Friday, September 23, 2011

Peak Affluence

More than 25 years ago (in 1985), when I was the editor-in-chief of American Demographics magazine, I wrote an editorial called "The Affluent Nineties." I predicted a spike in affluence during the 1990s because the baby-boom generation would be in its peak earning years. Was I right or what?

We are well past the peak now, and in hindsight we can look back and see the moment of "peak affluence," when household income reached its maximum. This concept is similar to "peak oil," a term used to describe the moment when global oil production reaches a maximum. The timing of peak oil is hotly debated, but not so the timing of peak affluence. The moment arrived in 1999. In that year, median household income reached its peak of $53,252 (in 2010 dollars)--a peak we may not see again in our lifetimes.

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