NEWSWIRE: 1/28/19

  • A new analysis of BLS data finds that 25- to 34-year-old women are responsible for 46% of the growth in total prime-age labor force participation since December 2015. This demographic’s recent surge into the labor force could be explained by factors such as stronger wage growth or more accommodative PTO policies. (Bloomberg Business)
    • NH: Starting in October of 2018, the U.S. age-adjusted employment-to-population ratio has risen above its pre-GFC (2007) level. In general, it's the older age brackets that are making this happen. Over age 45, both genders in every age bracket now either match or hugely exceed their employment-to-population ratios in 2007. Below age 45, they are mostly still lagging behind. But there's one big exception: women age 25 to 34, whose total employed share is now a full 2.5 percentage points higher than it was in 2007. That's roughly 1 million workers, accounting for roughly $50 billion in annual wages, who would not have been working in 2007.
    • What's pushing these first-wave Millennial women to work so hard? First, clearly, we can point to a greater sense of go-girl confidence--often instilled by their Boomer moms--that they can succeed in the workplace, augmented by a huge jump in educational attainment. (Millennials are the first generation of women to outperform men at every level of schooling--including bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, and PhDs.) Second, the supply of traditionally female jobs is growing much faster than that of traditionally male jobs, largely due to Baumol's "cost disease" law (think: teaching, health care, leisure and hospitality"). Third, first-wave Millennials are delaying marriage and child-bearing to an older average age than any earlier generation--a hesitancy based partly on high debt and stagnant incomes and partly on sheer risk aversion (Millennials fear making the wrong life choice). In the meantime, it only makes sense that women keep working. Fourth, and maybe here I broach a politically incorrect topic, there appear to be many Millennial women who wouldn't mind relying on a Millennial man's income rather than her own, but simply can't find such a provider. (See: "The Next Big Thing: You're Not the Man Your Father Was.")
    • All this work is certainly good for the economy. Is it good for the women themselves? Harder to say. As we noted last week (see: "Trendspotting: 1/22/19"), the loudest complaints about workplace dissatisfaction are coming from young women. After striving so hard to please parents, teachers, and bosses, and always accepting the next promotion, whatever it is, many young women are finally waking up to ask the question that would have occurred earlier to men: Why in the world (and for whom) am I doing all this?

Trendspotting: Millennial Women Are Fueling the LFP Recovery - Jan 27 chart2

  • A widely shared CBS News graphic illustrating generational birth years that forgot to include Generation X was met by Xers with “what else is new?” Cultural critic Charles Mudede used the omission to air his frustration that Xers are being ignored by media outlets framing the future as a fight between Boomers and Millennials. (The Stranger)
    • NH: This is a snarky essay on an old topic that we've often written about: the fact that the general public doesn't care as much about Xers as they do about Boomers and Millennials. We first pointed this out decades ago: See our book 13th-Gen: Abort, Delete, Retry, Fail, published back in 1993. Even in their youth, Xers knew they were the throwaway kids nobody cared about. Coming of age, to quote journalist Nancy Smith (age 30 in 1992), "It's like, we don't even have a name. Yours--'Baby Boomers'--is so big we fall into its shadow." A few years later, they adopted "Generation X," coined by novelist Douglas Coupland, precisely because it was an identity-hiding label, sort of like shading your eyes behind Ray-Bans. Even back then, they were already groaning about all the attention being given to the Baby-on-Board kids born in the 1980s, just too precious to be left "home alone."
    • And so it's been ever since. Word searches on recent earnings calls show that, of all generations, Boomers are mentioned first, Millennials second, and Generation X a distant third. Google's N-gram shows the same thing.
    • I've always assumed that Gen Xers prefer it this way. They figure that, by not drawing attention to themselves, they get an edge. Maybe other generations will underestimate them and then they can bluff, string us along, and then--bam!--pounce. Still, every time they're left off the official dinner invitation (as in this article), they grieve a bit. And maybe recall the 1985 Simple Minds soundtrack from The Breakfast Club: "Don't you. Forget about me. Don't, don't, don't, don't..."
  • Phoenix-area citizens have started attacking Waymo self-driving cars—slashing their tires, trying to run them off the road, and even brandishing firearms. The Google subsidiary has borne the brunt of the Arizona public’s aversion to the autonomous vehicle testing going on in their backyard. (The New York Times)
    • NH: Sure, this story is going to trigger a lot of Luddite jokes. (Which reminds me of the satirical headline: "Luddite invents machine to destroy technology faster.") But there are serious causal issues here. I need to remind readers why, of all the reasons we have been bearish on the rapid adoption of driverless technology, number one is the extreme difficulty of developing AI good enough to handle so-called "edge scenarios" and, number two, humans' profound discomfort at dealing with autonomous nonhuman agents in public spaces. Both are showing up as motives in the attacks, reporters say.
    • Some attackers say they were frightened by the mysterious fatal accident last March in nearby Tempe caused by a driverless Uber car. Others say they are spooked by driverless cars on the road. A few residents report being creeped out by driverless cars that "park" on the street just outside their homes--apparently awaiting further orders.
    • This may be just a case of people "getting used to" the cost-benefit superiority of a new innovation. Or not. Homo sapiens has developed a large part of its neocortex to facilitate extraordinarily sophisticated social interactions. So far from being "dumber" than driverless AI algorithms (this is the industry mantra), human drivers actually perform a complex dance of expressed intentionality with each other that AI cannot come close to replicating. And, even if AI could get passably good at this, maybe a lot of people don't welcome the dehumanization of one more big portion of their lives. (See: "The Next Big Thing: All the Lonely People.") In any case, the fact that Waymo is the new focal point of this new tech-lash certainly won't help the Google brand (see: "The Next Big Thing: Google-Facebook: It's Not Over").
  • In a new SNL sketch, Millennial game-show contestants are foiled by Boomers in their attempt to win “prizes” such as health insurance and debt relief. Host Kenan Thompson provides the perfect commentary to this intergenerational battle: “I’m Gen X. I just sit on the sidelines and watch the world burn.” (Saturday Night Live)
    • NH: This 5-minute episode is hilarious and worth watching. All of the generational roles are well played. The other nice Kenan Thompson line: "Again, I am Gen X. I just sit back and do nothing like the referee in Wrestlemania."
  • French voters now disapprove of President Emmanuel Macron by nearly a 3-to-1 margin (71% to 26%). Macron is just the latest example of a centrist leader whose regime has been imperiled by the populist nationalism sweeping across the globe. (YouScribe)
    • NH: From the very beginning of his presidency--long before the "gilets jaunes"--I doubted that Macron would be successful. Such a large share of French voters (especially the young) are on the extreme left or right that it always seemed highly improbable that Macron could thread that needle with a centrist or technocratic platform. We now see how deeply he is in trouble: According to this recent survey, French voters now disapprove of Macron by nearly 3-to-1. That's worse than Trump on a bad day. His only bastion of meager support are the very young (under age 25) or the old (over age 65). Interestingly, his support is lowest among age 25 to 34 (22%). More interestingly, his support is nearly as low on the far left (5% among supporters of La France Insoumise) as it is on the far right (2% among supporters of Front National).
    • Technocrat (and Macron's close friend) Matteo Renzi failed in Italy, I think, for a similar reason. Italy too has a high extremist voter share. Accordingly, the new left-right coalition--a perverse yoking together of left and right extremes--is doing much better. Unlike Renzi, this new coalition is heavily favored by the young. There's something else that confirms my rule about the closing of the circle on extreme left and right: A lot of Five Star (leftish) supporters are migrating to Matteo Salvini's (rightish) La Lega, which is now becoming the dominant partner.

    • But this has so long been the story in Europe. Many of the elderly National Front voters in France used to be Communist Party voters back in the 1970s and 1980s. And the migration of voters back and forth from right to left during the 1930s was notorious. This is why the European fascist parties nearly all had the word "socialist" worked into their name or slogan: The fascist leaders knew these voters could be "turned." Friedrich Hayek once commented that American and English students who went to study on the continent in the 1930s "came back uncertain whether they were communists or Nazis and certain only that they hated western liberal civilization."

Trendspotting: Millennial Women Are Fueling the LFP Recovery - Jan 27 chart3

  • Among progressive Millennials, the terms “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” are being replaced with “partner.” The moniker sounds more adult, hints at egalitarian values, and is used to denote a serious commitment at a time when the ultimate signifier, marriage, may be many years away. (The Lily)
    • NH: Let's use Census numbers (yes, Census also uses the term "unmarried partner") to bring some quantitative perspective to this trend. Back in 1987, of all cohabiting 25- to 34-year-olds, 7% were unmarried. By 2007, 18%. By 2018, 27%. So today, for over a quarter of first-wave Millennials living together, the words husband and wife don't apply (except in a common-law sense). Various alternatives (like "lover" and "companion") have weird connotations. "Partner" is abstract, impersonal, and even a bit bloodless--as though we are talking about a business merger. Which may in fact suit the new Millennial outlook on relationships (see: "Trendspotting: 4/30/18").

Trendspotting: Millennial Women Are Fueling the LFP Recovery - Jan 27 chart4

  • Writer Alexander Sammon profiles Bob Wells, the Boomer YouTuber who advises his peers to ditch the rat race and live in RVs. The themes on display in Wells’s videos are quintessentially Boomer: freedom, the power of nature, and spiritual and personal fulfillment. (Wired)
    • NH: Bob Wells's most popular YouTube video (nearly 3 million views) is of a remarkable Boomer woman who lives in her car on $800 a month (essentially, her Social Security check). By all appearances, she leads a happy and fulfilled life.
  • France has fined Google nearly $57 million in the first major penalty under Europe’s new data-privacy laws. The fine addresses only a portion of a complaint whose penalties could total more than $4.7 billion, presaging even tougher times to come for an already-bruised Silicon Valley. (The Washington Post)
  • O’Naturel, the first nudist restaurant in Paris, is shutting down after a little over a year in business. Brands are finding that sex is no longer a selling point for today’s modest Millennial consumers—even in the city of love. (MSN)
    • NH: The restaurant's owner could have predicted this. Very few Millennials have been showing up in recent years on France's famous nude beaches. There's an old rhythm of history at work here. Generations raised by buttoned-up parents can't wait to take their clothes off (you can gross out Millennials by showing them the nude scene in the Woodstock documentary). On the other hand, generations raised by hang-loose parents can't wait to get their clothes back on (especially in today's public locker rooms). See also: "Trendspotting: 1/22/19."
  • As the reach of influencer marketing continues spreading, calls for regulation are growing louder. Stories of fraud and bots-for-hire have convinced big brands like Unilever to set limits for working with influencers, but a lack of transparency combined with the tilt toward “ordinary” people is fostering distrust among consumers. (New York)
    • NH: The once-hyped rise of "influencer campaigns" has been torpedoed by rampant fraud and abuse. See last year's stunning investigative reporting by The New York Times into the whole seamy economy of Twitter followers for sale. Some influencers are resorting to blackmailing others. And even those who go public assailing the corruption of the whole influencer system can sometimes profit hugely off that move. (Wow, that seems "authentic"!) Black Mirror btw did an excellent episode on just this phenomenon: "Fifteen Million Merits." Warning to Millennials and Homelanders hoping to make money by becoming a budding social influencer themselves (see: "Trendspotting: 11/26/18"): This is truly the dregs-end of the gig economy.

                                DID YOU KNOW?

                                Outdoor Brands on the Hunt for Millennials. The great outdoors is at a crossroads: The number of Americans age 16+ who hunt has dropped 18 percent over the past two decades. For Millennials with all the creature comforts offered by urban life, outdoor activities just aren’t that alluring by comparison. But outdoor brands, realizing that demography is destiny, are pulling out all the stops to win over this generation. Some organizations, including the National Rifle Association, offer training programs and competitions geared toward young hunters. The National Wildlife Federation is going after young sportswomen with its Artemis initiative, which recruits, trains, and spotlights female up-and-comers. Other organizations take a more radical approach by selling Millennials on hunting’s sustainability. Field to Fork, headed by Hank Forester, markets hunters as “the original conservationists” and touts its mentorship programs and venison-cooking classes. Importantly, notes Forester, the actual hunting experience takes somewhat of a backseat: “We didn’t lead with, ‘Hey, do you want to shoot a deer?’”.