The Unkickable Can: Toward a 'Livability Synthesis'

Ben Brown points out the potential political upside to the aging population.

2 minute read

September 28, 2015, 11:00 AM PDT

By Hazel Borys


"Maybe it’s a brief glimpse, inspired by Pope Francis’s visit, of a collective will to be better humans. Or maybe it’s just the math. But I’m feeling more hopeful about future traction for arguments — and for action — for more meaningfully connected, livable communities."

"The reason why can be summed up in two charts: The first chart is the now-familiar elongation of population modeling as Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, move into the final stages of their lives. We used to characterize the generational swell Boomers created as a 'pig in the python.' These days, with the even bigger generation of Millennials, born after 1980, coming of age, the snake looks more proportional. Still, the sheer size of the Boomer generation enables it to prolong its capacity to bend trend lines over the next forty years.

"That capacity is multiplied by what the second chart makes obvious. Geezers have most of the money. Which in the pay-to-play society we’ve evolved over the last four decades, means older people — who vote more consistently, contribute more to political campaigns and have more highly developed networks of influence in business and non-profit institutions — are likely to have more clout in decision-making that touches the lives of citizens of all ages and at all income levels."

Aging population in America: Page 2, U.S Census pdf, The Next Four Decades: The Older Population in the United States, 2010, 20109 to 2050.

Census Chart of relative median household wealth by age.

"Let’s go out on a limb here and suggest that rich people’s disproportionate power has not always been a wonderful thing for the rest of us. They’ve been able to cherry-pick issues and programs that benefit their exclusive interests and use their political and economic leverage to protect and enhance their privilege."

Ben Brown goes on to delve into what's likely to change as the wealthy grow older.

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