme that many of us did not find a career track for the first decade, or longer. Job security went away for us soon after that when we got laid off in droves and have been job hopping every since. Pensions went away and 401k’s and IRA’s were inadequate by their design [many are just finding that out now]. Downpayments and housing costs went out of sight. Tax incentives changed radically, especially during the Reagan era (my parents’ generational hero). Education costs, and requirements, escalated for us and for our kids. Now that we are funding our own retirements on top of these increased costs, we find that we may be living longer.

    Our parents criticized us every day of our lives for being worthless bums for not living the same kind of steady life that they did with a steady job, savings, in a stable community where we could take care of them in their old age – of course those circumstances didn’t exist for us as we have had to “go where the food is.” Every decade for us has been one of changing ground rules. It seems to many of us that when we reach a goal, the ground rules change again and we have to re-adapt. We’re getting older and are very worn down by this.

    One group that was very hard hit is divorced women with children. Many boomer women are in a breach of changing roles between the traditional family that no longer exists and starting out planning for a lifetime career which every young woman does now. My friends who are divorced after having children are universally not doing well and have little money set aside for retirement. I know few people who have been overleveraged or who consumed excessively. Most of them were borrowing for school tuition or otherwise to give their children a good start in life, because they realized that their children were facing a tougher and tougher world. Now they scramble to fund their retirements.

    If you read Michael Porter’s Competitive Advantage of Nations, he points out that since WWII, the rate of the rate of growth in our economy has been declining. So what seemed like growth was nominal growth, with marginal growth declining. Baby boomers, a big demo going through that time, were a larger number of people competing for a shrinking pie.

    Certainly boomers have had better lives in some ways during their adult lives, but not while we were growing up. The civil rights struggles, the polio era, the senseless Vietnam War, the memories of the Depression and World War II that we learned from our parents, all add up to a collective trauma that we carry with us from years of violence, disease and shortages. We don’t want that again, but we also don’t want the disrespect that post point #1 above sets forth that boomers were spoiled and indulged.

    So let’s cut the nonsense about labeling generations by criteria that bear no resemblance to the lives of boomers and other demographic labels.

    • pip
      pip says:

      You nailed it. I’m 54 and have never known an economically secure day in my life. These generalizations about boomers, gen x etc. are both naieve, immature and just plain stupid.

  35. Dale
    Dale says:

    When is it ever productive (outside of political situations) to play the blame game. “Boomers got us here, but Xers will fix it” and all such talk is sometimes expedient, but always non-productive, whether true or not.

    No one was complaining initially when the huge boomer (and their predecessor) run corps began raping the planet, causing sweat shops in poor countries, and creating wealth for the developed nations. But these actions like slavery added to the wealth of this and other developed countries. A time is always judged by the historians, but the results, good or bad, are still enjoyed by all. Forget blame let’s fix this mess. The seeds for it were sown way before the boomers took the reins.

  36. Dr.Phillips
    Dr.Phillips says:

    This is crazy I personally know 7 stores/restaurants owned by friends that have closed. I personally know 7 people that have been laid off, not including myself. Their is no end in sight… thanks a lot Bush…give President Obama a chance to fix the last 8 years of asleep at the wheel…can’t be fixed overnight.

  37. ChadH
    ChadH says:

    1. In other words – everyone is starting to live the same way I have my entire life. Welcome the the bandwagon, fellas. It’s really not so bad.

    2. Hear, hear! Although admittedly anecdotal, much of my perception of the Baby Boomers comes from my uncle – classic Boomer born right in the wheelhouse.

    His parents (my grandparents) gave him a very comfortable middle-class upbringing from only one union paycheck. He got an excellent, affordable education from a state funded university and graduated into a job market where wages were rising and professionals outnumbered jobs. Having parlayed this into a comfortable upper middle class existence, his overriding philosophy stated on numerous occasions is to blindly vote against anyone “who will raise my taxes.” That’s it. The same taxes which paid for his rise to financial comfort are apparently too much of a burden for him to allow future generations to experience his good fortune. In short,” I got mine, screw everybody else.” This has been the Boomer’s overriding philosophy. And yes, he has no children.

    The Greatest Generation fought for a New Deal which helped create the postwar middle class. Their children-the Baby Boomers-emerged into the world of unprecedented prosperity forged from the sacrifices of their parents,and enthusiastically embraced a trickle-down, anti-government philosophy leading to shrinking paychecks, unaffordable educations, service jobs, costly for-profit health care, outsourcing, and an economy in ruins with scarce jobs or opportunities for the future generations of Americans following them.

    They are the first generation ever in the entire history of the United States to bequeath a lower standard of living to their children. They are, simply put, The Worst Generation.

    Even now the most rock-ribbed conservatives I know are Boomers who got in on the good times, many with barely a high-school diploma, and will enjoy a lifestyle many of the hardest working Gen Xers will only dream about. If they were born a generation later they’d be stocking shelves at Wal-Mart and living in their car. Now they live in suburban palaces and drive SUV’s to the golf course. Of course they believe they did it all on their own, so all they care about is lower taxes and less gubmint.

    Sure every Boomer was not a Republican, and there are plenty of Conservative Republican Gen Xer’s, but the age of conservative philosophy almost exactly coincides with their emergence as the largest and most dominant voting block in the nation. Coincidence? Demographics tell the story.

    And now there’s talk of raising taxes on us to pay for their retirement!

    So yeah, I tend to blame the Boomers just a little for the country that all of use under 40 have inherited. While Obama’s birth date may place him slightly out of true Gen-X range, In both experience and outlook, he is much more Gen X than Boomer. It’s not just about the date, but about the person.

    3. Are you kidding me? For women, maybe. Not for men. We’re the ones who are losing our jobs. Unemployment is an aphrodisiac? Not in my experience. “So what do you do?” “Nothing, I’m unemployed.” Yeah, that’ll get you laid all right. Maybe I’ve been meeting the wrong women.

    I think the shrinking pool of men with jobs will just to get to hit more women. Women may get more sex. Men will become increasingly frustrated and angry.

    As someone who works in the construction industry and doesn’t know if they’ll have job from month to month, this hits home. I couldn’t get laid during the good times when I had money. I’m terrified to go through the recession alone. If it’s an extended depression I may just kill myself.

    4. Yes, and what a horrible tragedy (see above). Women historically have not needed jobs to find mates. Men have. In the past men worked and saved for years just for the privilege to marry. While we like to think of our society as so enlightened from those olden times, with equal opportunity and all that balderdash, at the end of the day fundamentally men and women are still the same. Women need looks. Men, money. Scoff if you want, but think about who you know. You know it’s true. Ladies, would you date an unemployed man? Be honest.

    5. More creative hiring practices – hang out a sign for a job and get inundated with mountains of resumes in days. Not much creativity required. Anyone can get the best for pennies in this climate. Online recruiting? How about grease paint on a window? That’ll probably get you a few hundred resumes right there.

    • Somalian Pirate
      Somalian Pirate says:

      My, nothing gets the comments going like posts about either sex or baby boomers. Personally I like her ones about sex better. Well ChadH this baby boomer worked his way through college and graduated in the midst of our last big recession in 1980. Took me six months to get an entry level position in my field and years of grinding it out to get to a comfortable lifestyle. Don’t tell me that we’ve had it so easy. And quit listening to doomsday pundits that say you’ll be living in a cardboard box somewhere. These recessions don’t last forever. Here in Wisconsin the highest profile conservative columnists and bloggers that sound like your uncle are in the 40 and under age group. (For your benefit Penelope they’re to the east of you in Washington, Ozaukee, and Waukesha Counties). Political leanings of Boomers range from extemely liberal to extremly conservative. There are no valid generalizations. And plenty of boomers are loosing their jobs now too. Obama would not have won the election without substantial support from boomers. Many of us voted for him and abhor the political policies that got us in this fix. You are in construction, a field that has always been subject to the whims of the economy but Obama’s stimulus will will produce jobs for lots of construction workers rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure that has been neglected because too many conservatives of all ages are against taxes for any purpose. Good luck in your job hunt and hang in there. And Penelope– more sex posts and less generational war.

  38. selekta
    selekta says:

    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.

    The fact that you are not joking here brought a soft smile to my face. Obama made more mess in his first two months than many people had expected. He just took an unimaginable amount of money from American pockets and gave it away to his corporate buddies while everyone praises him even more – what a crafty magician he is!

    Gen-X are even more dangerous than the boomers, I’m afraid. You will be paying Obama’s bills for decades.

  39. Dale
    Dale says:

    Somalian Pirate I agree with your comments, but I think that you underestimate the severity of this recession. That is mainly because it is largely determined by mental constructs fueled by some unfortunate aspects of reality – and perception becomes reality in this instance.

  40. Dan
    Dan says:

    I think you will find that the root cause of the current financial woes are attempts at social engineering dating to the Clinton administration (with roots in the philosophies of Roosevelt through Carter). The idea that those who could not qualify for mortgages under existing norms should be given mortgages anyway was an extrapolation of Clinton-era rhetoric and policy innuendo. Democrats in Congress blocked attempts by the watchdog agency for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to rein in the creation of what would be come to be known at "toxic assets," and protected the then chairman and chief executive officer of the Federal National Mortgage Association, Franklin Raines, from being properly and justly held accountable for the growing home-loan fiasco he was instrumental in creating. The Bush administration is also culpable in this instance, as it was terribly remiss in not pursuing what should have been an obvious and growing problem in the home-loan markets. It seems the Bush administration fell prey to the new "new deal" theology of a chicken in every pot and mortgage on everyone's balance sheet, whether one should have been issued or not. As for the baby-boomers being the source of toxic assets in the mortgage market, I believe that demographics will bear out that most of those who, from the outset, engaged in the creation of said assets will be from a generation or two younger and first-time buyers, not established home owners, as would most boomers be. Some boomers did indeed procure home-equity loans in advisable amounts, but I do not think they are in the majority of persons creating the toxic assets by initiating loans for which they were not actually able to pay for over the long term. Government meddling in the real estate markets via social engineering and government turning a blind eye to what should have been an obvious problem, or worse, covering up for it to protect the continuance of the social engineering efforts, coupled with imprudent borrowers, bad business practices by banks and other financial services providers, and a lack of accountability by investment firms and their clients, all of this wrapped in an atmosphere of greed and entitlement have led all of us to this sorry state of affairs. Once the real estate markets tumbled, the underpinning of what might have been previously thought to have been unrelated markets began to deteriorate. We have seen, and are continuing to see, the effects of this. The resulting instability will continue until such time as the toxic assets can be properly indentified, separated from viable assets, and placed within a framework where the real estate and financial markets can properly address them and incorporate them into a solution which accommodates redistribution at realistic values to persons who can actually carry loans given on them.

    • pip
      pip says:

      it is not the so-called social engineering policies of the democrats that are responsible – it was the “ownnership society” pushed by bush and his fellow conservatives (yes, bush was and is a conservative and no amount of posturing by the rest of the conservatives will make that any less true). You simply did not see these toxic assets in clinton’s or carters era and to say “social engineering” is the root cause is both denial on a gargantuan scale and the fatuous inability by conservatives to see the consequences of their own destructive,selfish,and non-workable in the real world theories.

  41. Steve C.
    Steve C. says:

    So, Dan, let’s see, all those mortgage brokers working the lines 24/7, baiting-and-switching the uninformed, fudging the numbers, just dripping in commissions and brokerage fees, it was the democratic social engineers who hired them, right? And then we have the totally ineffective credit-reporting agencies(experian,et al),on the front end supposedly preventing poor credit risks from entering the market, and the equally ineffective ratings agencies(Standard and Poors, et al) on the back end, doing such a great job of informing investors of the risk/reward ratios involved in buying all the derivatives the investment bankers cooked up “to spread the risk”. Those guys were all the result of the Clintonesque social-engineering experiment, right? and Bernie Madoff and his handlers over at the SEC, oh and Dick Fuld, that freakin’ pinko-socialist over at Lehman Brothers? More democratic social-engineering misfits? Guess again, Dan.
    If your intent was to somehow absolve the republican administration(s) of any complicity in the meltdown we are experiencing, you’re wasting your time. Better to put your efforts into figuring out how to get a republican administration back into the White House in something less than the next millenium.
    Steve C.

  42. GoingLikeSixty
    GoingLikeSixty says:

    You are looney… at least when it comes to boomers…

    Forget that you are wrong that boomers got us into this mess. The 109th Congress average age was 56, but Congress is run by seniority which means the power is concentrated in the hands of a few Greatest Generation Congressmen.

    You better pray that Boomers keep spending because consumer spending is the most powerful stimulus ever. When we stop spending the economy goes into a deeper tailspin.

    You stupid Xer’s bought the McMansions, condos in Cabo, on balloon mortgages and Beemers on 60 month loans/ or 36 month leases while you were drowning in credit card and student loan debt.

    Gen Xer’s will bail us out? That is just the stupidest thing I have read. ever. How in the hell will Xer’s bail us out? By saving?

    Dumbass Xer’s would do well to pay attention to Boomers and watch how they react when their retirement funds are decimated and retirement is no longer possible.

    Quite simply, most of the largest generation of Americans ever will not be able to retire. The only assets that are not considered are the value of defined benefit pension plans, which in any case have become quite rare in recent years. While I have been writing about this in general terms for a while now, a recent paper available here: http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/baby-boomer-wealth-2009-02.pdf puts some actual numbers on the problem.

    You want bitter? I’ll give you bitter.

    We don’t whine about the Greatest Generation causing all our problems. Boomers just get on with life.

  43. Grace
    Grace says:

    Your take on the Baby Boom generation is quite amusing because it was basically what we said of our parents. Of course, Social Security came around in the 1930’s, so the first generation to benefit from it belonged to my grandparents (I’m 56), but to a youngster like you, everyone over 40 looks the same anyway.

    Oh an by the way, I am planning to work until I’m at least 70, preferably 75, and to any whiners out there complaining about the boomers are keeping them from getting work – tough shit!

  44. Rob
    Rob says:

    The author has blown any credibility she might have had. Baby boomers did not set up social security. Nor did their parents, who fought WWII. It was their grandparents, i.e. the age cohort of FDR that set up Social Security. They sat in Congress at the time the legislation was debated and passed.

    How hard would this have been to check? The author not only displays plain ignorance of one of the most significant pieces of legislation in U.S. history, but proves herself to be one of those of her generation who think about an inch-deep and get most of their knowledge from non-authoritative blogs and MTV news and can’t even remember it accurately much less question the accuracy of it.

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