What’s the best year to be born?

by Chris Bertram on August 5, 2023

I’ve been reading Gospodinov’s Time Shelter (highly recommended), and though I have not finished it yet, it has already made salient a question that I’ve asked myself before, as I suppose others have too: which was the best year to be born? I think my answer, at least for the UK and for the last 100 years, is 1948, ten years before I actually was.

Someone born in 1948 has escaped the risk of being killed by a falling bomb and has had the benefit of Britain’s new National Health Service. They turn 15 in 1963, perhaps “Between the end of the “Chatterley” ban/And the Beatles’ first LP”, and hit 20 in 1968. If they want, they can go to university, and if they do so it will be free and they will get a student grant from the government. But a degree is still not a prerequisite for decent employment and, either way, they will probably, manage to get established with a job and a career. (Women will benefit from the Equal Pay Act of 1970.) They may buy a house that will, allowing for a couple of blips, grow in value and provide the basis for further wealth. They hit 60 just about the time of the Lehman crash, but they can take early retirement with a final salary pension, fully indexed to inflation, so they will be insulated against the stagnant and falling living standards that came later. They are a bit too young to be very seriously at risk of dying in the COVID pandemic and, by the time they get to old to look after themselves, the UK may have sorted out its social care system. And though a person born in 1948 will have started to experience some of the climate crisis, they will certainly escape the disaster that is to come.
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