Monday, August 03, 2015

The Silent Generation's Luck--I Thought It Was Me

Wonkblog has a post discussing wealth and income over a lifetime, using generational cohorts.  The money quote for me:
 The winners of this historical jackpot appear to be those who were born between 1930 and 1945 and came of age after World War II, who are sometimes called The Silent Generation....
...the Silent Generation appears to get an additional boost because they were born during the Great Depression, a time when people had fewer babies overall. Their lower population meant that they had less competition overall for jobs, housing, investments and other opportunities. Sociologist Elwood Carlson called the generation “the lucky few” because they were smaller than the generation that came before. African-Americans and women born in those years had far more opportunity, and the generation also benefited from the expansion of the American safety net, including Social Security and Medicare, during their lives.
The Silent Generation is me.  Actually, I'm not surprised by this article.  When I joined ASCS in 1968 there were still a handful of employees around from the New Deal days, though most I think had joined the agency after WWII.  We had a week of orientation for new employees. During one session the director of the Personnel Management Division described the number of employees who were near or at retirement age.  What it meant for my own career was I moved up the ladder quickly simply because people were retiring, so I didn't have much competition (except in one instance).  Of course, most days I believe my promotions were a tribute to my hard work and smarts, not the luck of being born at the right time.

Later, say by the late 80's, I was a branch chief and we'd hired a bunch of baby boomers, many former clerks from county office, as part of the effort to support the new IT system. But looking at my office, I knew there was a logjam.   Many, most, of my employees then had the potential to be inmanagement, at least given the prevailing theory that an excellent specialist makes a good manager.  (That theory isn't necessarily true, but it was the assumption in ASCS.) But I expected at least some of them would have to compete against each other if and when I moved out of my job.  With that in mind, I encouraged good employees to move to other units. While some  of my boomers did, in the end two of them did compete for my job.

I wonder how much such hidden factors impact our social issues.  For example, how much is the trend to adjunct professors in college necessitated because we removed mandatory retirement and the boomers are hanging on?

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