In periods of economic difficulty, children and grandchildren move back in with parents and grandparents to save on living expenses. Many bring their own children with them. In the United States, one-third of Generation Xers have returned home at some point in their early lives. Among Millennials, the figure is even higher. The 2001 Census found that so-called “multigenerational households” are the fastest growing group in the United States. Yet the nuclear family also is rebounding in the United States, as Baby-Boomer and Gen-X parents focus on their children and grandparents retain more independence and mobility.
Same-sex households also are gaining new acceptance. At least five American states now permit same-sex marriage or have enacted domestic-partnership laws that provide similar protections. In this, they join such countries as Denmark, Germany, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, and most recently Switzerland.
Many grandparents are raising their grandchildren because drugs and AIDS have left the middle generation either unable or unavailable to care for their children. This trend is strongest in sub-Saharan Africa, where there will be 25 million AIDS orphans by 2010.
Assessment: This trend will remain in effect for at least a generation in the United States, longer in the rest of the world.
Implications: Where many European countries have largely adjusted to this trend, the United States has not. Making that adjustment will be an important challenge for the next decades.
Tax and welfare policies need adjustment to cope with families in which heads of households are retired or unable to work. Policies also need modification for those who receive Social Security and work to support an extended family.
In the United States, the debates over homosexuality and the “decline of the family” will remain polarizing for the foreseeable future. The next debate is likely to focus on granting parental rights to more than two parents, as when a sperm or egg donor wants a role in the life of a child whose official parents are the recipients.
Implications for hospitality and travel: Gays, lesbians, singles, single parents, and multigenerational families all have become lucrative markets for specialty cruises, group tours, and other niche services. They can only grow increasingly significant in the years ahead.
16. Young people place increasing importance on economic success, which they have come to expect.
Throughout the 1990s—effectively, their entire adult lives— Generation Xers, Dot-coms, and Millennials knew only good economic times. The economic downturn at the turn of the century seemed to them a confusing aberration rather than a predictable part of the business cycle. The current global recession is a frightening wake-up call. Yet, most expect to see growing hardship on a national level, but they both want and expect prosperity for themselves. In the United States especially, most young people have high aspirations, but many lack the means to achieve them owing to high dropout rates and ineffective schools.
Assessment: This trend appeared with the Baby Boom generation and has strengthened with the later cohorts. It will be interesting to see what develops among the children of the Millennials, something we find difficult to predict with any confidence.
Implications: Disappointed ambitions will be a major source of political unrest in the United States and many other countries in the next two decades. Most of the other countries seriously affected by this trend will be in the developing world or will be host to large numbers of disadvantaged immigrants.
Entrepreneurialism will be a global trend, as members of Generation X and the Millennials throughout the world tend to share values. Generation X and Millennial entrepreneurs are largely responsible for the current economic growth in India and China, where they are becoming a major force in the Communist party. In India, the younger generations dress and think more like their American counterparts than their parents. In China, the democratic fervor that spawned Tiananmen Square has been replaced by capitalist entrepreneurialism.
If younger-generation workers find their ambitions thwarted, they will create growing pressure for economic and social reform. If change does not come fast enough in the developing world, disappointed expectations will raise the number of young people who emigrate to the developed lands. In the United States, pressure will grow to provide more, and less burdensome, economic assistance to qualified high school graduates who cannot afford to go on to college.
Pressure also will grow to make sure that all American students have access to an education capable of preparing them for college or a rewarding career.