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.

1948 won’t be best for everyone. A gay man might have done better to be born in 1946, and so be the beneficiary of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, and a pregnant teenager won’t benefit from the reform of abortion laws until 1968. Someone working in heavy industry, perhaps coal mining, might lose their job under Thatcher in the 80s and never get another one. Someone from a black or ethnic minority background could benefit from a later date, to grow up in a society that was a little bit less racist, and maybe 1958-60 would be the right year, to hit adulthood when a serious anti-racist movement got going.

I think 1948 also works pretty well for most of Western Europe, except, perhaps, for Spain and Portugal where avoiding having your teenage years under a fascist dictatorship speaks to a later birthday. But for France (ooh you just missed the Algerian war!), West Germany, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, 1948ers do just fine. In Eastern Europe, perhaps outside of the Soviet Union, I think some date in the 1970s might be more plausible. You then get to benefit in your teens from the increased freedoms and opportunites and rising living standards after the Berlin Wall comes down without being too old to readjust to the new order (cf Jenny Erpenbeck’s Kairos). This advice might not be so good for people in the former Yugoslavia though, give the violence and genocide of the 90s. And as for Russia, well, I really don’t know when it was good to be born.

1948 probably works for most of the wider Anglophone world too: for the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand. But maybe not for Latin America, where political instability and repression might hit you hard in the 1970s. And China and India, maybe you want to be born later, perhaps in the 1980s?



Matt 08.05.23 at 10:43 am

My father was born in 1949, but just at the very start of it, so close to ’48. It seems to have mostly worked for him, despite a very inasuspicious start (10th of 11 kids in a poor rural town, very poor family, father worked as a sheep herder in the mountains, they longed for summer so they could sleep outside because the tiny house was so crowded otherwise, etc.) It’s true that his favorite brother died in Vietnam, and that wasn’t so great, and he sometimes feels bad because none of his kids go to church, like he wanted, but otherwise things have mostly worked out for him. (The cardiovascular disease that would doom his parents was easier because of a better lifestyle and better medicine, so he’s mostly weathered that, and the miricles of knee replacements mean he still walks around and even hikes a bit, though not very fast.) So, that was probably a pretty reasonable time for a white guy in much of the US, too. Maybe different for others.


engels 08.05.23 at 10:56 am

“If they want, they can go to university” seems a bit questionable, otherwise: yeah. But they didn’t have avocados and Netflix…


CP Norris 08.05.23 at 11:13 am

For the US I’d say 1965-1970. You had a lot of the economic advantages of the Boomers but without the social repression. You could have whatever kind of sex you wanted. You could afford to spend your 20s bumming around the music or other art scene in a big city and then still build a career and, if you really wanted to, buy a house.


Martin Holterman 08.05.23 at 11:15 am

This seems quite wrong. Whatever might be wrong in the world, on a net basis it keeps improving. Human prosperity and public health have never been as good as right now. The best time to have been born is now.


Paul Segal 08.05.23 at 11:17 am

I can’t speak from personal experience as I am a straight white man, but I think you play down the extent to which this argument depends on being a member of my category. My mother was born in 1950, almost your ideal date. She was one of very few women who went to Cambridge as an undergraduate, and she recounts the utter normalisation of extreme misogyny she experienced there, in ways that would be totally bizarre and unacceptable today. In the 1980s it was still normal for shops to say “no coloureds” or “no West Indians”; in the 1990s when I was at school it was still standard to use “gay” as an insult, and to beat up kids who presented as gay. Physical attacks and social opprobrium suffered by gay people remained fierce for decades after 1967. Discrimination is still bad against all of those categories, but I think it’s clear that it was much worse any time before the present. If I were behind a veil of ignorance, not knowing which category I would fall into, I would choose to be born as recently as possible. (And if I also didn’t know which country in the world I’d be born into, which I know is not your original question, then there is no question at all that I’d choose as recent as possible, if only to minimize my risk of dying before age 5.)


engels 08.05.23 at 11:35 am

I suppose this also assumes World War III isn’t about to begin.


Moz in Oz 08.05.23 at 11:36 am

As late as the 1980’s police soliciting gay sex and then beating the unfortunate supplier was still widely feared in both Australia and Aotearoa. This was still prosecuted in court and even today the police are reluctant to talk about how often it actually happened. So if you were gay, better to be born after 1970.

If you’re a woman with political ambitions in Australia I’d argue that being born after 2000 is preferable. Similar women in the US might want to hold off a bit longer. I’m not convinced that Aotearoa or Finland are great candidates for “you can do it” messaging to women even now.

If you’re first nations Australian 1948 is far too late, 1748 is more like it. Arguably for Maori 1970-1980 is when things start to turn up – Te Kupu was born about 1970 and was part of a wave of people who benefited from Nga Tamatoa and other post-Waitangi Tribunal activists and have participated in a Maori renaissance.

The flip side, obviously, it’s that it was much better to grow up with the threat of nuclear annihilation than the certaintly of climat catastrophe, so dates between ~1950 and 1990 are to be preferred on that front. Albeit ecological grief is common among the sane members even of those currently over-60… so maybe you’re right that 1948 is the best year.


Neville Morley 08.05.23 at 12:02 pm

The principle of ‘if you don’t know where or as whom you’ll be born, choose as recent as possible’ works for everything except the climate catastrophe, where some already-poor-and-miserable places are likely to become even more hellish in decades to come.

This does all remind me of a great short story by Alfred Bester, called (iirc) ‘Hobson’s Choice’, which I like partly because its plot is initially driven by demography. In a post-apocalypse USA, a statistician notices a tiny population increase in the heart of the most radioactive zone; he investigates, and eventually discovers that this is caused by people arriving from the future, where they’ve invented tune travel and are using it as a kind of therapy, allowing people to relocate to periods when they imagine they will be happier and more at home – the point being that there is no situation in which everyone will be happy, and for some a post-nuclear wasteland seems like utopia.


Chris Bertram 08.05.23 at 12:10 pm

Glad to have attracted so many diehard Whigs, or maybe economists … It almost reminds me of those Telegraph pieces that tell the young that they’ve never had it so good and they could buy a house if only they cut back on cappucinos. In a world of climate chance, species extinction, democracy rollback, increased threats of pandemic and the growth of the oligarch class, this confidence is touching.

Anyway, I think the discrimination issue is slightly complicated by the fact that earlier cohorts in those categories will have gone through live with the reasonable belief that things are getting better for people like them, whereas later cohorts may fear that the onward march of progress has stalled or gone into reverse. Confidence that things are improving (and that one is part of the improvement, and that they will be better for one’s children) is also part of well-being.

@engels: not only did they have avocados, they got to be the first people that had them, as my father (b. 1930) used to recall.

And yes, the answer does vary by country, class, gender, ethnicity, sexuality etc, as the op acknowledges.


Reason 08.05.23 at 1:08 pm

Martin Holtermann, besides your obvious corageous assumptions about an unknowable future, what you are saying is not even true for an average American right now. If you extrapolate not just averages but extreme and growing inequality, it is going to start getting worse for the majority.


Ebenezer Scrooge 08.05.23 at 1:25 pm

1954: my year. I say this as an American Jew. Jews were obtaining the privileges of whiteness as I grew up. I was young enough to take full advantage of them, but old enough to remember that things were once different.


CDT 08.05.23 at 2:07 pm

By the time Americans born in 1948 reached adulthood, there was that pesky Vietnam War draft business, plus urban riots, FBI spying, and Nixon, then stagflation, disco, polyester shirts, and Quinn Martin productions on TV.


LFC 08.05.23 at 2:40 pm

I’ve read the OP, but for lack of time right now, not most of the comments.

In the U.S., the year 1948 would have been a much better year to be born, for some (though not all) categories of people, than 1957, which is when I was born and which also was the statistical peak year of the so-called Baby Boom. If you’re a white male born in 1948 and graduating from college (if you go to college) around 1970, you do have to contend w/ the draft (I forget exactly when the academic deferments were tightened but for a while they were easily available I think). Other than the draft, which many people avoided in one way or another, 1970 is a good year to get out of college. If you want an academic career, such jobs would still be fairly plentiful though not quite as plentiful as in the boom years of the ’60s, and if you spent 5 or 6 years in grad school you’d still be reasonably well positioned in the academic job market.

By contrast, ten years later the situation had changed fairly dramatically. The academic job market had contracted severely. Also, getting into an “elite” law school (or grad school) was considerably less easy than it had been ten years before. So for a white male in the U.S. w/ certain sorts of career aspirations, 1948 was a significantly better year to be born than 1957.


Dave Heasman 08.05.23 at 3:38 pm

Not sure that defined-benefit pensions were the norm in the UK in 2013 unless you worked your whole life for a leviathon like BP, BT or some form of government. and even then they were moving from final-salary to average-salary.
I nearly had one when I spent some time at Bowaters as was and later at Sea Containers, but it didn’t work out so well.


MrMister 08.05.23 at 3:56 pm

As a gay man born in the 80s, the claim that it would have been better to be born as a gay man in 1946, rather than 1996 or, say, 2006, is bizarre. Even at my late-ish date I feel like I would have been better off born yet later, thereby dodging some of the utterly normalized cruelty that fucked me up as an adolescent in the 90s and early 00s. But a gay man born in 1946 would have faced much more extreme social marginalization leading into the mass death of HIV/AIDS in his middle age.


Chris Bertram 08.05.23 at 4:53 pm

@Dave Heasman: well, a lot of people did work for such leviathans and final salary schemes are still in operation in the public sector now. Even for companies that moved to average salary in the 2000s and 2010, our 1948ers will have locked in final salary benefits from earlier years.

@MrMister: yes, you are quite right about AIDS, which I stupidly failed to take account of in the OP. But given that gay men also live in houses, draw pensions and suffer from climate change etc, I think that probably moves the best date for them into the 1970s some time, though I can see there might reasonably be disagreement about that.


novakant 08.05.23 at 5:54 pm

Regarding discrimination, I think there’s still so much to do, that being born at any future date is going to be preferable (e.g. structural racism and gender imbalances).

That is, if we make it through the climate crisis somehow.


Pittsburgh Mike 08.05.23 at 6:51 pm

Sorry, but if you’re talking about the US, and you want to miss getting drafted to fight in the Vietnam War, you probably want to target being born in the late 1950s. I received a draft # (born in 1956) but people weren’t being called up by my 18th birthday. If I had been born in ’48, though, things would have been much worse.

If you’re gay, you probably want to delay your birth even more. When I was in college, coming out as gay was still pretty traumatic, or it seemed that way to my college classmates.

My kids were born in the mid 1990s, and that’s not too bad. They missed social media in their teen years.


John Q 08.05.23 at 8:12 pm

“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”

The first part wasn’t true in Australia until after 2000, when places were uncapped. Policy has varied a bit since then, but it’s pretty much true that if you want to go you can find a way. In the 1960s, getting in to uni depended on a make-or-break examination. Even completing high school was for minority, at least for working class kids,

The second part was true from early 1970s to late 1980s, which was great for those who went (including me). But youth unemployment hit 20 per cent in those years.


dilbert dogbert 08.05.23 at 8:49 pm

1935 in California
Too young to understand the Great Depression, too young for WW2, too old and married with children for Vietnam (full disclosure, there in 1967). Cold War made engineering education cheap. Bought a house in Silly Con Valley, 1962, before it filled up for $16,000.
Escaped from LA in 1971 and bought a house for $34,600 and sold it last year for $2.25 million. Escaped into the loving arms of NASA. Lost my wife 30 years ago and found salvation with a woman, almost as smart as my late wife, who owned a house in Palo Alto. Lucky and unlucky.


Chris Bertram 08.05.23 at 8:52 pm

Yes, @jq entry was quite restricted in the UK too (not in France btw), but as I said, it wasn’t required in order to have a decent life and career. Anyway, all things considered, what would be your year, and why?


Raven Onthill 08.05.23 at 9:26 pm

I think the underlying point here is that the second half of the 20th century was a golden age for the anglophone and Western European world and perhaps Japan, though not a utopia.

And, by the way, I think Gospodinov was scooped by Ray Nelson, in his 1976 novel The Beggars Could Ride.


Luis 08.05.23 at 9:30 pm

Life is too short to rebut this point by point, so I’ll just say this is a terrible post—ahistorical about the course of racism, sexism, and homophobia; unempathetic to people who suffered those things; and unduly pessimistic about the future (which is grim in a lot of ways but very positive in others; eg, highest labor force participation ever in the US for women and Blacks is right now; the kids are OK; we’re making huge strides on carbon even if too late; essentially every human alive has access to more knowledge than the Librarian of Congress 40 years ago; etc.)


Bart Barry 08.05.23 at 9:33 pm

Whatever might be wrong in the world, on a net basis it keeps improving.

Except for the part about the looming ecological catastrophe.


J-D 08.05.23 at 11:14 pm

Someone born in 1948 … They turn 15 … and hit 20 … They hit 60 …

What effect does being born in 1948 (as opposed to some other comparison year) have on a person’s likelihood of living to reach 15, or 20, or 60? Is this something to be factored in as a consideration? Why, or why not?


engels 08.06.23 at 12:20 am

Regarding discrimination, I think there’s still so much to do, that being born at any future date is going to be preferable

Eating a bowl of insects in the 50 degree heat in the break in my 12 hour shift moderating Facebook murder videos to pay back the loan on my primary schooling It’s do empowering to know that if my SAT scores had been higher I could have been a director at Deloitte.


Omega Centauri 08.06.23 at 3:23 am

I was born in 1952 in the USA. Straight White Male. Just late enough that college deferment got me through to nearly the end of the draft ( I think a few percent of my cohort was drafted, but with US direct military involvement in Vietnam rapidly winding down, I was pretty safe). So early ’50s were OK for college-going males.

A lot depends on one’s particular talents and interests, and whether they intersect with when they are in high demand. I hit mine, early supercomputing at just the right time. Had I been fifteen years later my particular talents wouldn’t have been useful for building much of a career.


John Q 08.06.23 at 3:29 am

Assuming we can avoid the worst-case climate and nuclear* catastrophes, I’m pretty much a Whig (and, obviously, an economist).

Reading the OP, I think there’s a big question of levels and changes. We had generally rising living standards from 1948 to 2008, after which they’ve been more or less stationary in lots of places (showing tentative signs of improvement now). But that means someone who reached adulthood in 2008 has had living standards at all times that are higher than, or as high as, than those of someone born in 1948.

I’d say that’s a win for being born in 1990 or later. But Chris @9 takes the opposite view “Confidence that things are improving (and that one is part of the improvement, and that they will be better for one’s children) is also part of well-being.” On that basis, I’d agree that starting in mid-C20 was probably best.

  • There’s a tricky point here. The risk of nuclear catastrophe was greater for most of C20 than it is today, but we know that it didn’t eventuate, which is a point in favour of 1948.

John Q 08.06.23 at 3:41 am

Even with recent climate disasters, our chances of avoiding truly catastrophic outcomes look a lot better today than they did 10 or 15 years ago. Back then, BAU projections implied warming of 4 degrees or even more, which would indeed have been catastrophic. Now we are looking at 2.5 degrees on the same basis (no change in existing policy), and less if net zero pledges (for which policy changes are needed) are metl https://www.iea.org/reports/world-energy-outlook-2021/scenario-trajectories-and-temperature-outcomes.

That will still have lots of bad outcomes: fires, sea level rise, species extinctions etc. But our 1948 person would have been old enough to experience the Great Smog of London, suffer brain damage from lead in paint and petrol, see forests lost to acid rain and more.


Alan White 08.06.23 at 5:33 am

Given the vast extent of the misery of hundreds of millions or perhaps even billions born into unrelenting conditions of starvation, disease, war, drought, oppressive persecution, lethal poverty, abandonment–none of which they deserved or would wish for–history must attest to a very significant portion of humankind that would have been better off not being born at all.


Sophie Jane 08.06.23 at 5:45 am

Being trans makes this harder to answer even than for a gay man, but let’s say 1998. That would make me 16 in 2014 – the “trans tipping point” – and give me the best chance to go on blockers before the backlash started to shut that down. (Not that puberty blockers are a great deal of use at 16 but that’s what the NHS used to offer before they gave up completely.) Granted the rest of the situation isn’t great but, priorities.


bad Jim 08.06.23 at 5:49 am

As years go, 1951 wasn’t bad. I was just barely young enough to avoid being drafted for the Vietnam war; I had the advantage of California’s generous educational funding; I got into my occupational specialty when the field was new and my indifferent skills made me a star. What was there not to like about sex, drugs and rock and roll?

However, it means I’m 72, no longer exactly spry, with likely less than 20 years to run. Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young now would be very heaven.


JPL 08.06.23 at 7:22 am

Alan White @30:

“… history must attest to a very significant portion of humankind that would have been better off not being born at all.”

Wouldn’t history have a problem with the relation of reference and alternative worlds in determining the validity of its attesting? In a case where an individual was not (or has not yet been) born at all, who or what would history be referring to, and how would it determine the referential identity between that entity and the supposedly corresponding living individual, or some aspect of it? And it sounds like an empirical question, but only one possibility can be actual.

Of course that’s a problem for the OP question as well. One can imagine conversations like the following: A: I’m planning to jump in next week! B: Just try not to get born in Russia! That would be a case of ‘better luck next time!’. Who or what exactly is the question directed to? We’re considering different answers for different categories of people, so is it an objective matter, or do we assume a particular person’s interests and abilities, etc.? My present self might like to have been able to check out the coffee houses in 1930s Vienna. But is the question for my present self to answer?


engels 08.06.23 at 10:15 am

The CT comments section: where 1997 never ended.


Tm 08.06.23 at 10:37 am

What an absurdly pointless exercise, but quite revealing.


Tm 08.06.23 at 10:47 am

Revealing: merely pointing out the existence of discrimination is considered “self-righteous” by resident class warrior Engels (on the other thread). Out of here.


afeman 08.06.23 at 1:20 pm

For the US I’d say 1965-1970. You had a lot of the economic advantages of the Boomers but without the social repression. You could have whatever kind of sex you wanted.

Provided you were able to keep out worries of slow death in your blooming years.


Chris Bertram 08.06.23 at 5:53 pm

“an absurdly pointless exercise” … or a bit of fun.


Sophie Jane 08.06.23 at 8:04 pm

Oh, and I don’t know exactly when the English medical establishment started to admit adhd was real and diagnose it, but it was certainly after the 1980s and extremely relevant to my interests.

For that matter, Section 28 (forbidding the “promotion of homosexuality” in schools and interpreted by most as a reason to ignore homophobic bullying) wasn’t repealed until 2003. So 1998 is continuing to look like a good option


Kenny Easwaran 08.06.23 at 8:22 pm

It seems strange to think that a person would rather come of age into an era of stagflation and economic doom-and-gloom than into an era of plentiful work with climate catastrophes. No one likes the weather in Phoenix or Texas this year, but I think very few people would be willing to trade even a 10-20% chance of being unemployed for the milder summers of the 1970s.


J-D 08.06.23 at 11:54 pm

“an absurdly pointless exercise” … or a bit of fun.

Maybe, for some people, pointing out the absurdity of such exercises is how they have fun.


Chris M 08.07.23 at 3:33 am

I play these alternative realtiy games all the time, but everyone keeps dying as a result of the Cuban Missile Launches.


craig fritch 08.07.23 at 4:19 pm

Born in the USA. White male. 1944. Best year to have been born: us’ns got to have the 60’s! ( “West is the best, Get there & we’ll do the rest” Doors.) And yeah the music we watched aborning was the best too.


David in Tokyo 08.08.23 at 6:09 am

What Chris M said.

We didn’t know if we’d have to go to Vietnam or not.
We didn’t know if MAD would work or not.
We didn’t know if 1984 would happen or not. (Maybe it did and we just didn’t notice…)
We didn’t know if we’d make it to 30 or not.

So there’s lots of survivorship bias here.

In retrospect, being born in 1952 wasn’t so bad. By hiding under the blankets and reading novels (the hippy canon) 24/7 during the time I was supposed to be doing high school, I got so attuned to the white male psyche that when I got to the SAT/GRE tests, I could hear in my head* the voice of the (white male**) bloke who wrote the question, and see the correct answer instantly. (Weirdly, this also worked for the math questions***.) And by the time I had finally graduated from college, there was gobs of money for being a grad student in the fields I was interested in.

Coincidentally, it was in 1984 that I completed my last graduate degree. They took away all of my toys and I had to actually do actually useful work from then on in…

*: Psychic or psychotic. Take your pick. But I really did hear voices.
**: Some of these were my friends: part-time work for ETS was a common gig for MIT math majors back in the day…
***: See footnote 2.


TM 08.08.23 at 3:39 pm

A fun fact that came to my mind: In France, all kinds of contraceptives were formally banned until 1967 (which helps explain to a considerable extent why May 1968 was such an eruption in France), so actually the 1960s were not necessarily such a great time to be an adolescent. Annie Ernaux (nobel prize for literature 2022) writes about things like that a lot; there really are things in life that matter a lot to the well-being of most people and that are not measured by economic indicators. I’m also impressed by Simone de Beauvoir’s account of the French early post war period. It must have been hellish, considering the Indochina and Algeria wars, the authoritarianism (Beauvoir more than once uses the f-word), the police brutality, and the desperation of the political left. The US had McCarthyism and the Vietnam war, the UK was also involved in mutliple colonial wars, Germany (West) under Adenauer was full of old Nazis in influential positions and refused to even talk about what had happened a few years past.

People often lionize the counter culture and revolutions of the late 1960s to explain their golden age nostalgia. I wasn’t around but I totally understand the appeal. But it’s really an ambivalent argument. Those protests and little revolutions happened because
young people were so unhappy, they felt so constricted and hopeless, finally they had had enough and erupted in protest (both in France and Germany, even just months beforehand, political observers didn’t see the protest movements coming; and btw those movements did not even remotely represent a majority of even the young generation). And while they totally failed to revolutionize the economic system, their protests did result in major social change, including in the essential but not so easily measurable realm of sexual relations.

So this generations grew up in shitty circumstances (not to overlook the fact that food scarcity was still a common experience in most of Europe in the 1950s) but they did experience significant improvement, and some of them also had the exhilarating experience of collective political action leading to actual change. I understand to some extent the nostalgia. But that doesn’t mean I would like to live in those shitty times.

If the key to a good life is the experience of rapid improvement, the post war generation was really “lucky”. They got to start from a very low baseline, after a horrible war. Things were almost certain to get better, they could hardly have gotten worse. I don’t really think this is a useful way of defining the good life.


Tom 08.09.23 at 1:39 am

Another Whig checking in here, agreeing with JQ @28 (obviously, I am an economist too). I was not alive then but I think living through the Cold War – say, the Cuban Missile Crisis – and facing nuclear extinction, shouldn’t have been much fun. There was also a non-trivial amount of domestic terrorism too, even in Western European countries.

Also, now many medical conditions and techniques are more advanced, and there is more awareness around them. E.g. it is much easier to find gluten free food for my nephew now, than it would have been 20 years ago when he might have even been blamed for not wanting to eat the food that was served to him.

But I can see the appeal of 1948, at least for some in Western Europe. Coming out of a WWII, there was probably a better appreciation of how bad life can be. This is something that arguably has been lost in some of the later European generations (well, at least until the war in Yugoslavia; I am not from Yugoslavia, but the war was quite traumatic for me as it showed me how war could happen again in Europe; but I am not sure if it shaped the perceptions of many other Europeans though).


Tom 08.09.23 at 1:44 am

I just noticed this now, the point in my last paragraph is very similar to the one in the last paragraph of TM @45 .


engels 08.10.23 at 12:36 am

the claim that it would have been better to be born as a gay man in 1946, rather than 1996 or, say, 2006, is bizarre. Even at my late-ish date I feel like I would have been better off born yet later thereby dodging some of the utterly normalized cruelty that fucked me up as an adolescent in the 90s and early 00s

What’s the trade off between 2000s levels of homophobia vs now and not having to live at home as a student?


J-D 08.10.23 at 8:40 am

… at least for the UK and for the last 100 years …

With that limitation, being born in 1948 does give you a chance of being the King, but only being born in 1926 gives you a chance of being the Queen.


engels 08.11.23 at 9:57 pm


MisterMr 08.12.23 at 8:59 am

Speaking of stagflation, a large part of the “flation” thing is that workers had higer bargaining power, so they could ask for higer wages, which however partially turned into inflation.
So the “solution” to stagflation was basically to screw workers, something that we should take in account since most people are workers.

Then, when we speak of employment levels, modern day overall employment levels are pushed up by the fact that there are many more women in the workforce, but in the 70s women often still expected to be housewives (in the 70s many women of working age would have been born way before 1948). This is a double edged sword because on the one hand it is better to have more women in the workforce, but on the other it means that unemployment among those who are in the workforce is higer now relative to what the numbers about working population show. This also partially explains why workers had more bargaining power even if apparently unemployment was higer, though probably the main reason was stronger unions and a more pro-worker government policy.

Finally there is the different level of capital accumulation: most wealth is paper wealth but WW2 destroyed paper wealth too, and the higer and rising inflation destroyed savings and helped debtors. This meant that it was much easier to buy an house through working that it is today, as the price of housing relative to average income was much lower, and the same happened for all forms of wealth.

This caused probably more social mobility and created the feeling that it was easier to go up in the social ladder (because at the time it was), so it wasn’t just a psychological factor of coming from a poorer society, though this was true too: my mother, born 1949, did still see in her childhood, in a rural part of italy, her aunt go down to the river to fetch water and taking it uphill with a bowl on her head (they didn’t have electricity either, and they weren’t particularly poor).


TM 08.14.23 at 8:22 am

@engels Interesting numbers. Fwiw, the suicide rate in the US was almost as high in the postwar decades (1950 13.2, 1960 12.5, 1970 13.1, 1980 12.5) and reached its lowest level in 2000 (10.4). The last 20 years have seen a significant increase by almost 40% to above 14. The age group with the highest suicide rate is those above 75. However, the rate in age group 15-24 seems to have increased the most both for men and women, which is quite concerning.

In this respect, as is often the case, the US seems an outlier. Suicide rates in Germany decreased by about half since 1980, and the UK also has a declining trend. The US also observed the steepest Covid-related decline in life expectancy, and is one of very few countries where maternal mortality rates have actually increased since 2000, which is pretty shocking (and guess which states have the highest rates…)


engels 08.14.23 at 12:32 pm

In this respect, as is often the case, the US seems an outlier

Or an outrider.


Bryn Davies 08.16.23 at 10:59 am

I agree with the general idea of the best year to be born and had already decided that 1944 was a candidate. But it must be accepted that the OP’s version is very much a UK based white male middle class assessment. For example, just on something where I know what I’m talking about, less than half the generation in question have a material final-salary pension and those that do are mainly in that group.

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