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NEWSWIRE: 2/5/18

  • High schools nationwide are scaling back on individual student lockers, replacing them with shared storage cubbies. While previous generations of teens used lockers as a home base to store their stuff and socialize with friends, Millennials tote heavy backpacks from class to class just in case they have time for a quick study session between periods. (The Washington Post)
    • NH: There's a lot going on here. Kids are carrying fewer books and binders around (thanks to log-on e-learning). Kids need to prepare for fewer classes on any given day (thanks to block scheduling). Kids need to bring fewer heavy coats and jackets (since so few are any longer walking or biking to school). And kids are lugging around less sports gear (with the rise of off-campus club sports and the decline of gym showers). Another driver comes to mind as well: Kids are stealing less from each other (and are more closely supervised), and thus don't mind stacking their belongings together before or between classes.
  • Floridian Boomers are killing off the early-bird special. While the Silent Generation loved the “fully packaged experience that brings elderly people together,” individualistic Boomers would rather live out their retirement on their own terms. (Eater)
    • NH: Originally, early-bird specials had nothing to do with the elderly. They got started during Prohibition and the Great Depression among restaurants wanting to serve "decent" middle-class families with kids early before the late-partying gin-fizz crowd showed up. It became a euphemism for discount dining by the elderly during the 1970s and '80s only when those kids grew up and retired. Like so many G.I.s (and Silent), these elders have enjoyed congregating with each other and have taken pride in their middle-class frugality. Boomers, by contrast, want no part of it. They don't like to think of themselves as "retired" (even if they are); they'd rather be with their kids than with each other; and, for them, eating should be a personal lifestyle statement. Early-bird specials are dying, despite the fact that Boomers are eating out more than earlier generations of elders (and younger age brackets are eating out less).
  • Amazon has opened a brick-and-mortar convenience store in Seattle that eliminates the checkout process entirely; shoppers are automatically charged via app for each item they put in their basket. The e-commerce giant is intent on using futuristic technology and M&As to make inroads in physical retail. (Re/code)
    • NH: It's certainly a more convenient shopping experience, though it doesn't seem to reduce the total number of staff present. If it catches on, AMZN could add one more giant profit center (along with AWS, Home Services, and Echo) that it invented for itself but then can go on and license to others.
  • John Goodwin, head of the Lego Foundation, argues that children need to play more to develop workplace skills. While Goodwin has a vested interest in making sure that kids play with toys, it is true that kids these days are forced into structured activities that don’t necessarily foster the problem-solving skills needed in the workplace. (BBC)
    • NH: The big worry among developmental psychologists is that young children are getting too much screen time at an age when their minds are only prepared to learn through tactile and kinesthetic play. While Minecraft may be great play for older kids, the younger Homelanders need something more like, well, Legos.
  • Anecdotal evidence suggests that Millennials may be losing their hair earlier than previous generations. Possible explanations range from this generation’s higher relative stress levels to the growing popularity of vegetarian (and nutrient-poor) diets. (Healthline)
  • Researchers estimate that roughly one-quarter of public health care workers are set to retire in the coming years thanks to a mass exodus of Boomers. While the huge size of the Millennial Generation could make up the difference, this generational shift will undoubtedly require huge amounts of outreach and training to keep institutional knowledge from walking out the door. (American Journal of Preventive Medicine)
  • Walmart will soon begin offering a free package of DisposeRx (which dissolves unused medication) with every opioid prescription. While this is a laudable effort to curtail the opioid epidemic, the real problem in most areas is the overprescription of these dangerous drugs in the first place. (MediaPost)
    • NH: It would be more helpful (and profitable) for Walmart to begin educating customers about healthier ways to deal with chronic pain--like exercise, sleep, and an array of OTC supplements proven to be effective in countering whole-body inflammation. 
  • Fully 16% of Millennials have already saved over $100,000. The study concludes that although Millennials have had a rough financial start, “Millennials are actually doing better than you—or they—might think.” (Bank of America)
    • NH: According to BoA's survey, this share has doubled since 2015--though this may be largely due to a fairly unequal wealth distribution compounded by the impact of the rising S&P on their 401(k)s and SEPs. Even so, I accept the main conclusion of the survey: Millennials are much more focused on the need to save (even if they can't or find it difficult) than Xers or Boomers were at the same age.
  • Nagicho, Japan has seen its fertility rate roughly double since 2005 thanks largely to increased spending on family incentive programs. The small town—where new families get everything from subsidized baby accessories to a government-provided cash payout—may be a useful test case for other rapidly aging populations in the region. (The Economist)
    • NH: The historical track record on pronatalist policies, stretching back to the beginning of recorded history (see my book, The Graying of the Great Powers), has not been good. We have literally centuries of examples of kings, emperors, and legislatures attempting to raise the birth rate, and most of them fail (as have Japan's own pronatalist policies since the early 1990s). A big part of the problem is that these policies typically try to "incentivize" births through purely monetary rewards or tax breaks. But in the few instances when pronatalism works, these rewards are accompanied by a society-wide mood shift in favor of more kids: Childbearing families are not only compensated monetarily but also celebrated by neighbors and local communities. That seems to be happening in Nagicho. What's unknown is how government can engineer this mood shift.
  • Wales is preparing a nationwide ban on the physical discipline of children. Ever since the arrival of the fiercely protected Millennial Generation, spanking and other forms of corporal punishment have fallen out of favor in much of the world. (The New York Times)
    • NH: Corporal punishment of children (at least as far as this can be measured by surveys) has declined dramatically in the United States over the last thirty years--during the childhood of the Millennials and Homelanders. And it has declined among all demographic groups. What hasn't changed, however, is the red-zone v. blue-zone gap. Lower-income, less-educated, rural Americans remain more than twice as likely to say they "spank" their kids than the rest. Trump voters tend to get emotional and give their kids a whack. Clinton voters tend to engage in rational arguments and call for a "time out."


      NFL Ratings Hit Hard. Another NFL season is in the books, and league officials are likely saying good riddance: According to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, the share of adults who say they follow the NFL closely has dropped 9 percent since 2014. Worse yet is the decline among the NFL’s key demographic: Just 51 percent of men ages 18 to 49 say they follow the league closely today, down from 75 percent in 2014. Declining interest has translated into plummeting viewership: NFL ratings dropped nearly 10 percent during this past regular season, after falling 8 percent a year ago. What’s happening? A polarizing wave of player protests is one factor. A systemic shift in American viewing habits is another. But perhaps the biggest factor is football’s eroding image: Fully 53 percent of mothers say they would encourage their child to play a sport other than football because of safety concerns, up from just 40 percent in 2014. Indeed, ever since Millennials were old enough to strap on the shoulder pads, anxiety about gridiron injuries has soared.