Exhausted generation:
A very sympathetic article (Bagehote, Generation Xhausted ECONOMIST vol. 404 no. 8798 August 18, 2012 page 53) describes the plight of those in their fifties.  I always thought of “the boss” as being an older man.  But they say that presently in Britain 40% of CEO’s are in their forties.  Some are in their thirties.  And among middle income British graduates pay reaches its peak in the thirties and is declining in the fifties.  Meanwhile age of first baby has risen to 32 in women and a bit higher in men.

So those in their thirties are facing a make or break phase of their careers and at the same time starting families.

Tsk.  Tsk.

Well maybe. 

But I’m not really buying it.  That rising age of first baby is not a fad or caused by “postponing having a family in order to have a career.”  There is more time for family earlier on, if indeed the thirties is the age when one needs to devote maximum effort toward career success.  Doesn’t that make sense?

And if you hop on over to Gapminder.com as I so often suggest, and get the site to give you a graph of age at first marriage for women plotted against fertility, and follow it over time … (It’s a really great site.  Do it.) … you can see country after country, starting with the richest, undergo a fertility decline, which then appears to stabilize at a bit below replacement.  Well and good.  But then with exquisite timing, the age at first marriage starts to rise.  Although fertility may wobble a bit, the age of marriage never looks back; it goes up as steadily as IQ as time passes.  (I’m sure you remember, “Getting Smarter.”)  If the age of first baby in Britain is 32 AND RISING the situation is inherently unstable. 

So people are putting off having babies when it would be easier only to have them when they are putting the greatest effort into their careers, (pardon me shouting again) AND THAT DELAY HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH CAREERS.  It’s due to the same process that has driven down fertility and which the bulk of the evidence suggests is due to mating strategy; failing to marry kin.

All right, so why the coincidence?  Correlation is not causation, of course, but one does look for a cause when one sees a correlation.  Career demands can’t be causing late marriage sooo maybe the reason the thirty-somethings are being such overachievers is that they don’t want to go home.  Not only are we in a rich world (Doesn’t feel so rich now, does it?  No babies, no future, no reason for investment in the future.) where there are not enough babies.  People really don’t much want babies any longer.  And now it seems even once they have them, they find other things to do, like be super good providers in lieu of what babies and children really need, which is adult attention with clear, fair and firm rules along with, ideally, a lot of love. 

Seems a bit sad, I think.

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