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David Foot's "Boom, Bust and Echo"

It wasn't supposed to be like this. Young people born from the early 1960s to late 1970s believed that the future was theirs. As baby boomers aged, employment and prosperity would be passed along. Instead, "Generation Xers" complained that they were propelled into a changing, recession-driven workplace that offered little but "McJobs." They became the first post-war generation to be worse off than their parents, left with reduced expectations and downsized hope for the future.

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David Foot's book Boom, Bust and Echo makes the plight of Generation X look simple. The "boom" is the baby boom, 32.7 per cent of Canada's population. Struggling in its shadow, the "bust" -- Generation X -- 18 per cent of the population. Hot on its heels is the "echo" -- children of the boomers-- 23 per cent of the population. Shown graphically, the baby boom looks like a giant bulge in a population graph resembling "a snake that swallowed a rabbit".

The expected job vacuum caused by retiring boomers isn't happening. Worse, many jobs seemed to have skipped Generation Xers, instead going to boomers' kids. According to Foot, finding jobs for Generation Xers is only one facet of a bigger problem. How will Generation X be able to support an aging population of boomers twice its size? He has some suggestions (e.g. introducing new wealth taxes) -- but they are making him rather unpopular among members of what he calls "the lucky generation." 
• David Foot was born in England, raised in Australia, educated in the United States (Harvard) and now lives in Canada. He is a professor of economics at the University of Toronto (2004).
• Foot's books Bust & Echo: How to Profit from the Coming Demographic Shift and the updated paperback version, Boom, Bust & Echo: Profiting from the Demographic Shift in the 21st Century sold over 300,000 copies and stayed on Canadian bestseller lists for more than three years.

• Foot's books attracted keen interest from advertisers and retailers. According to Foot, the aging baby boomers continue to dominate the consumer market. In a 2002 article he listed golf, laser eye surgery and gardening as the most popular products for aging baby boomers, along with memorabilia from their youth (such as Barbie dolls.) He says life insurance, daycare and toys will become less popular.

• Foot was one of the first demographers to draw attention to the "echo" generation, the kids of the baby boomers, which will become the next important consumer market. According to Foot, there are almost as many echo kids as boomers (76 million in the United States, to 79 million boomers.) That generation is already flooding into colleges and universities, and is about to flood into the workplace. Foot believes another era of youth unemployment may be on the horizon.

From Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture:
Homeowner Envy: Feelings of jealousy generated by the young and the disenfranchised when faced with gruesome housing statistics.
Mid-Twenties Breakdown: A period of mental collapse occurring in one's twenties, often caused by an inability to function outside of school or structured environments coupled with a realization of one's aloneness in the world.
Medium: Television
Program: The National Magazine
Broadcast Date: March 7, 1996
Guest(s): David Foot, Paul Martin
Host: Hana Gartner
Reporter: Eve Savory
Duration: 12:02

Last updated: March 9, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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