We’re the “recession babies”. Those of us born in the early-to-mid-eighties: recession babies. I’ve coined it.
We were born in or just after the fallout from the economic downturn in 1980-82. Stagflation. Your parents recall that, stagnant growth and inflation. Our parents were young and bought their first houses with ridiculous interest rates and obviously had no remaining disposable income to go out in revelry, hence they stayed in, and now I am writing this blog. You see?
Those were the early days of Reagan, back when Republicans hadn’t yet canonised him as the second coming of Jesus the Accountant. In fact, if you want to be absolutely honest, his approval ratings actually dipped down into Nixon-Bush Jr. levels for a bit during that recession. It wasn’t entirely his fault, mind you, much like today’s recession can’t be pinned on a president of three weeks, Reagan was there at the wrong time. The early eighties recession, by many accounts, was basically the culmination of all the crap from the seventies colliding: the 1973 and 1979 oil shocks, the end of the gold standard and the introduction of a fluctuating currency, tighter fiscal policy, and of course, disco.
Well, old Ron cleaned up that mess and the 1980s took off for those who hadn’t been burdened by the effects of that early recession. Sure, Ronald Reagan will be remembered as a fiscal conservative/B-list actor, but he dug deep and did a little deficit spending (completely against his ideology) to help push the United States’ economy back on track and by the time re-election came in 1984, people were back to work and he won in a landslide.
The rest of the eighties will be remembered for Wall Street, Madonna, cocaine, and Maverick and all that fancy pants stuff that most of our parents were left to be spectators to (thank God they missed out on the cocaine). No, even the 1987 stock market drop didn’t change the outlook on Reaganomics, and by extension his new friend Brian in Canada, and life just trucked along.
Well, until the early nineties when the true effects of 1987’s Black Monday finally came to light. The ultimate delayed reaction, but it’s effects were there. Massive budget deficits, slow growth and high unemployment. The United States pulled out of this finally in 1992 and Canada in 1995.
Between 1992 and 1995 us recession babies were rocking elementary school. I can’t personally recall how my life was affected by a decline in macroeconomic growth. I was a youngin’ after all, but looking back in retrospect I tend to believe that my allowance was smaller then than kids allowance now (I was getting half my age in dollars). How much did you get for losing a tooth? Back in my day I think the tooth fairy brought quarters, maybe a loonie. I think a kid’s throwing a tantrum if they’re not getting a twenty. It’s a tooth, get over yourself.
No, and what followed was a decade of incredible growth, led most conspicuously by the dot-com and high tech boom. Us recession kids were too young to benefit from that. You hear all these people talking about “oh, I had a chance to buy into Amazon or eBay” but didn’t and you want to smack them upside the head. I don’t care if you missed out. At least you had the option. I doubt very much that my weekly allowance would have been enough money to invest in stocks, and besides I really liked getting slurpees and penny candies (back when they were penny candies). The point is that there is a generation of people (Gen X) between my parents and me that timed it all right.
The last recession in the United States was 2000-2002, just as I was in high school and some of the other recession babies were starting college. The dot-com bubble had burst and those Gen X jerks had learned that you have to produce something of value. Us recession babies were learning the same lesson as our essays were less than desirable. Hollywood and the music industry hadn’t learned the same thing and there was an uptake in crappy pop music. Remember when Britney Spears became a household name?
Well, here we are now at the current recession and us recession babies are at the short end of the stick. Most of us are entering an economic downturn saddled with consumer debt and student loans. We’re also the bottom rung of the corporate ladder, those most vulnerable to job losses. We’re getting too old to stick around school much longer to ride it out.
Luckily, us recession babies, as products of a knowledge society, are well-aware that the demographics are changing in our favour as the boomers retire and those Gen X folks take over, we’ll get to move up too. We’ll try to ignore the immediate mess and go out for drinks, anyways.