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PHYLLIS CUMMINS OHIO ASSOCIATION OF GERONTOLOGY AND EDUCATION APRIL 15, 2011 Easterlin Hypothesis: An Update of the Status of the Baby Boomer Cohort.

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Presentation on theme: "PHYLLIS CUMMINS OHIO ASSOCIATION OF GERONTOLOGY AND EDUCATION APRIL 15, 2011 Easterlin Hypothesis: An Update of the Status of the Baby Boomer Cohort."— Presentation transcript:

1 PHYLLIS CUMMINS OHIO ASSOCIATION OF GERONTOLOGY AND EDUCATION APRIL 15, 2011 Easterlin Hypothesis: An Update of the Status of the Baby Boomer Cohort

2 Presentation Summary  What is a cohort and why is it important to study cohorts?  What is the income status of the baby boomer cohort as compared to their parental cohort?  What are the intracohort differences in income for the baby boomer cohort?

3 What is a Cohort?  Ryder (1965) defines a cohort as:  “the aggregate of individuals (within some population definition) who experienced the same event within the same time interval” (p. 845)  A cohort can be based on year of birth  A cohort can also be any group of individuals who experience the same event within a time interval

4 Why is it Important to Study cohorts?  Insights can be gained on the impact of sociohistorical events, gender, race, and other life course factors  Cohort studies are usually longitudinal rather than cross-sectional

5 The Baby Boomer Cohort  There are about 78 million baby boomers  Includes those born between 1946 and 1964  Largest group of older Americans ever  They have had and will continue to have a great influence on society  Easterlin, Schaeffer, and Macunovich (1993) studied the economic status of the baby boomer cohort as compared to their parental cohort  This study updates the analysis of Easterlin et al. (1993)

6 The Easterlin Hypothesis  Economic prospects are adversely affected by cohort size  Cohort aspirations are established during adolescence  Incomes will be higher but there will be substantial intracohort variability  To offset reduced economic prospects:  Young adults will marry later, delay childbearing and have fewer children  More women will work outside the home

7 Research Question: Have baby boomers maintained an economic advantage over their parental cohort?

8 Methods  Used Current Population Survey (CPS) data from 1964, 1974, 1984, 1985 (parental cohort), 1989, 1999, 2009, and 2010 (baby boomer cohort)  Compared inflation adjusted “Income per Adult Equivalent (IAE)” of the baby boomer cohort to their parental cohort  Considered the baby boomer as a whole and as four smaller cohorts  Compared baby boomer median IAE to parental cohort median IAE

9 Results  The economic advantage of the baby boomer cohort over their parental cohort has steadily declined between 1988 and 2009  In 1988 the advantage was 85% and by 2009 it had declined to 11%  IAE for the boomer cohort as a whole and by quartile declined between 2008 and 2009  Effects of the Great Recession are only partially reflected in this analysis

10 Baby Boomer Cohort - Median Annual Income per Adult Equivalent (adjusted to 2009 dollars) Baby Boomers First Quartile 24,457 32,922 31,450 30,058 Second Quartile 22,032 27,938 32,150 31,727 Third Quartile 22,030 23,801 29,063 27,332 Fourth Quartile 22,806 22,520 26,207 25,769 All Baby Boomers 22,770 26,396 29,386 28,846

11 Percentage Advantage in Median Annual Income per Adult Equivalent for Baby Boomer Cohort over Their Parental Cohort Baby Boomers First Quartile Second Quartile Third Quartile Fourth Quartile All Baby Boomers

12 Age and Income Comparisons for the Baby Boomer Cohort and their Parental Cohort (in thousands of dollars)

13 Age and Income Comparisons for the First Quartile Baby Boomer Cohort and their Parental Cohort (in thousands of dollars)

14 Age and Income Comparisons for the Second Quartile Baby Boomer Cohort and their Parental Cohort (in thousands of dollars)

15 Age and Income Comparisons for the Third Quartile Baby Boomer Cohort and their Parental Cohort (in thousands of dollars)

16 Age and Income Comparisons for the Fourth Quartile Baby Boomer Cohort and their Parental Cohort (in thousands of dollars)

17 Summary and Discussion  Results of the current analysis are consistent with Easterlin et al.’s (1993)  The baby boomer cohort still has an economic advantage over their parental cohort but it has narrowed over time  There is substantial intracohort variability in median IAE

18 Summary and Discussion  Effects of high unemployment rates have had a greater impact on the retirement prospects of the baby boomer cohort than has their decline in wealth  Less educated baby boomers are at an economic disadvantage  Higher unemployment rates  Lower IAE  The retirement prospects of younger baby boomers and those with less with less education are very uncertain  Opportunities for further research

19 Questions?

20 References Easterlin, R.A., Schaeffer, C.M. and Macunovich, D.J. (1993). Will the baby boomers be less well off than their parents? Income, wealth, and family circumstances over the life cycle in the United States. Population and Development Review 19, Rossignol, A. (2007). Principles and practice of epidemiology: An engaged approach. New York: McGraw Hill. Ryder, N. B. (1965). The cohort as a concept in the study of social change. American Sociological Review, 30,


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