Academic journal article Generations

America Must Invest in Its Next Generations

Academic journal article Generations

America Must Invest in Its Next Generations

Article excerpt

all generations dream of a future with greater prosperity and more financial security. However, the Millennials and succeeding generations are coming of age in a much different world from that of prior generations, and the challenges they face are many. Leaving these challenges unaddressed will affect these cohorts' ability to age successfully and healthfully, and will jeopardize their economic and overall security in old age. Investments to improve life experiences at younger ages increase the likelihood for greater health and financial resilience, as well as for personal fulfillment at later stages of life-benefiting individuals and society as a whole.

How can we prepare for a brighter future? At this critical juncture, appropriate federal policy initiatives launched in the first 100 days of the new Administration would signal a commitment to the future of the Millennial generation and those that follow.

To meet every goal we have as a nation- whether the goal is broadly shared economic prosperity, international competitiveness, a strong national defense, a clean energy future, or longer and healthier lives-we must adapt to a new era comprising a different demographic profile. Doing so requires significant and farreaching efforts, and the time to start is now.

A few important themes point us toward appropriate federal policy initiatives that will secure the future of the Millennials and younger generations.

The Shift Toward a Majority-Minority Nation

For the first time in U.S. history, our country is simultaneously growing older and becoming more diverse. This has important implications because the destinies of racially and ethnically diverse younger and older generations are intertwined. In highlighting diversity and differences, the intention is not to separate, but to connect through generational unity.

By 2030, roughly 75 million baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) will be older than age 65, making them eligible for increased social services. This demographic change has important implications for Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the aging population will increase demand for long-term services and supports (LTSS) (CBO, 2013). As some scholars have argued, it is nearly impossible to finance and meet the needs of a population that will nearly double in size with the budget we have today (Wiener, 2013). As significant as that impact will be on federal and state budgets and individual resources, the Millennials, almost twenty years behind the baby boomers, will be a far larger cohort and potentially less well-prepared.

The Millennials (born between 1982 and 2004) are not only the largest living cohort, comprising 83.1 million people, they are also more racially and ethnically diverse than preceding generations (U.S. Census Bureau, 2015). This illuminates the United States' racial generation gap-the difference in percentage of youth compared to older adults from racial or ethnic minority groups (Pastor, Ito, and Carter, 2015). For example, among Millennials, 44.2 percent belong to racial or ethnic minority groups compared to 21.7 percent of baby boomers (U.S. Census Bureau, 2015).

The racial generation gap has an inverse trend between younger and older age groups, with long-term implications for our nation's future. Along every rung of the generational ladder, the older the age group, the larger the share of the population composed of nonHispanic whites, and the reverse is true for younger ages. At the oldest end of the ladder, 82 percent of Americans ages 85 and older are white, yet more than 50 percent of Americans ages 5 and younger are from racial or ethnic minority groups-the first age group to reach majority-minority status (Brownstein, 2015). Data project that by 2050, the U.S. population will reach majority-minority status (Pastor, Ito, and Carter, 2015; U.S. Census Bureau, 2015).

We need not look far to get an idea of the socioeconomic, cultural, and political implications of a majority-minority society. …

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