More on the Baby Boomers…

I know you read more than one site, but I’d like to temporarily turn your attention back to the topic we addressed on Monday: namely, that sites (let me cite one recent source again since some of you didn’t believe me: the Washington Post’s WonkBlog) were still running with the narrative that retiring Baby Boomers were behind the precipitous decline in labor force participation.

Since all of us could use a little more worry in our diet, here’s the data I’m referencing:

Civilian Labor Force Participation Rate

Looks like a roller coaster…

How Does The Age Distribution Look Over Time?

As luck would have it, Bill McBride’s excellent Calculated Risk blog covered this exact question earlier this week.  As someone who tries his best not to reinvent the wheel, here’s his animation of the Census population count by age bracket, and their projections through 2060:

PopDistAgain, hat-tip to Calculated Risk.

Yes, that might be the very first animated GIF we ever used on this site.  My apologies.

We’ve actually approached this from multiple angles in the past.  First, of course, is our article from last year where we initially defended the Boomers from this weird charge.  At that point, we included this chart which tells a similar story: namely, that we have both more people over Age 55 as a percentage of the population, and that those people are working longer than they did in the past:

Again, the missing workers are in the 25-54 year old subset (to a point), while the largest relative collapse is in the 24-and-under crowd (see the Monday piece for details).

So, does this help clarify the Monday piece?  Anything else you folks want to see?



  1. Andy Hough says

    I like the animated GIF. It really shows how there are more older people in the workforce. That is bad news for the young folk.

  2. Jacob @ iHeartBudgets says

    Wait….so are you blaming those lazy, good-for-nothing millennials? Good. Me too.

  3. krantcents says

    Older workers are hanging on to work because they need the money. If they retired, would there be more jobs? In theory, yes, but companies are not hiring because they have increased productivity.

    • says

      Really, though, I’m not sure how much it would affect the lower two age brackets (the teenagers and the 20-24 crowd). Perhaps some of the 25-54 crowd would take the promotion, however?

  4. says

    I can’t stop looking at the GIF…

    The 24 and under blame the economy whereas most folks blame their lack of valuable skills beyond tweeting and smart phone manipulation.

    The truth is probably somewhere in the middle?

    • says

      I can tweet pretty decently on my smartphone!

      Another bogeyman? Automation… we’ve done that topic a few times here. Always controversial until you point out that most people have a job that didn’t exist 100 years ago (wrote the software engineer while blogging!).

  5. The College Investor says

    Thats a huge flattening of the population pool over time. Plus, I think that more older workers continue working because 1) they have to 2) they have nothing to do for 30 years if they don’t.

    Remember, back “in the day”, older family members would typically move back in with their kids in old age. That doesn’t happen as much anymore, but I can see the change reverting since many older American’s can’t afford to live on their own.

    • says

      I guess we didn’t see the reverse happening – younger family members moving in with the older family members. Weird.

  6. says

    Those who CAN are indeed working longer. But let me tell you — from experience — what happens when you get laid off at an age that is, say, over 55 or 60: you will not have a snowball’s chance of getting another job.

    After I was laid off at 64 from an academic administrative job for which a Ph.D. and 35 years of experience in real-world publishing and university teaching were de rigueur, I couldn’t even get hired to drive the tourist train at the local zoo! And believe me, I tried. I applied to every job for which I was even remotely qualified, including several whose descriptions looked like they were written for me. Finally, a dean admitted (off the record, in a non-hiring context) that there was no way anyone my age was going to get hired for any academic job, and nevermind how qualified I might be. Being over 60 disqualified me, ipso facto.

    I planned to work to age 70, and I would have done so, not because my savings wouldn’t have supported me, but, like others in my cohort, because the children of my generation are so underpaid and have such poor prospects that they need continuing assistance of one kind or another. If you want your kids to stay in the middle class, you have to hand down to them financial as well as cultural capital. We did the best we could to give our kids cultural capital; the 1% has done all it can to see to it they are shorted of financial capital. I needed that job to help your generation stay middle-class.

    • says

      Haha, is it that obvious I was born in the 1980s? More Will Hunting than Professor Sean Maguire?

      I’ll freely admit I don’t know much about hiring in Academia, other than “tenure means everything”, for better or worse. I’m with you on your conclusion – I know a few people have said that Boomers not retiring somehow delays Millennials moving into those positions, but with few exceptions Millenials don’t have positions with that much cachet. Gotta do the time.