Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Baby Boomers Approaching 65 and a bit Glum (Pew Reasearch Center)
Pew Research Center
By D’Vera Cohn and Paul Taylor
The iconic image of the Baby Boom generation is a 1960s-era snapshot of an exuberant, long-haired, rebellious young adult. That portrait wasn’t entirely accurate even then, but it’s hopelessly out of date now. This famously huge cohort of Americans finds itself in a funk as it approaches old age.
On January 1, 2011, the oldest Baby Boomers will turn 65. Every day for the next 19 years, about 10,000 more will cross that threshold. By 2030, when all Baby Boomers will have turned 65, fully 18% of the nation’s population will be at least that age, according to Pew Research Center population projections. Today, just 13% of Americans are ages 65 and older.
Perched on the front stoop of old age, Baby Boomers are more downbeat than other age groups about the trajectory of their own lives and about the direction of the nation as a whole.
Some of this pessimism is related to life cycle – for most people, middle age is the most demanding and stressful time of life. Some of the gloominess, however, appears to be particular to Boomers, who bounded onto the national stage in the 1960s with high hopes for remaking society, but who’ve spent most of their adulthood trailing other age cohorts in overall life satisfaction.
At the moment, the Baby Boomers are pretty glum. Fully 80% say they are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country today, compared with 60% of those ages 18 to 29 (Millennials); 69% of those ages 30 to 45 (Generation Xers) and 76% of those 65 and older (the Silent and Greatest Generations), according to a Pew Research Center survey taken earlier this month.
Boomers are also more downbeat than other adults about the long-term trajectory of their lives – and their children’s. Some 21% say their own standard of living is lower than their parents’ was at the age they are now; among all non-Boomer adults, just 14% feel this way, according to a May 2010 Pew Research survey. The same survey found that 34% of Boomers believe their own children will not enjoy as good a standard of living as they themselves have now; by contrast, just 21% of non-Boomers say the same.
The 79 million member Baby Boomer generation accounts for 26% of the total U.S. population. By force of numbers alone, they almost certainly will redefine old age in America, just as they’ve made their mark on teen culture, young adult life and middle age.
In 1970, when the oldest of the Baby Boomers were in their early 20s, the total publicly held national debt was about $283 billion, or about 28% of the Gross Domestic Product. Now, as the oldest Boomers approach age 65, the federal debt is an estimated $9 trillion or 62% of GDP – creating IOUs that members of younger generations may be paying down for decades.
However, a new Pew Research survey finds little appetite among Boomers for deficit reduction proposals that would take a bite out of their own pocketbooks. For example, 68% of Boomers (compared with 56% of all adults) oppose eliminating the tax deduction for interest paid on home mortgages; 80% (compared with 72% of all adults) oppose taxing employer-provided health insurance benefits; and 63% (compared with 58% of all adults) oppose raising the age for qualifying for full Social Security benefits. Pew Research complete report