#80: Going Deeper on The Boomer Blockade

😎 Reflections on life, work & what matters

January 25th, 2020: Greetings from Taiwan. I’m down in Taichung celebrating Chinese New Year - 新年快樂! Happy year of the Rat, my birth year…here’s a pic from my new camera during a hike this week:

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#1 Boomer Blockade, Part Two

I got quite a lot of feedback on what I’m calling the “boomer blockade” last week and decided to expand on the idea. The story has three parts:

  1. A baby boomer demographic that emerge into a healthy and growing workforce in the 1980’s and 1990’s and were able to succeed through high rates of growth and limited competition from older members of the workforce

  2. A baby-boomer demographic that is choosing to stay in the workforce longer than previous generations

  3. A resulting emergence of bad jobs and pseudo career paths due to lower rates of organic growth throughout the economy and boomers deciding to work later in their careers

I don’t see this as a good or bad thing, just something that clearly has happened. It also seems to have driven a huge shift in how wealth has been transferred between generations.

If you look at how the distribution of wealth changed from when the median cohort member of the baby boomers and silent generation were ages 54-63, this is what it looks like:

  • Silent generation: Share of wealth down 26%

  • Baby boomer: Share of wealth up 5%

Since coming of age, the baby boomers have reshaped the workforce. Their stories fit well into a neat story of success at work that just isn’t working for the following generations, most notably and most ignored, Generation X.

I’m not sure we’ve really grappled with this. I don’t have any good answers yet, but I think its something we becoming more aware of.

Read the full thing!

P.S. Would love to hear thoughts and feedback on this.


#2 Low Unemployment, But Lots of Bad Jobs

In my research for the above, I stumbled upon the Job Quality Index, which the BLS released last year. It tracks the creation of good and bad jobs, which they define as jobs above and below the average income levels.

They chronicle a steady decline in what they call “goods-producing jobs” and a shift toward service jobs such as cashiers, retail workers and health workers which tend to be lower pay and have more part-time and contract variants offering fewer hours.

Since 1990, the economy is creating almost twice as many “bad jobs” as good ones.

If you’re a data nerd, you’ll enjoy this video which walks through all of the details behind the data.


#3 Education (h/t Matt)

A friend sent along this long, at times meandering, but overall good reflection and deep dive on some of the blind spots when thinking about the “working class”, the real challenges of figuring out ways of expanding the knowledge economy, the changing dynamics of cities and the interplay of dignity, work and morals.

Not sure if I left the article hopeful, but it connected a lot of interesting ideas.

In 1970, one half of Chicago by census tract was “middle-income”—that is to say, the people who made up the old working-class machine vote, most of them without four-year college degrees. Now that “middle-income” group is just 16 percent. The bungalows in those formerly middle-income neighborhoods teeming with high school graduates now belong to high-tech entrepreneurs and investors in hedge funds.

Check out the full article here.


#4 Reading Business Books

The only business book I find myself recommending these days is one that questions the logic of other business books (The Halo Effect). So it is no surprise that I got a kick out of this essay by Byrne Hobart, which assesses business books through the lenses of Ego, Fear and Resentment.

He closes with this great observation.

When times are good, the people who know what’s going on are also too busy making money to talk to journalists. Many investors consider it a bad sign when someone does too many interviews; positive media exposure is a bad sign. Elizabeth Holmes was the most famous CEO in biotech, and Adam Neumann was the second most famous CEO in commercial real estate, after Donald Trump. 

The ideal founder is someone who ought to be Time’s Person of the Year, but someone nobody at Time has ever heard of.

Check out his essay here.


That’s all for this week. Have a good weekend!

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