Kids today just want to be hip

hip young peopleShaila Dewann of the New York Times wants every municipal government to know something: get with it or your city will go the way of VHS tapes. While I’m sure Dewann’s article on the competition between cities to attract the young is documenting a response to what could be a very real movement, it fails to challenge any of the stereotypes that are driving what appears to just be trends. The Times can do better.

Here is how the piece begins:

Some cities will do anything they can think of to keep young people from fleeing to a hipper town.

In Lansing, Mich., partiers can ease from bar to bar on the new Entertainment Express trolley, part of the state’s Cool Cities Initiative. In Portland, Ore., employees at an advertising firm can watch indie rock concerts at lunch and play “bump,” an abbreviated form of basketball, every afternoon.

And in Memphis, employers pay for recruits to be matched with hip young professionals in a sort of corporate Big Brothers program. A new biosciences research park is under construction — not in the suburbs, but downtown, just blocks from the nightlife of Beale Street.

These measures reflect a hard demographic reality: Baby boomers are retiring and the number of young adults is declining. By 2012, the work force will be losing more than two workers for every one it gains.

As a devout basketball fan, I took offense at the word “bump” to describe the game of knockout. It confused me. More important, reading the article left me depressed. Is partying and living the good life the only thing young people in America want these days? Young people aren’t interested in community service, their families or perhaps a bit of church?

Why do city leaders see this aspect of American young people as the driving trend that will make or break their population? Are there other aspects worth considering?

Fortunately for our country, Dewann’s description of the American young person is incomplete, but she is touching on a trend and trends are tough to report. Other aspects of this trend could include looking at the growth of city churches that attract these young mobile types. Another aspect would be the trend for young people to put off marriage longer and longer. A third aspect to look at would be a trend for people to live away from their parents. The country’s values are shifting, and covering that shift could produce some interesting results.

While Dewann dutifully reported these marketing trends, the article did nothing to challenge whether these are positive trends.

While the article was appropriately narrow in focus, future pieces could address the reason the country has experienced a dearth of young people, or in the words of a demographer quoted in the piece, why young people “are rare and desirable.” One obvious reason, as Dewann wrote, is that Baby Boomers are growing older and retiring. The other stated but unexplained reason is the number of young adults is dropping. People are obviously not having as many children as they used to. Why would that be the case? Any guesses?

Print Friendly

  • Martha

    “People are obviously not having as many children as they used to. Why would that be the case? Any guesses?”

    Um – they’re all Episcopalians? No, no, I know! They’re smarter and better-educated and earning more money, so they’ve become aware of the need for stewardship of the earth and not taking more than one’s portion!

    By the bye, who knew that the Presiding Bishop-to-be was providing technical advice to “The Simpsons” scriptwriters?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RMzA82H-Qo

  • Larry Rasczak

    “More important, reading the article left me depressed. Is partying and living the good life the only thing young people in America want these days? Young people aren’t interested in community service, their families or perhaps a bit of church?”

    AH… here is the rub.
    People that are interested in community service, families, and church aren’t as desired by MARKETERS, and who are the cities hiring to run these efforts?

    In marketing it is all about DISPOSABLE income (or enough credit card debt to give the illusion thereof). People who have kids, are thrifty, and give to charity aren’t “hip” because what is and is not “hip” is defined by Madison Ave and the clients of the ad agencies don’t make any $$$ off of people going to church and giving to charity.

    Gay is “hip” because gay people are less likely to be supporting a family and therfore they are more likely to have more $$$ to drop on overpriced status symbols. Yuppies are “hip” for the same reason. So are DINKS. 18-34 is the key T.V. demographic for the same reason. Movies are targeted for 17 year olds because 17 year olds go to more movies… (but that becomes a self fulfilling prophecy at some point). Church is not cool because it is harder to convince a regular churchgoer that he needs to spend $350 on a bottle of desinger cologne so he can pick up a one night stand in a bar.

    “Why do city leaders see this aspect of American young people as the driving trend that will make or break their population?” Because they are listening to hired marketing consultants, and everyone in marketing is so taken with this demographic because of the disposable income.

    There are plenty of people out there who are interested in community service, families, and church; at least here in Houston. They just aren’t “COOL’ enough to make the newspapers.

  • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog.html Jason Pitzl-Waters

    “More important, reading the article left me depressed. Is partying and living the good life the only thing young people in America want these days? Young people aren’t interested in community service, their families or perhaps a bit of church?”

    I know plenty of young people who are “hip” and also interested in community service. This article just doesn’t focus on that. Indeed there are all sorts of vibrant youth-oriented activist and community efforts going on all over our country. Don’t let one article make you depressed.

    “The other stated but unexplained reason is the number of young adults is dropping. People are obviously not having as many children as they used to. Why would that be the case? Any guesses?”

    Perhaps dropping in relation to the Baby Boomers, but then the Boomers were/are historically vast in numbers. In part due to the post-war affluence. The subsequent generations (X and Y) aren’t all that much smaller, just smaller in comparison. In fact birth rates seem pretty stable in general. There are plenty of babies to go around, I think this article is ill-informed in general.

    I usually don’t trust “trend” articles, especially trend articles on the “creative class”, a meme I have disliked since it first appeared.

  • cheryl

    Here’s a good article skewering the theories of Richard Florida, the guy who christened “The Creative Class” and fancies himself an expert on why young people are supposedly fleeing unhip cities like Pittsburgh (his former home, who just didn’t appreciate his genius enough):

    http://www.city-journal.org/html/14_1_the_curse.html

    Florida basically thinks that if some of these stodgy old cities that still have deep family roots and, for lack of a better word, traditional values, would just get with the program and become more welcoming to gays, all of their troubles with retaining the young and the hip would just disappear.

    He is now working on a book about what “where you choose to live” says about you.

    I can’t wait.

  • Pen Brynisa

    Are we still working out the rules to the “Get Religion” drinking game?

    Can we take a swig every time Martha pokes fun at the Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop in comments on articles containing no Episcopalian-specific content?

  • http://www.ksvaughan2.byregion.net Karen Vaughan

    “The other stated but unexplained reason is the number of young adults is dropping. People are obviously not having as many children as they used to. Why would that be the case? Any guesses?”

    Money, money, money, money. And the lack thereof.
    If I want my children to have a good education, can they go public or do I shell out $25 grand per kid per year? Do you know how much it takes to cover their health care? (Heck the dog got an ear infection and it cost $600.) Two kids, orthodontia, health care, summer camp even at the Y, well you get the picture.

    And kids today don’t even believe in marriage having seen so much divorce.

  • Larry Rasczak

    “Can we take a swig every time Martha pokes fun at the Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop in comments on articles containing no Episcopalian-specific content? ”

    Hey, give Martha a break here. She is only doing her duty. Some things (poking fun at KJS being among them) simply must be done. If Martha were to keep quiet, the stones themselves would cry out.

  • Michel Vachon

    The really puzzling thing about the piece is that it does not even stop to consider other possibilities.

    Do the losing cities have anything in common that might explain their decline? For example, are they linked to declining economic sectors? Do they have higher or lower taxes than the gaining cities?

    Question for Jason. I went to the link you provided to support your claim that the birth rate is remaining stable once we except the baby boom. I’m puzzled because those figures don’t back up your point. Quite the opposite in fact. Once you compensate for the baby boom plus the depression and more serious recessions such as late 1970s, those numbers show a declining rate throughout the twentieth century. A drop that continues at least as far as 2000.

    Am I missing something terribly obvious here?

  • Martha

    Pen, flattered as I am that you think I might be able to introduce a whole new drinking game, I take the mild rebuke to heart. I’ll shut my gob until Katie’s book comes out (next February, I am led to believe).

    After all, she shouldn’t have anything to say before then, so I won’t be provoked. But I do think that there is an element to that coverage that, if not specifically Episcopalian, is related. The Presiding Bishop was asked about the decline in her church’s numbers, and explained it as being due to increased education and affluence leading to more awareness of ecological effects. This article raises the question of why there are fewer young people and suggests some ways in which they might be enticed to one city over another. The big question here, therefore, is *if* there are (percentage-wise, as the Presiding Bishop put it) fewer young people, why should this be?

    Is it a result of increased affluence and education amongst those who are/would have been parents?

    Is this ecological awareness and concern for the finite resources of our planet, or a result of materialist selfishness?

    There is a religion ghost lurking in the shadows there. Not specifically an Episcopalian one, true, but the highest ranking member of the Episcopal clergy has proffered her take on it.

  • Pen Brynisa

    Okay, Martha, I’ll accept this as a legitimate ghost sighting.

    But I’m still going to take a drink anyway.

  • Martha

    “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.”

    Sláinte! ;-)

  • http://www.sucksglobal.co.nr/ Jack Eisenberg

    Gays should be accepted everywhere

    People in the USA breed like rabbits more than any other industrialized country (attaining the american dream at the expense of the countryside surrounding urban clusters, as well as all the vauable resources that are eaten up along with that)

    Heterosexuals are far too cavalier & sexually permissive

    And anyone who wonders why cities that attract young, hip bobos and yuppies experience an increase in the violent crime rate need only watch “American Psycho.”

  • Stephen A.

    In Lansing, Mich., partiers can ease from bar to bar on the new Entertainment Express trolley

    Yes, booze trolleys are VERY hip. Very hip, indeed. Great idea for building up communities. Or maybe just tearing them down. This is the liquid equivalent to handing out needles to addicts out of some twisted sense of ensuring the boozers some kind of “safety” from not driving, no doubt.

    And I do hope Jack Eisenberg is being facetious about gays and how it’s actually straight people who are sexually permissive. I’ll have you know that some of us *do* watch Will & Grace on occassion.

    Those two characters alone have, between them, dated half of New York City. I’m sure it’s an exaggeration, though. Yup. Sure.

    (…p.s. It’s all the new bishop’s fault.)

    (Kidding.)


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X