A question for my readers on spawning
August 16, 2012
My partner and I knew we were going into demanding, high-risk, poorly-compensated public service careers. We knew that both time and money would be limiting, and saw little point to having kids if they were mostly going to be raised by paid surrogates.
We also looked around, and concluded that the planet was/is *not* suffering from a shortage of fat, happy, high-carbon-footprint first world babies.
This makes me ponder.
When I was growing up, changing the rate of population growth was a mainstream issue in the US. To my recollection, anyway. That all went away from the public sphere and now we never seem to hear any talk at all that perhaps the US should reduce birthrate*.. what happened?I pulled this figure from the National Vital Statistics Reports Vol 60, No 1 published Nov 3, 2011. It comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. I have been fascinated by the data for total births (not rate, total births) in the US since around 2006, 2007 (I can’t quite recall, nor make it out from the graph) when the number of US live births finally surpassed the Baby Boom peak of the early 60s. Fascinated politically, sure.
You may have noticed now and again Dear Reader that I blame the BabyBoomers for a lot of the current ills in the US…these are the folks that matured through the 80s and 90s, accumulating political clout and gradually taking over the reins of power in our country. (Even when pre-Boomer generations were in power, they couldn’t have maintained that position without Boomer consent.)
But I digress.
Of even greater interest is the figure of generational dominance published in the now badly out of date (2002) Bridges to Independence report of the NAS/NRC. It shows the number of applicants to the NIH by age cohort. In the early 80s, nearly half of all applicants were 40 years old or younger. By 2002 it was around 25%. Across the same time, applicants over 50 went from 21% of the pool to about 43%. The front of the Boomer wave was 34 years of age in 1980 and 56 in 2002. But that is just the applicant pool.
These data from page 16 of the report show the number of successful applicants (top) and the percentage of research grant (R01, R37, R23, R29) awards to each age cohort across time (click to enlargen). You can see that the number of awards roughly matches the number of applications, with maybe a slight exaggeration of the aging trend. We have almost a decade more of Boomer aging, GenXers clawing their way into the system and the effects of ESI, K99/R00 and related GenY/Millenial boosting practices to consider. I’m going to be very curious to see an update. As far as I know, most of the RePORTER attention is focused on New vs Experienced investigator. I haven’t seen an update on these age-cohort data.
One of the questions that I have about our business is whether the small overall size of GenX (see first figure) combined with the way in which the ESI attention essentially skipped over GenX to boost up the fate of GenY, combined with the relative insulation of the late Boomers relative to current mid-career GenX PIs in the grant game has produced an experience hole in the extramural research force.
*save the occasional rightwinger** comments directed at “welfare queens” (read poor blacks, not the whites that numerically dominated the welfare rolls at the time) and, more recently, undocumented immigrants
**really, why did the left abandon negative population growth as a theme?