I’m not sure what to make of The Boomer Factor. In some ways it’s a fascinating read, a snapshot of how Canadians view themselves at the beginning of the 21st century. But while reading it you can’t help but feel that all the author has done is list stat after stat and link them together with a few sentences. This assessment may be a little unfair, but it reads more like a play by play of the data than as a thought-provoking analysis. Maybe it’s just that there’s very little prose between the streams of stats that inundate the reader.
I should also warn you that I have no capacity to assess whether or not the methodology used to generate these steps is it all sound. If there are true statisticians reading this I’d love your thoughts. That said I did find some of the presentation of the statistics deeply troubling. A notable example is the graph to your right. It shows two bars – one more than twice as large as the other – suggesting an increase of 100 – 120%. And yet, a closer looks at the numbers indicate there’s only been a 12 point difference between the two data points. This visual representation is thus grossly misleading, visually suggesting the argument is much more dramatic than what the data supports.
But these problems aside the book’s author, Reginald Bibby, keys in on several trends that are of interest. Some chapters, like “From Deference to Discernment” have been well documented by others. Others however, such as “From Tomorrow to Today”, a chapter on our quest for more time and the rising expectations we have of one another, along with Chapter 6 “From Knowing too Little to Knowing too Much” on the implications of the Internet and are increasing access to knowledge, are interesting.
But what’s most intriguing about Bibby’s concluding thoughts in these chapters – and the book overall – is that it departs from the book’s title. Bibby seems sanguine about the baby boomers’ capacity to adapt to our changing world, but is exceedingly optimistic about post-boomers – Gen Y and Gen X. Indeed, he terms these emerging generations “Reflective Post-Boomers” and says this about them:
Perhaps to a greater extent than any previous Canadian generation, they (Post-Boomers) have been able to have the time to assess what kind of lives they want to live...
…As they have been assembling their lives, post-boomers have been able to take a good look at how their grandparents, and her parents, lived. They grew up in homes were dads and moms, frankly, were experimenting with how to combine education, careers, raising kids, and marriages. The Post-Boomers saw how things turned out.
Such a vantage point has provided the emerging adult generation a unique opportunity to learn from the pre-boomers and boomer cohorts and extract the best and delete the worst from both. The preliminary evidence suggests that many younger adults are doing just that. They, like the boomers, have moved away from the racist and sexist tendencies of many older Canadians, to an extent as readily exceeding that of boomers. They also have recovered and restored some valuable pre-boomer “files” the boomers had tended either to use infrequently or delete – what people want most, the importance of family life, stability, and religion.on a
They have drawn on the boomers strong emphasis on education, discernment, and information. But they are determined to do a better job of harmonizing such themes with their desire for relationships, time to focus on their children, social compassion, spiritual fulfillment, and the opportunity to simply enjoy life. And so far, at least, they are reporting levels of happiness and for film and that match those of pre-boomers and exceed those of boomers.
Promising developments indeed!
According to his research Bibby also reports that younger Canadians — post-boomers — are more likely to be politically active than their boomer parents. given all the talk about political apathy this conclusion was counterintuitive and interesting. Sadly there wasn’t much discussion before the next statistic was thrust before the reader and the text moved on.
The two places where I think Bibby falls down is in his assessment of how Canadians are associating with one another. He refers repeatedly to the notion of how we’ve shifted from a we to me, while at the same time many of his stats suggest that people are actually deeply interested and engaged in communities. I’m not sure there we’re shifting from a we to me in an absolute sense. What is true is that people are more selective and have more options about who they associate with. Does this mean that we are more “me” focused? Or is it that we can afford to be more “we” focused in ways that make us comfortable?
The other place where Bibby lost me was in his discussion about religion. He suggests that many baby boomers are returning to religion to fill a growing spiritual void in their lives. I confess I don’t know. But this chapter had more analysis and opinion than any other, and so it felt like the story didn’t flow and it was less clear the data supported his assertions. A religious man himself, and an expert on religious trends I couldn’t help but feel that Bibby was inflating this chapter out of personal and professional interest. This could be a gross misunderstanding on my part, but while the rest of the book resonated with my personal experience from what I’ve seen of the country this chapter felt out of place.
Is The Boomer Factor a must read? Not really. But it was nonetheless an enjoyable read. For those interested, it will give you some compelling statistics to reinforce a number of trends you observe, and live with, on a day-to-day basis.