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NEWSWIRE: 3/26/18

  • When asked to draw a scientist, one-third of U.S. children now draw a female scientist—up from less than 1% in the 1960s and 1970s. Children evidently have noticed that women increasingly are becoming scientists (and are being portrayed as scientists in pop culture). (Nature)
    • NH: Children draw what they see. Back in the 1960s, academically accredited female scientists were rare indeed--in the G.I. Generation, deep-voiced males totally dominated the celebrated "physical" or "hard" sciences. Back then, those were the only fields that mattered. But among Boomers, and even more among Xers, women are much better represented in almost every specialty. (My favorite icon of a first-wave female Xer scientist is Jodie Foster in the movie Contact.) Among Millennials, women exceed men in most master degree and doctoral degree awards across the full range of natural and social science fields. Yet men today still hold a strong majority position overall, due both to generational lag and to the fact that the attrition rate of women from full-time academic positions for family reasons is about twice as high as for men. And the attrition rate is highest for the highest achievers. (OK, call me politically incorrect, but the data bear me out.) As a result, though the female share of scientists today varies widely by specialty, the overall female share is probably close to around one-third. So to me, the kids' own estimate sounds just about right.
  • The list of 2018’s most popular spring break travel destinations for Boomers includes off-the-beaten-path locales like Thailand, Vietnam, and Peru. Adventure-seeking Boomers have not lost their lust for unique experiences even as they enter their golden years. (OneTravel)
    • NH: When the Boomers' parents retired, their idea of a vacation was super-comfort at a mainstream locale that was on everybody's checklist. Retired Boomers, by contrast, opt for the road less traveled. Their idea of a vacation adheres to the same rigorous and ascetic standards they once pioneered as college students on their backpacking sojourns to Tibet and Morocco. Let me quote our own report: "To be sure, Boomers are still flocking to popular vacation spots such as Mexico and Hawaii. But even then, they’re turning towards options that allow for more authentic and in-depth experiences, such as “voluntourism,” eco-tourism, personal guides, and local-culture immersion." And they're suckers for any vacation with a deeper values agenda--a mission or a calling. We're talking religious tourism, historical tourism, maybe a tour of all the vineyards in Byzantium started by monophysite monks. (Oh, sweet spot!) As for raw, self-testing adventurism? Sure, there's a Boomer market for that. But you can expect that to peak with Xers born in the 1960s. That is, look for affluent 70-somethings in the 2030s.
  • Between Q3 and Q4 2017, the number of Facebook users in North America fell for the first time ever. Although the drop didn’t hurt Facebook’s ad revenue, the ongoing revolt against “fake news,” polarizing content, and rising screen time poses a real threat to the company’s bottom line. (Advertising Age)
    • NH: User penetration is the leading edge of revenue. I have no doubt that internal Facebook polls caught this trend early on--and after follow-up focus groups, this ominous warning signal triggered the concessive backwards moonwalk by Zuckerberg in January. OK, he admitted, Facebook did indeed have a problem on its hands. (See: "The Next Big Thing: Danger Ahead for Google and Facebook?") After the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook faces the very real possibility of a "Chipotle moment," an episode that persuades multitudes to re-evaluate a positive brand from a much more negative angle. As of last Friday, according to Rasmussen Reports, "Just over half of regular Facebook users are considering bailing out of the popular social media site over concerns about the privacy of their personal data."
  • AARP is turning its focus to Generation X: In a new ad spot, Def Jam veteran J. Ivy tells viewers in spoken-word style that “the rules of aging are changing.” The company hopes that its new youthful campaign will convince Xers that it’s never too early to think about the future. (Adweek)
    • NH: The original message of AARP's explosive membership growth years--the 1970s and early 1980s--is today a distant memory. Back then, with the G.I. Generation retiring, the come on was all about screw-the-kids entitlements to the generation that actually pulled America through WWII and poured the concrete of the American High. Wow, that message is now a distant memory. AARP spent the 1990s and '00s trying to ride the G.I. entitlement theme with the new Silent Generation of retirees--but found that it no longer worked as well. The Silent didn't feel like the "Greatest Generation." They felt guilty (the Ronald Reagan Generation never felt guilt) about how well they were doing by comparison with their kids. So then they turned to Boomers, who have turned out to be terrible AARP members. Sure, Boomers join. But they never bother to renew. No cutting-edge Boomer would be caught dead flaunting his or her "AARP Eagle membership" discount at a restaurant or a movie theater. Oh, the shame: Boomers know full well that no one will ever call them the Greatest Generation. So now, in desperation, AARP moves quickly on the Gen Xers. J. Ivy? Born in 1976? He makes Eminem feel old. Sure, like many late-wave Xers, he takes the edge off hip-hop and makes it palatable to Boomer "seniors." But his Xer message of opportunity, change, disruption, and rule-breaking--what does that have to do with AARP's mission? Let's get it over with: AARP needs to move on to the Millennials. Forget "retirement" entirely. Go all the way to next generation that appreciates entitlement in exchange for civic achievement, and see what you can do.
  • The hijab is having a moment: Companies from Macy’s to Nike have begun selling hijabs, while a growing number of marketers are using the traditional Muslim garb in their ad copy. Factors at play include a growing global Muslim population as well as the Millennial desire for inclusive and authentic marketing. (Advertising Age)
    • NH: Nike's commitment to "Pro Hijab" is proving to be a winner. Millennials do not find excuses to transgress cultural boundaries. They find excuses to pull back. And here we're talking about modesty. This is a big deal in France. Older generations subscribe to "laicité" and abhor Muslim clothing that cover women. Younger generations are much more favorable, not just because they are less animated by the threat of Islamic terror, but also because they see a place for dress that protects women in dangerous and urban environments. Millennial women roll their eyes at topless beaches in Biarritz; they gleam with admiration at women of faith who dare to cover up.
  • Netflix has canceled plans to gamify certain children’s shows after receiving negative feedback from users. While Millennials and Homelanders have grown up with gamified experiences, rewarding children for binge-watching behavior occupies an ethical gray area. (The Verge)
    • NH: Good call. Stop the damage. In the era of tech-lash, giving kids rewards for watching more shows is definitely asking for trouble.
  • New research shows that Americans over age 50 who have attended college are 2.5 times more likely to misuse opioids than those who have not. This report seems to contradict the assumed negative correlation between socioeconomic status and health outcomes. (University of Buffalo)
    • NH: Indeed, this study's findings are directly at odds with just about all of the mainstream research. Maybe their sample (130 western New Yorkers) was too small and too local. Angus Deaton and Anne Case found opioids to be an integral part of the "deaths of despair" they find mainly afflicting noncollege midlife whites over the past two decades. According to a recent NIH study, "Rates of nonmedical prescription opioid use were greatest among men, those with annual incomes less than $70,000, those previously married, and with a high school-level education or less."
  • PayPal CEO Dan Schulman argues that Millennials are using Venmo and other sharing apps to keep close tabs on their finances. Schulman is right to point out that Millennials, scarred by the Great Recession, are using every tool they can get their hands on to stay financially responsible. (CNBC)
  • Fully 86% of Russian 18- to 24-year-olds approve of President Putin, the highest share of any age group. Though a right-wing strongman seems an odd ideological fit for young voters, Putin’s presidency has coincided with a rise in living standards and a renewed sense of national purpose that has instilled hope in Russian Millennials. (Levada-Center)
    • NH: Putin's approval ratings are much higher than those of any major Western leader. And he's especially popular with the young--who are pushing the total fertility rate higher even while fertility is generally falling in the West. Putin illustrates that raw leadership skill is usually more important than good intentions or high principals in galvanizing popular support. Putin knows how to set priorities, make choices, and execute--all on a self-constructed stage which pits Russia against all of its corrupt foreign enemies.
  • Contributor Kevin Munger argues that the “generation gap” between Boomers and Millennials is the largest in history. While the ideological gap between postwar Boomer youths and G.I. Generation elders was perhaps larger, it is true that the widening socioeconomic chasm between America’s young and old gives the Boomer-Millennial gap an added twist. (The Outline)
    • NH: The difference is that back in the late '60s, the "generation gap" was about values, not economics--and absolutely everyone knew about it. Today, the gap is about economics, not values--and (as yet) only Munger and his small cadre of "woke" Millennials are talking about it.


      Not Your Grandfather's 20-Somethings. A new Pew Research Center report explores how today’s 21- to 36-year-olds stack up to previous generations at the same age. Demographically, Millennials are a diverse bunch: Just 56 percent are "white" (Census-speak that excludes Hispanics, most of whom say they are white) as of 2016, down from 62 percent of Generation Xers in 2001, 75 percent of Boomers in 1985, and 84 percent of the Silent Generation in 1965. Millennials have also set high-water marks for educational attainment. Fully 29 percent of Millennial men and 36 percent of Millennial women have earned at least a bachelor’s degree, both the highest shares ever recorded. (For Silent men and women in 1965, the shares were 15 percent and 9 percent, respectively.) It hasn’t all been positive for Millennials, however. Median household income for Millennials ($72,500 in 2016) is just 3 percent higher than it was for Xers ($70,311 in 2000). What’s more, 15 percent of Millennial men and 26 percent of Millennial women are out of the labor force, both higher than the share of Xer nonparticipants.