By Jillian Berman
“Before the baby boomers came around, the so-called Greatest Generation came of age in a time of war and depression and learned firsthand the benefits of social solidarity and so they continued to invest in society throughout their lives, Gibney said. Younger Generation X and the millennials have suffered through the dot-com crash, great recession and other economic woes. “I don’t think that people much under 40 believe that prosperity is automatic anymore,” Gibney said.
It makes sense that these experiences might produce some generational conflict, said Heidi Hartmann, an economist and president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. Millennials, now the largest generation, came of age in a weak labor market with high levels of student debt and have waited for the boomers to give up their tight grip on their jobs to make room.
“When a big generation graduates from high school and college into a soft labor market, they’re obviously going to start looking at how the other generations are doing,” Hartmann said.
Millennials’ concerns about a lack of good jobs and high levels of student debt are real, Hartmann said, but she doesn’t blame the boomers and their focus on keeping their entitlement programs secure. Instead, it’s an outsize focus on other priorities, like defense, she said. “If you cut the benefits for the boomers, you’re not helping their children at all because then those children are going to have to support those boomers,” she said.”