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Thread: Unemployment article in The Atlantic

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Unemployment article in The Atlantic

    There is an excellent article in Atlantic concerning the current lengthy unemployment situation and its possible impacts on people and culture. The article is a good read for its efforts to assess how different generations deal with unemployment, and even has some thoughts about how unemployment is related to neighborhood issues. For example:

    But Wilson believes that once we start getting detailed data on the conditions of inner-city life since the crash, “we’re going to see some horror stories”—and in many cases a relapse into the depths of decades past. “The point I want to emphasize,” Wilson said, “is that we should brace ourselves.”

    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/20100...america-future
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  2. #2
    THanks for the link, ill check this out at lunch.

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    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    I'm slogging through this article, hoping to find the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

    The author, however, seems to be describing an oncoming train.

    I'll have to finish the article later, as I can't bring myself to finish it in one sitting.
    All these years the people said he’s actin’ like a kid.
    He did not know he could not fly, so he did.
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  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal View post
    There is an excellent article in Atlantic concerning the current lengthy unemployment situation and its possible impacts on people and culture. The article is a good read for its efforts to assess how different generations deal with unemployment, and even has some thoughts about how unemployment is related to neighborhood issues. For example:

    But Wilson believes that once we start getting detailed data on the conditions of inner-city life since the crash, “we’re going to see some horror stories”—and in many cases a relapse into the depths of decades past. “The point I want to emphasize,” Wilson said, “is that we should brace ourselves.”

    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/20100...america-future
    I agree with alot of what this article says with respect to the younger generation. Although I was still in high school during the boom in the late 90s, I studied the economy and labor issues very thoroughly when I competed on debate and speech teams (extemp and impromptu) over 4 years. Economic growth in the 2000s was propped up by overborrowing and extending lines of credit. Despite some politicans' and economists' bragging at the time, the "growth" we saw after the last recession in 2001-2002 through 2006 was NEVER at the same level in the late 90s. During this past decade, our GDP did not accelerate as quickly and job growth remained close to 0, by conservative estimates.

    I've long believed that there are tens if not hundreds of millions of people in the US alone who will never see an improvement in their standard of living (this even includes us planners). I think it takes creativity, adaptibility, ambition mixed with good luck to just simply stay afloat in today's world. Although consumer's savings rates have increased by a percentage point or two, we still do not save enough or prepare ourselves for worst-case scenarios. Even my generation and younger "generally" assumes that 401k will bounce back, that the dollar will always remain the standard, and that the time-tested method of an iron work ethic will ALWAYS equate to success. Luck is going to play a bigger role in the future. Even if the upper class were taxed more, we still have a "power elite" of sorts that will rip the fabric apart even more. There will simply be more people competing for fewer resources.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
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  5. #5
    This is probably the most important statement in the entire article for hopeful-planners to read:

    "The construction and finance industries, bloated by a decade-long housing bubble, are unlikely to regain their former share of the economy, and as a result many out-of-work finance professionals and construction workers won’t be able to simply pick up where they left off when growth returns—they’ll need to retrain and find new careers."
    Planning is tied to construction and growth. No growth means no planning. Planners will not be in as much demand as they were before, meaning many planners will be permanently out of the profession. Contraction. All students out there need to get this through their head.

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    Cyburbian Plus PlannerGirl's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    This is probably the most important statement in the entire article for hopeful-planners to read:



    Planning is tied to construction and growth. No growth means no planning. Planners will not be in as much demand as they were before, meaning many planners will be permanently out of the profession. Contraction. All students out there need to get this through their head.

    AMEN! I wish we could put this in big bold blinking neon letters at the top of the Student forum.
    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin

    Remember this motto to live by: "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming 'WOO- HOO what a ride!'"

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    Cyburbian kalimotxo's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    This is probably the most important statement in the entire article for hopeful-planners to read:



    Planning is tied to construction and growth. No growth means no planning. Planners will not be in as much demand as they were before, meaning many planners will be permanently out of the profession. Contraction. All students out there need to get this through their head.
    This needs to be understood by anyone considering entering the field, agreed. But... I think it's a little more complicated than that. Not all planning is as directly related to construction and growth as traditional physical/land use planning. Other specializations, like environmental planning and economic development, are equally if not more affected by other factors (e.g. new federal regs in the case of the former, evolving and declining urban economies in the latter). Many professions are tied to growth and I think it's clear that increasing growth is better for the "planning" profession overall. I'm just saying I think there's room for more nuance in such an expansive field than taking "no growth=no planning" as axiomatic. The role of planners is, from my perspective, evolving and becoming more niche-oriented. Few in the field are faring well in the current economic climate, but based solely on my own observations it seems that generalist planners are in worse shape than others.
    Process and dismissal. Shelter and location. Everybody wants somewhere.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally posted by kalimotxo View post
    This needs to be understood by anyone considering entering the field, agreed. But... I think it's a little more complicated than that. Not all planning is as directly related to construction and growth as traditional physical/land use planning. Other specializations, like environmental planning and economic development, are equally if not more affected by other factors (e.g. new federal regs in the case of the former, evolving and declining urban economies in the latter). Many professions are tied to growth and I think it's clear that increasing growth is better for the "planning" profession overall. I'm just saying I think there's room for more nuance in such an expansive field than taking "no growth=no planning" as axiomatic. The role of planners is, from my perspective, evolving and becoming more niche-oriented. Few in the field are faring well in the current economic climate, but based solely on my own observations it seems that generalist planners are in worse shape than others.
    No, not ALL planning is tied to growth, just the majority.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    No, not ALL planning is tied to growth, just the majority.
    The Midwest is seeing many of its communities shrinking. I know a few schools are teaching how to shrink responsibly. As the ecomony further realigns and more and more cities start losing their base industires there will be plenty of opportunity to figure out how to shrink a city and mitigate the impact of the population and tax revenue decline. If I was a masters student in planning this is what my thesis would be about.
    "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less" General Eric Shinseki

  10. #10
    Quote Originally posted by Brocktoon View post
    The Midwest is seeing many of its communities shrinking. I know a few schools are teaching how to shrink responsibly. As the ecomony further realigns and more and more cities start losing their base industires there will be plenty of opportunity to figure out how to shrink a city and mitigate the impact of the population and tax revenue decline. If I was a masters student in planning this is what my thesis would be about.
    That sounds like a terrific make-believe theory... except for the fact that a shrinking city means a shrinking tax base and a shrinking budget for employing people.
    Last edited by chocolatechip; 22 Feb 2010 at 8:18 PM.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian JimPlans's avatar
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    Maybe this article will make people feel a little better:

    How America can create jobs

    "The nation's entrepreneurial prowess may be the best hope to stem 9.7 percent unemployment. Companies from a laser-tech firm to a baby-sitting network are harnessing new ideas – and helping reinvent the economy."

    I remember the late 1980's, when the Massachusetts economy essentially collapsed with the loss in importance of defense spending and minicomputers. Companies like Wang, Digital, Prime, Data General, etc. all significantly shrunk or went away completely. Raytheon and GE lost government business and shed employees. Housing prices contracted. It wasn't good.

    Then a funny thing happened. Lots of the laid-off minicomputer workers started new firms. Computer networking, advanced microchips, and storage companies started springing up. Research funds that were directed at computers in the past were instead directed at bioscience. In a few years the entire landscape of the economy changed, and in many parts of the state prosperity returned.

    Unfortunately, while the Boston Metro area bounced back strongly, other areas of the state did not. Western Massachusetts (Springfield, Holyoke, Pittsfield) found no replacement industries other than medicine or higher education. Central Masaschusetts became a bedroom community for Metro Boston instead of an economy in its own right. Prosperity became more unevenly distributed.

    If this time is like times before it, we will see lots of disruption, followed by revival in some areas that figured out how to move forward (and had the people and resources to do so), while other areas will stagnate and fall further behind. We will also see some surprise success stories that flow out of new technologies and economic realignments (think Bentonville, AK).

    The takeaway for planners? Just like always, there will be dynamic places that both need and desire serious planning, and static places that won't be that interested. The trick will be to figure out which is which and get in before the next expansion.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JimPlans View post
    ... (think Bentonville, AK).
    ....
    AR is the USPS abbrv for the state you refer to. (Fifteen years running my own small business with mail-order labels...I had ZIP codes memorized for a while.)

    Interesting comment on Mass. In the early 80s a prospective "one that got away" was insisting that I move there because the economy was so strong. Never mind that he feared leaving a campsite set up in a midwestern state park. "Someone will steal everything!"
    There's much more. Glad I stayed here.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    I've long believed that there are tens if not hundreds of millions of people in the US alone who will never see an improvement in their standard of living (this even includes us planners). I think it takes creativity, adaptibility, ambition mixed with good luck to just simply stay afloat in today's world.
    I just finished reading a book called Slackanomics by Lisa Chamberlain which shows very clearly that exactly what you describe has been happening for some time, beginning with Generation X entering the marketplace and continuing today at an accelerated pace. The last decade alone has seen wage stagnation and zero job growth, which leaves a lot of people out in the cold. Many in my generation have graduated, entered the workforce, found the situation decaying, possibly returned to school to postpone the inevitable, finished, returned to the market and found the situation even worse. The rules of the game are shifting wildly and, frankly, I'm not sure anyone really knows where this is all heading (except that the process will be extremely painful).

    I gave up thinking that I could (with two masters degrees) maintain a middle class standing without an awful lot of hustle and savvy (the creativity, adaptability and ambition you mention) about 7 years ago. I used to think (until very recently) that it was the result of my own poor decisions, but in reading a bunch of information over the last few months, I realize how typical my experiences have been for my generation. Sure, I've made some bad decisions, but there are other forces at play that I have no control over.

    A small number of successful folks who are, say, 45 and younger have gone on to parlay innovation, creativity and risk taking into some pretty powerful developments and notable monetary gain, but for most of us, we have been caught in the middle of a seismic economic shift where the old order is beginning to crumble (epitomized by, say, GM) and a new one is emerging (let's say, Google). A lot of it is centered on the shift from analog to digital technologies which began in earnest toward the end of the '80s but the ripple effects of this and other factors reaches to almost every corner of the economy. This transition is cruel and leaves a lot of people out in the cold.

    The Slackonomics book bases a lot of the discussion on an economic theory called Creative Destruction which you can read about here. Pretty interesting stuff. The definition being a "process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one."

    In such scenarios, the Old Order fights like hell to stifle innovation and increased efficiencies because it threatens wealth creation and the lucrative position of those that profit. Often it entails collusion between government and industry. But the change is inevitable and usually transpires in violent bursts of change that can be rather cruel. With our economy so large, these shifts can cause untold suffering. The question before us now, I think, is how we can steward this kind of inherent change in a way that cause the least damage to people while embracing the inevitable march of innovation and technological revolution. Its certainly not using consumer spending (bloated and financed by credit) as we have seen most recently. What it IS, though, I really don't know.

    The defining feature of GenX and beyond's economic experience has been Financial Insecurity.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  14. #14
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    wahday - then basically the 20th century was an aberration in economic history. What you descrivbe sounds alot like human economics prior to about 1900-2000.

    Or is this simply a cycle in a nation's economic history. It happened to England in the 20th century and will probably happen to us in the 21 century.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

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    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    That sounds like a terrific make-believe theory... except for the fact that a shrinking city means a shrinking tax base and a shrinking budget for employing people.
    If your only value to a department is in good economic times then you need to think of a new career because you are not adding value. Muncipalities do hire in bad economic times, more because of turnover. A planner that understands how to shrink a city will be in demand. One in six citites are losing population. UC Berkeley has done research on the topic and there is an international group that focuses on shrinking cities. Its about diversification of skills and understanding that as the economy changes and more and more jobs move to large urban area that more and more cities will have to figure out what to do with land that is no longer needed.
    "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less" General Eric Shinseki

  16. #16
    Quote Originally posted by Brocktoon View post
    If your only value to a department is in good economic times then you need to think of a new career because you are not adding value. Muncipalities do hire in bad economic times, more because of turnover. A planner that understands how to shrink a city will be in demand. One in six citites are losing population. UC Berkeley has done research on the topic and there is an international group that focuses on shrinking cities. Its about diversification of skills and understanding that as the economy changes and more and more jobs move to large urban area that more and more cities will have to figure out what to do with land that is no longer needed.
    I'm sorry, but like I said, this is all well and good in theory, but the fact is cities are forced to lay off personnel in bad times because of budget cuts. Planners are not too high on the priority list when it comes to fire and police departments, sewer plants, etc. A few groups here or there that specialize in downshifting does not mean municipalities all over the country are going to start hiring planners to do this because they simply do not have the money.

    Pipe dreams, my friend.

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    Cyburbian JimPlans's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Brocktoon View post
    If your only value to a department is in good economic times then you need to think of a new career because you are not adding value. Muncipalities do hire in bad economic times, more because of turnover. A planner that understands how to shrink a city will be in demand. One in six citites are losing population. UC Berkeley has done research on the topic and there is an international group that focuses on shrinking cities. Its about diversification of skills and understanding that as the economy changes and more and more jobs move to large urban area that more and more cities will have to figure out what to do with land that is no longer needed.
    Don't confuse shrinking population in cities with lower demand for land within urban limits. Much of the shrinking population is actually shrinking household size. The average household size in the U.S. was 3.67 in 1940 and declined to 2.62 in 2000. Many cities have fewer people but the same number (or more) of occupied housing units. Some, like Baltimore and Detroit, actually have declining numbers of households, which is a real problem. Declines in population driven by smaller household size aren't something to worry about, because shrinking household size is a trend seen in all areas of the U.S., not just cities.

  18. #18
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    You could call me someone who doesn't focus on the downside, an optimist maybe... but I think that growth is not the only way to create jobs in our field.

    I believe that planners will play a key role in government downsizing. Having someone who not only understand why the city evolved the way it did, but the financing and structure of debt of the city will be key. Development has slowed, but redevelopment, and proper management has not.

    Many planning techs, gis people, secretaries, and HR people will probably be lost. And I am sure that there will be MUCH smaller departments in the future, but our jobs are secure so long as there is a city to live in. Police, Fire, and Admin jobs will be kept. A planner who has the skills to work in this environment is almost any planner who has experience at a municipal government. Working more for less is pretty much our MO.

    I would like to see a poll as to who is optimistic about the future of planning broken down by age bracket. My guess is those under 30 are positive (because they have to believe that the next 20 years will be better than now), those 30-50 are scared (because they have worked hard and are not seeing enough benefit), and those 50+ are negative (as they see the end of how they knew planning for the last 30 years). I don't see this doom and gloom scenario being any more realistic than believing that we will see another housing boom in my lifetime.

    No offense meant, just my two cents.
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  19. #19
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mendelman View post
    wahday - then basically the 20th century was an aberration in economic history. What you descrivbe sounds alot like human economics prior to about 1900-2000.

    Or is this simply a cycle in a nation's economic history. It happened to England in the 20th century and will probably happen to us in the 21 century.
    I think the Creative Destruction view would say that this is not a phenomenon specific to any single country's economy and, yes, it applies to really all of human history, from the advent of stone tools, then metal working, hunting and gathering than cultivation, small scale trades to the industrial revolution and now ???. The proponents of this theory were German, so it wasn't necessarily drafted with the US in mind and I think they were most definitely thinking in larger human historical terms.

    I'm not sure this all says that the 20th Century is an aberration, but simply that the industrial revolution and the sub-economies that followed have been successful (or at least dominant) for a century or so. And this is not that long in the big picture. Now, however, that model is being subverted and revolutionized. Actually, some would argue its been happening for some time only that the ability of the powers that be (the collusion between at least some large corporate interests centered on things like, say, automobile construction and extractive energy sources together with politicians) to resist is faltering. So, we are seeing a collapse of an economy who perpetuation was based on excessive consumer spending that was, in turn, derived from carrying massive debt. Consumer spending fueled growth for much of the century, but that simply cannot be sustained for reasons that seem obvious now, but was not for much of this time. What comes next (that is, on what basis is economic growth now going to be built on) is a big fat question mark.

    Personally, I think the Creative Destruction we are beginning to experience now is not specific to the US, but all of the world and is heavily impacted by globalization. England is experiencing the same crisis we are.

    These big destructive changes in economies are usually instigated by revolutionary developments in technology, In this sense, a century of dominance by one model is really not that long in human history terms. The paleolithic period (typified by a hunter-gatherer based economy and shaped by the technical limitations of stone tools) lasted from 2.5 million years ago until about 12,000 years ago.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

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    Cyburbian ursus's avatar
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    I heard an economist on the radio in the 1980s say that "this upcoming generation will be the first generation in US history that will work harder to have less than their parents." It rings more true every year that goes by. I haven't believed in the existence of the middle class since 2000.
    "...I would never try to tick Hink off. He kinda intimidates me. He's quite butch, you know." - Maister

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    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Brocktoon View post
    If your only value to a department is in good economic times then you need to think of a new career because you are not adding value. Muncipalities do hire in bad economic times, more because of turnover. .
    Say what? Where are these municipalities of which you speak? There is little in the way of turnover during an economic crisis because most staff are holding on to their jobs for dear life. Even those who had planned to leave end up sticking around longer. Unfilled positions get cut as municipalities engage in de facto layoffs via attrition. It's musical chairs any way you look at it.

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    Cyburbian ursus's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by MacheteJames View post
    Say what? Where are these municipalities of which you speak? There is little in the way of turnover during an economic crisis because most staff are holding on to their jobs for dear life. Even those who had planned to leave end up sticking around longer. Unfilled positions get cut as municipalities engage in de facto layoffs via attrition. It's musical chairs any way you look at it.
    I have to beg to differ. I, for example, am holding on to my job like GRIM DEATH, not just for dear life.
    "...I would never try to tick Hink off. He kinda intimidates me. He's quite butch, you know." - Maister

  23. #23
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mendelman View post
    wahday - then basically the 20th century was an aberration in economic history. What you descrivbe sounds alot like human economics prior to about 1900-2000.

    Or is this simply a cycle in a nation's economic history. It happened to England in the 20th century and will probably happen to us in the 21 century.
    Yes. Several factors combined to make the 20th C an aberration economically, socially, ecologically. One of the main factors, cheap energy, is coming to an end soon. Do we know how to deal with these changes? I personally don't see it.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian Plus Scout's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    This is probably the most important statement in the entire article for hopeful-planners to read:



    Planning is tied to construction and growth. No growth means no planning. Planners will not be in as much demand as they were before, meaning many planners will be permanently out of the profession. Contraction. All students out there need to get this through their head.

    I disagree as I see innovation in our profession on a daily basis. "Tying" our profession to construction and growth is shortsighted; our work is more than reviewing plans, rezonings and variances. What about the people who are already "here"? Do you mean to say that the foundation of planning is growth? What about safety, health and welfare? Food systems, transportation, energy, water quality, adaptive reuse, disaster planning, recreation...these, among numerous others, are issues that IMHO are desperately in need of attention. Where does your food come from? Are you planning for the next disaster? What is your jurisdiction doing with all those empty storefronts?

    Our profession is changing, but it doesn't necessarily have to contract as a result. We've seen contraction because of the mindset that we are "tied to growth and construction". Demand for our services will always exist; it's simply a matter of determining what our services should be.
    In silence there is eloquence. Stop weaving and watch how the pattern improves - Rumi

  25. #25
    Cyburbian PrahaSMC's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    I'm sorry, but like I said, this is all well and good in theory, but the fact is cities are forced to lay off personnel in bad times because of budget cuts. Planners are not too high on the priority list when it comes to fire and police departments, sewer plants, etc. A few groups here or there that specialize in downshifting does not mean municipalities all over the country are going to start hiring planners to do this because they simply do not have the money.

    Pipe dreams, my friend.
    Agreed. In my state, towns are laying off teachers en masse- essentially the least politically popular thing a town manager/administrator can do. These municipalities aren't going to turn around and hire planners. Priorities.

    I heard an economist on the radio in the 1980s say that "this upcoming generation will be the first generation in US history that will work harder to have less than their parents." It rings more true every year that goes by. I haven't believed in the existence of the middle class since 2000.
    This. I can't find the exact quote, but I read that Gen Yers born during the 1980s and 1990s will be the first wave of Americans to earn less money, adjusted for inflation, than their parents. This article confirms a lot the things you are alluding to above.

    I would like to see a poll as to who is optimistic about the future of planning broken down by age bracket. My guess is those under 30 are positive (because they have to believe that the next 20 years will be better than now), those 30-50 are scared (because they have worked hard and are not seeing enough benefit), and those 50+ are negative (as they see the end of how they knew planning for the last 30 years). I don't see this doom and gloom scenario being any more realistic than believing that we will see another housing boom in my lifetime.
    I'd be willing to bet the stratification between optimists and pessimists has far more to do with where the person is in their respective careers, as opposed to age. Young people who are progressing in their careers, including many of my close friends and family, are optimistic and enthusiastic about things. They also tend to be the ones who insist the economy is turning around and take the long-view in terms of an economic recovery. In my volunteer position, I work alongside a lot of educated young people, most all of whom are extremely pessimistic (and frightened) about the future, mainly because they are working their a$$es off, not being paid a living wage, and the job market is atrocious. On the other hand, I know a great many mid-career professionals in the planning profession who are oblivious to the economic situation... "I'm fine, if you work hard, you'll be fine too." It's all a matter of perspective... if you are doing well, the glass is half-full; if you are unemployed/under-employed, things look pretty damn bleak.

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