Why Are Seniors Flipping Burgers? NewsWire

11/20/18 09:27AM EST

NEWSWIRE: 11/20/18

  • Increasingly, restaurants are hiring senior citizens to fill the jobs once reserved for teenagers. Faced with a tightening labor market and low teenage participation rates, these firms have better success recruiting at AARP than at the local high school. (Bloomberg Business)
    • NH: Why are so few teens working? In part, it's due to the declining cohort size of late-wave Millennials/Homelanders. To a greater extent, it's due to teens' declining propensity to work. We've covered many of the reasons elsewhere (see: "Where Have All the Young Male Workers Gone?"). Teen employment is falling out of favor with parents and teachers; college enrollment rates continue to rise; retail (a traditional teen employer) is on the ropes; and let's not forget stricter enforcement of child labor laws. As the story points out, some of those Gen-X teen hires in Fast Times at Ridgemont High were probably illegal.
    • For seniors, it's all going the other way. For Boomers born in the 1950s now hitting their 60s, the cohort size is rising steeply. And with each successive Boomer cohort, we see the following trends: declining pre-Medicare health benefit coverage; declining DB plan coverage; stagnating real-dollar net worth (including 401(k)s); more involuntary early retirements; and rising inequality and homelessness. Back in the 1970s, when AARP was mushrooming and the G.I. Generation was entering its "harvest years," the retirement age fell and AARP's main concern was to expand and protect senior entitlements. Today, the retirement age is rising--and AARP's main concern is helping seniors get (or stay) employed.
  • A new piece documents the rising number of young adults who are foregoing a college degree in favor of trade school. Many Millennials and Homelanders are making a pragmatic value judgment about the worth of a college education, concluding that the return on vocational training is greater. (Vice)
    • NH: While we haven't seen this trend in the overall data yet, it's definitely worth looking out for. The second derivative on the college enrollment rate is definitely negative. Along with falling enrollments by foreign students, the deceleration is already hitting second- and third-tier liberal arts colleges hard and forcing them increasingly to market "employability" to parents. Lots of late-wave Xer parents are ready to say, let's just skip the debt and put our kids on track to find a secure, decent-paying job with benefits. What would give this trend extra traction? If Congress, before or after 2020, passes and funds a major infrastructure bill.
  • Though business is booming, only 65% of companies are holding holiday parties this year—the lowest percentage since 2009. While the #MeToo movement is the most likely reason for the decline, it also reflects another aspect of office culture that’s changing: the rise in remote workers who are harder to corral for an office get-together. (Challenger, Gray, & Christmas)
    • NH: I especially like the more-than-doubling in the share of respondents who say "no, we never have holiday parties." (Parties? What parties?) Yes, #MeToo is a major reason--along with growing management insistence that such parties be more about reinforcing company values and teamwork and less about a blowout good time. Note the steep rise in the share of companies holding these parties "on company premises."
  • A new op-ed piece by contributor Andrew Marzoni lambasts the “cult” of academia. Marzoni would know: He tried to make the switch to academia from another Boomer-favorite “cult,” Pentecostal Christianity, and quickly noticed the parallels—including, he notes, the adherence to dogma and the reliance on social control mechanisms. (The Washington Post)
    • NH: What Boomers have done to the humanities in colleges across America... well, words fail me. Fortunately, they don't fail this Millennial. You simply don't know what it means to belong to the oppressed lumpenproletariat until you have tried to work as a TA or assistant professor for some literature or history or social science department today. You may tell yourself you have "status" as an intellectual, but you will likely be working for less than the minimum wage with zero job security for ranting Boomers in institutions with no foreseeable career opportunities. These PC profs may have invented #MeToo, but do you think they abide by it? The stories are harrowing. Marzoni's paragraph on Jacques Derrida and his followers as cult leaders is priceless, since I was in grad school just when this postmodern "deconstruction" cult was being established. (Back then, Derrida was still alive and no one yet knew that Heidegger had been a committed Nazi.)
    • What Marzoni should say but does not (he says enough!) is that Millennials as a whole--Millennial men, especially--are showing a massive decline in interest in the humanities. Small wonder, since Boomers transformed them into dreary, priggish, and jargon-ridden "disciplines." Let me offer one data point. In 1965, Harvard's history department had about 30 permanent faculty members and graduated more than 270 history majors. In 2018, it had more than 50 permanent faculty members and graduated 43 history majors.
  • Gartner expects the “human augmentation” market, which includes all manner of digital implants and enhancements, to surge tenfold to $2.3 billion by 2025. The Millennial willingness to use technology (even invasive, implantable technology) to achieve optimization and peak performance may transform “biohacking” into the hot new trend. (Bloomberg Businessweek)
    • NH: Another hi-tech field where the hype vastly outruns reality. The hype comes from apocalyptic "singularity" scenarios propounded by Elon Musk (who just self-funded a startup called Neuralink) and Ray Kurzweil (who one day seeks to download his biocarbon wetware into silicon hardware and thereby become immortal). Disconcertingly, Musk--along with Bill Joy, Mitch Kapor, Paul Allen, and others--fears that Skynet will eventually enslave us all. So the hype may be leading us to dystopia.
    • The reality--perhaps that is fortunate--lags far behind. The most sought-after biohacks now on the market are simply embedded chips that open doors and trigger digital payments (see: "The Rise of Total Tech"). Medical devices like artificial pancreases are becoming hugely helpful to diabetics. At the cutting edge are brain sensors that allow paraplegics to move arms and computer cursors. With extensive training, DARPA claims that humans can "telepathically" pilot drones. But such devices say more about adaptability of the brain's motor cortex than about any ability of machines to "read" our minds. Voice commands to Alexa still do a much better job.
  • The number of U.K. university students seeking mental health support while on campus has soared 50% over the past five years. Many university health departments have been caught unprepared by the influx of Millennials who aren’t afraid to report their struggles with mental illness. (BBC)
    • NH: We're seeing the same trend in the United States (see: "Treating America's Mental Health Epidemic"). Depression incidence and suicide rates over the past five or ten years have grown for all age brackets--especially for teens and young adults. Historically, though, what's conspicuous isn't so much the death rate (it was worse with young Xers in the early 1990s), but rather the willingness of Millennials to come to mental-health professionals for treatment. Unlike young Xers, today's college students really do trust the system for answers. As a result, mental health services on campuses are simply overwhelmed. Biggest symptom cited by counselors? Anxiety. Possible causes? Perfectionist expectations (see: "Millennials Score High on Perfectionism"), coupled with sheltered upbringings and over-medication with psychotropic drugs.
  • Low-income parents are worried that their kids are falling behind their richer peers because of too much access to technology. While the more affluent Silicon Valley crowd has led the charge against screen time, imposing device bans and sending their kids to costly private schools that carry out their analog wishes, low-income families often feel like they’re fighting a losing battle with devices. (The New York Times)
  • Fully 59% of Millennials say they’d “rather spend time doing more productive tasks than driving,” compared to 45% of Boomers. While it’s well-known that Millennials are put off by the expense of cars and less interested in car culture overall, the very act of driving also runs counter to the same desire to “maximize” that has them multitasking and biohacking. (The Washington Post)
  • Hasbro has released a new Millennial-themed edition of its classic Monopoly board game. While some Millennials are criticizing the company for perpetuating unfair generational stereotypes, the game’s “Millennial” features (players buy experiences instead of property, for instance) are worth a laugh. (Mashable)
    • NH: Why Monopoly for Millennials? The answer is right on the box: "Because adulting is hard... you deserve a break from the rat race." And for a player's token, you can choose a hashtag. Some Millennials are amused by the new focus on experiences rather than property. Yes, a three day vegan retreat does sound more enjoyable than riding (or even buying) Reading Railroad. Others are put off by the breezy putdowns. As the rules explain: "Forget real estate. You can't afford it anyway." Many Millennials can't wait until Hasbro makes Monopoly for Xers or Boomers. Oh wait, they're already releasing it. It's called "Monopoly: Cheaters Edition." 
  • The share of Americans who think crime in the United States is a very serious problem has dropped to a 12-year low (49%). In addition, for the first time since 2001, a higher percentage of Americans believe that crime in their local area is decreasing (42%) rather than increasing (39%), signaling that perceptions of crime may finally be catching up with what’s been the reality since the late 1990s. (Gallup)

                    DID YOU KNOW?

                    Millennials and Sex: A Relationship on the Rocks? Considering the pervasiveness of hookup apps, young Americans should be having more sex than ever before. But CDC data show that the share of high-school students who say they’ve ever had sex has declined from 51% in 1991 to 40% in 2017. A new piece in The Atlantic pinpoints several broad themes that may be contributing to this decline. One is our booming sex industry: To some, a messy real-life relationship pales in comparison to the utilitarian gratification of pornography. (NYT op-ed writer Ross Douthat calls this the “Huxley trap,” a reference to the hedonist dystopia depicted in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.) Another factor is the achievement-oriented mindset of Millennials: With jam-packed schedules full of extracurriculars and college prep classes, today’s young adults simply don’t have as much time for carnal pursuits. Unfulfilling experiences on Tinder (and in real life) could also be causing Millennials to opt out. A final explanation has to do with a characteristic shared by many Millennials: modesty. A discomfort with the nude form in general—and one’s own appearance in particular—may be holding Millennials back.

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