Paul Taylor’s The Next America profiles the United States’ past, present, and future using the only tool any Pew Research acolyte needs. Demographics.
If you were to use one word to describe Paul Taylor’s latest book, The Next America: Boomers, Millennials, and the Looming Generational Showdown, it would have to be ambitious. Because a book that examines the story of modern America through the spectrum of four generational groups – Millennials (born after 1980), Generation Xers (1965-1980), Baby Boomers (1946-1964), and the Silent Generation (1928-1945) – is a tall order for any author.
Yet even with such lofty goals, the most impressive feat The Next America pulls off is how it incorporates various charts and statistical models to tell its story. Though this shouldn’t be all that surprising. Taylor himself is an Executive Vice President at the Pew Research Center, a place where they have collected demographic statistics for a wide arrange of topics over the last decade. For them, demographics and charts aren’t used to support a basic point, demographics and charts are the point. In a world filled with opinions where people bend the will of data sets to serve their own purpose, Pew Research Center uses statistical models as their base language, not just for empty political alliteration. The Next America follows a similar creed.
Using these demographic models, Taylor creates an idea of what America could become in the future. While all four generational groups are looked at in-depth, the two groups that Taylor really focuses on are Millennials and Baby Boomers. Taylor states that the relationship between the two groups is almost Shakespearian in that both are “bound together in an intricate web of love, support, anxiety, resentment, and interdependence.” The Next America firmly states that it’s this dynamic that will shape America’s future.
While Taylor does initially paint a rather harsh reality that both groups find themselves in at the moment – the Baby Boomers having a hard time letting go (thus working longer) and the Millennials not lifting-off due to staggering levels of unemployment – the book does emphasize that there’s hope. He believes while the problem does lie in this dynamic that Millennials and Baby Boomers have set into, the solution lies in there as well.
Taylor ends his book by saying that people are “living more interdependently than any other time in recent memory.” As the recession had proved a few years ago, when people needed to scale back, everyone resorted to a very familiar safety net in family. And based on Taylor’s data, it’s a solid coping mechanism for tough times.
In that case, maybe we aren’t so bad off after all.
Reviewer’s Take: While the book is an amalgam of futurist theories, generational case studies, and a cornucopia of demographic data, it’s Taylor’s ability to step back and present the entire picture that make The Next America worth reading.