Thursday, 22 October 2009

Credit crunches/Baby booms

Earlier today I was waiting around in Costcutter for a document that I had sent for binding (work-related) to be returned, so I did a bit of magazine skimming. There was an article in New Scientist about drugs that improve your concentration and memory, but it didn't really grab my attention; and an indifferent review of The Corner (the book) in the TLS. The main thing I read was an article advertised on the front page of The Spectator, called 'The Quiet Agony of the Recession Generation' (available here). The basic argument that the article presents is that:
According to a new sub-branch of economics, the way we view risk, the way we choose to invest, even our political predilections are determined by the prevailing economic conditions in our late teens and early twenties.
The article cites a paper that presents evidence suggesting that 'individuals experiencing recession during the [sic] formative years believe that luck rather than effort is the most important driver of individual success'. The Spectator article adds:
Recession babies are, say the authors, ‘more willing to increase taxes’ — and little wonder. They’ll be keen to help their less fortunate comrades, because they know it might just as easily have been them. But, strikingly, this is not good news for Labour. They tend to remember which government dropped them in this mess, and be suspicious about government authority.
An interesting combination, to be sure. The article also spends time discussing the fact that many graduates will justifiably feel that they have been 'mis-sold' their degrees, as they do not lead to increased employability or income.

Living through a recession is certainly a humbling and sobering experience, and an eye-opening one. When I used to hear or read about the Wall Street Crash that led to the Depression of the 1930s, my thoughts were mainly limited to direct and immediate material realities - unemployment, hunger - rather than long-term impacts upon people's attitudes to credit, risk, security, etc.

Another thing that I've been hearing lately is that we're experiencing a baby boom. There's a recent article about it in the Times Online here. The article - which is concerned with the UK only - refers to increased 'fertility' - rather misleadingly, as what is at stake is not advances in medical science or health but, from what I can gather, more women choosing to have more babies. The swell is being helped by immigration. The only other reason the article offers for the increase is that fewer women are waiting until their thirties for babies. I was surprised to read that there are indications that the boom is slowing due to the recession, because in my mind I had it that the recession might itself lead to a birth rate increase. This line of reasoning, if one can call it that, was inspired by a long passage in The Corner, which boils down to: if your other dreams and goals are blocked, this might increase your focus upon and desire for parenthood. Obviously, there has to be a trade-off between this and the prudence borne of straitened circumstances that the article (and The Spectator one) point to.

And the Times piece warns that the baby boom will lead to an increased strain on nurseries, schools, etc. - just as public spending cuts are in the air. Oh dear.

Like many other people, I certainly feel less 'untrammelled' than I did twelve months ago.

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