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What Will 1984 Be Like? Socioeconomic Implications of Recent Twists in Age Structure

Richard A. Easterlin
Demography
Vol. 15, No. 4 (Nov., 1978), pp. 397-432
Published by: Springer on behalf of the Population Association of America
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2061197
Page Count: 36
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What Will 1984 Be Like? Socioeconomic Implications of Recent Twists in Age Structure
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Abstract

Since 1940, under conditions of restricted immigration and high and sustained growth in aggregate demand, shifts in the relative number of younger versus older adults have had a pervasive impact on American life. Before 1960, younger males were in increasingly short supply and their relative economic position substantially improved; after 1960, the opposite was true. Since the early sixties, as the relative condition of young adults has deteriorated, marriage has been increasingly deferred and fertility reduced. The labor force participation of young women has risen at above average rates, and that of older women has risen at below average rates. Changes in the age structure of the working age population have also contributed to a combination of rising unemployment and accelerating inflation. Cohort divorce rates, suicide among young males, crime rates, and political alienation have worsened. The rise in college enrollment rates has been interrupted, and SAT scores have declined. In contrast, in the period 1940-1960, changes in these various magnitudes were typically of a more favorable sort. The United States is now at the start of a new period of growing scarcity of young adults as a result of the birth rate decline that set in after 1960. This implies that the 1980s will see a turnaround or amelioration in a wide variety of these social, political, and economic conditions, some of which have been taken as symptomatic of a hardening social malaise.

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