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NEWSWIRE: 1/22/18

  • Some Boomers seeking to reinvent themselves before retirement are returning to college. For Boomers in search of meaning and colleges in search of additional tuition, adult education is a no-brainer. (The Wall Street Journal)
    • NH: Colleges are still in trouble (Moody's just downgraded higher-ed in December from neutral to negative). The steep demographic decline in new freshmen that started in 2010 won't be over until 2019. Meanwhile, Gen-X parents are bargaining hard over tuition--and the influx of full-freight paying foreign students is suffering in the new Trump era. (See: "The Falling Stars and Stripes.") Squeezing Boomers with means (the annual "Boomer" tuition at Stanford is $65K) is probably a smart move. Get the money they didn't already spend on their own kids. Most Boomers look back with fondness on their own college years and many college towns are successfully marketing themselves to Boomers as a toney and high-minded retirement locale. Will another year in college train them for an "encore career"? Perhaps. Millennials generally get along with them--so Boomers can always teach.
  • After transitioning to a Nielsen format that takes into account streaming figures, ESPN recently saw its prime-time Millennial viewership soar 28%. These data affirm that, rather than abandoning sports programming altogether, many young viewers are simply watching it on  alternative platforms at their own leisure. (Adweek)
    • NH: On the upside, you always knew networks like ESPN would gain most from Nielsen's new "total audience measurement" tools. Nielsen now measures everything from DVR and OTT to viewing in airports and sports bars. Yes, this differentially advantages sports clips more than reruns of Murder, She Wrote. It will quiet some of the biggest doubts about Disney and position DIS as one of the best long-term buy-and-holds in the media space. On the downside, who guards the guardians? Nielsen has an interest in great numbers than make both networks and advertisers feel great--even if they do imply that the typical American is now spending an insane number of hours watching a screen: 4.5 hours per day watching linear (live) TV... and then another 6.0 hours per day watching on-line stuff. Are you kidding? Both the magnitude and the growth rate of these numbers are due for a huge ice-water reality check once competitors (yes, they do exist) succeed in taking on Nielsen.
  • Fully 43% of U.S. children live with a parent who works a “nonstandard” schedule. Whether they’re taking on additional weekend jobs to supplement their income or piecing together a living through the gig economy, millions of parents nationwide have abandoned the 9-to-5 workday. (U.S. Census Bureau)
    • NH: The SIPP survey does not look at the sociodemographic breakdown of nonstandard schedules, but it is likely that the curve is "U-shaped"--meaning that nonstandard schedules are highest at the low and high ends of the distribution. At the low end, it is well known that lower-paid jobs with fewer benefits are more likely to have staggered hours, with very early starting times, late quitting times, or night shifts. There has also been a long-term trend, over most of the postwar era, pushing high-paid earners to work more hours per week and low-paid earners to work less. That leaves roughly the third quintile of earners--well paid but not highly paid, typically working in large organizations--most likely to have a "standard" schedule.
  • Fully 62% of Millennials and 55% of the Silent prefer walkable communities and short commutes, even if it means living in an apartment or townhouse. In contrast to midlife Xers and Boomers, younger and older consumers value convenience and quality of life over swanky dwellings. (National Association of Realtors)
    • NH: The big difference-maker here is schools. Most Millennials and Silent do not have school-age children. Gen Xers rank quality schools at the top of the list of reasons they locate in the suburbs. Boomers are transitioning: Many have recently had school-age kids and many more are "aging in place" in the suburbs because they are still working or want to stay near their kids.
  • Campbell and Hershey will acquire healthy snack upstarts for $6.1 billion and $1.6 billion respectively, the largest-ever deal for each company. Both firms are trying to win over health-conscious consumers who have strayed away from the supermarket’s middle aisles. (The Wall Street Journal)
    • NH: For both Big Food firms, this is a brainless, trend-chasing strategy. Indeed, acquiring processed-food snacks to replace the larger-portioned processed foods that consumers are already rejecting is not a strategy at all. What these companies need is a new vision or mission statement that would redefine their purpose in a world of increasingly wellness-focused consumers. We're waiting. 
  • U.K. parents could now end up facing a £120 fine and a day in court if their children are tardy for school 10 times. Even across the pond, society’s tolerance for deviant behavior—especially when it pertains to Millennials—has fallen. (The Independent)
    • NH: Such policies speak to the increasing behaviorism of Gen Xers (who believe that parents, like everyone else, can be steered by incentives). They also speak to the rising flood of rules surrounding today's new Homeland Generation kids. (See: "Are Kids 'Overruled'?")
  • A wide-ranging piece by 35-year-old Michael Hobbes explores why Millennials are worse off financially than their parents were. According to Hobbes, the Great Recession merely accelerated a problem decades in the making: “Decision by decision, the economy has turned into a young people-screwing machine.” (The Huffington Post)
    • NH: Worth reading--despite its length (TL, LOL) and its distracting graphics. Among Hobbes' more interesting points is shrinking work benefits and declining advancement opportunities due to the "hiring out" of jobs to staffing agencies. For a full rendition of this argument, see this essay in Politico, which leans heavily on the pathbreaking research of former BLS statistician David Weil.
  • A lack of kindergartens and high fees for private preschools are causing many Chinese couples to reconsider having a second child. The recent repeal of China’s one-child policy will not improve the nation’s demographic outlook unless it’s accompanied by state-sponsored efforts to accommodate more children. (The Nikkei)
    • NH: The fertility response to China's abandonment of its one-child policy (in 2015) has been underwhelming. The Census IDB, for example, expects TFR to rise from 1.5 in 2010 to 1.6 in 2020 (with most of the rise coming before 2015). Any reason to expect China to have a much higher fertility rate than every other ethnically Chinese population in the region? Probably not.
  • Contributor Witney Seibold writes that the recently revived Gen-X classic The X-Files could only have become popular in the ‘90s. The show indeed capitalized on an Xer-infused anti-establishment ethos following the Cold War that traded clear-cut supervillains for insidious, intragovernmental conspiracies. (IGN Africa)
  • The median U.S. gross rent in 2012-2016 rose $21 from 2007-2011 levels. Over that period, the median rent rose in 175 metro areas and fell in just 44 metro areas, putting a further squeeze on young renters who are already struggling to save for a future home. (U.S. Census Bureau)


      Apps Are the New Coupons. As retail has exploded into the e-commerce age, so too has the old art of coupon-clipping—in principle, at least. Shoppers no longer have to wait for an item to go on sale thanks to apps like Earny, which monitors price adjustments on recently purchased items and pays users the difference if they happened to buy at an inopportune time. Similarly, Moohlah automatically reimburses users if a purchased item later goes on sale at one of more than 100 partner stores (a list which includes the likes of Sephora, Nordstrom, and Macy’s). Sift takes this strategy up a notch, effectively becoming an all-in-one financial hub for users: Not only does the app automatically reimburse shoppers for price drops, but it also displays all of a user’s credit card information in one place, making it easy to keep up with any new policy updates or rewards. Apps and services like these could very well become the “extreme couponing” of the digital age. (See: “What’s the Deal with Extreme Couponing?”)