cover image The Aftermath: The Last Days of the Baby Boom and the Future of Power in America

The Aftermath: The Last Days of the Baby Boom and the Future of Power in America

Philip Bump. Viking, $30 (416p) ISBN 978-0-593-48969-7

Washington Post columnist Bump debuts with an insightful if overstuffed look at the baby boom generation and “the grip that it held and still holds on our national conversation.” Complementing his original reportage with copious charts and graphs, Bump details the post-WWII “baby tsunami” that saw the average number of births increase from 2.9 million per year to just below four million, and investigates how certain characteristics of boomers, who skew whiter than the general population and are less likely to have a college degree, contribute to today’s political polarization. Noting that schools built in the 1960s and ’70s to meet the spike in student-age population are being converted into senior living centers, Bump also explores likely “shifts in power, status, and identity” as boomers’ percentage of the overall population declines, noting a growth in Republican strength among working-class voters of color and increased assimilation among Hispanics, among other trends. More than 100 graphs visualize issues of race, political beliefs, education, and socioeconomic levels in novel ways, allowing Bump to draw counterintuitive insights, including that the depletion of Social Security resources “is the system working as intended and not representing some sudden collapse.” Often, however, the data overwhelms and the arguments sprawl in diffuse directions. This intriguing survey bites off a little more than it can chew. (Jan.)