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Senior Citizen Discounts: Would Young Adult Discounts Make More Sense?

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Originally posted on September 3, 2014.

Skimming Paul Taylor’s, The Next America: Boomers, Millennials, and the Looming Generational Showdown, a 2014 report of Pew Research Center data on U.S. social trends, brought to mind one of my pet peeves: the favoritism shown to seniors over today’s more economically challenged Millennials and their children. Since passing into AARP-eligible territory, I have often purchased fares or tickets at discounted prices, while the single parent in line behind me got hit with a higher price. One website offers 250,000+ discounts for folks over 50.

A half-century and more ago it made sense to give price breaks to often-impoverished seniors wanting a night out at the movies, hungry for a restaurant meal, or needing to travel on buses and trains. Many seniors still struggle to make ends meet and afford housing.  But thanks to improved Social Security and retirement income and to decreased expenses for dependents and mortgages, their median net worth has been increasing—37 percent since 1984, Taylor shows, while those under 35 have seen their net worth plummet 44 percent.

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And consider who are today’s poor (from this figure available here as well as in Taylor’s excellent book). Among the predictors is not only race but age.  Compared to four decades ago, today’s under-35 generation experiences a nearly doubled risk of poverty, while their senior counterparts suffer one-third the poverty rate of their 1960s counterparts

Ergo, in view of this historical change in poverty risk, should we adjust our social priorities? Might a more child-affirming culture consider discounts for card-carrying custodial parents? And could we not offer inflation adjustments not only to senior citizen Social Security stipends but also to minimum wages, tax exemptions for dependents, and family and food assistance?

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About the Author
David Myers received his psychology Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. He has spent his career at Hope College, Michigan, where he has taught dozens of introductory psychology sections. Hope College students have invited him to be their commencement speaker and voted him "outstanding professor." His research and writings have been recognized by the Gordon Allport Intergroup Relations Prize, by a 2010 Honored Scientist award from the Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences, by a 2010 Award for Service on Behalf of Personality and Social Psychology, by a 2013 Presidential Citation from APA Division 2, and by three dozen honorary doctorates. With support from National Science Foundation grants, Myers' scientific articles have appeared in three dozen scientific periodicals, including Science, American Scientist, Psychological Science, and the American Psychologist. In addition to his scholarly writing and his textbooks for introductory and social psychology, he also digests psychological science for the general public. His writings have appeared in four dozen magazines, from Today's Education to Scientific American. He also has authored five general audience books, including The Pursuit of Happiness and Intuition: Its Powers and Perils. David Myers has chaired his city's Human Relations Commission, helped found a thriving assistance center for families in poverty, and spoken to hundreds of college and community groups. Drawing on his experience, he also has written articles and a book (A Quiet World) about hearing loss, and he is advocating a transformation in American assistive listening technology (see www.hearingloop.org). For his leadership, he received an American Academy of Audiology Presidential Award in 2011, and the Hearing Loss Association of America Walter T. Ridder Award in 2012. He bikes to work year-round and plays daily pick-up basketball. David and Carol Myers have raised two sons and a daughter, and have one granddaughter to whom he dedicates the Third Edition of Psychology in Everyday Life.