they’re making lots of money,
spending it conspicuously,
and switching political candidates like they test cuisines.”
The baby boom generation had grown up by the 1980s. They were the rising dominant political and cultural force in America: increasingly college-educated, upwardly-mobile and looking to find greater success than that of their parents. Every one out of three Americans had been born between 1946 and 1964, and the median age in 1983 was 30.9. Single-person households were on the rise, more people than ever were not getting married, and metro areas were growing faster than suburbs, a turnaround from the previous decade.2 Cold War tensions and the United States deficit under Reagan were on the rise.
Both the average household income and the rate of home-ownership dropped during the early 1980s. Who was benefiting during this time? Estimated to be only about 6% of all baby boomers, the “BMW-driving, Reebok-clad, madly acquisitive” yuppies were making ten to twenty times the 1981 average American income.3 The term “yuppie” came from the phrase Young Urban Professional, and echoed both “hippie” and “preppy.” The yuppies rejected the social revolution ideals of the hippies, while envying the preppy sentiment of entitlement.4 The major difference was that anyone with money could become a yuppie.
–Landon Y. Jones5
|Personal empowerment and the quest for financial independence trumped emotional connections like family and marriage. The worth and identity of a person did not come from their heritage, but from personal accomplishments. While their parents had started their lives by marrying young and having their own families, the yuppies spent their 20s and 30s pursuing their careers. This delay in passing the traditional signposts of adulthood meant that the yuppies lived their 20s as children, spending their money on gourmet food, travel, health clubs, and remodeled homes. Yuppies were three times as likely to carry an American Express card and travel overseas.6|
|Women did not begin entering Wall Street as professionals until the 1970s. The increased focus on career and the more liberal sexual ideals of the 1980s drastically altered the way in which men and women related to each other. Women had to choose between using their sexuality to get ahead in a male-dominated workplace, or risk becoming unsexed in their attempts to integrate. A 2004 study on Sex-Segregation on Wall Street showed that professional women in the field were less likely to be married, less likely to be parents, and on average earned 60% less than their male counterparts.7|
On the legal side, prosecutions for insider trading rose between 1982 and 1987. It is unclear whether this was due to an actual increase in insider training or simply an increase in prosecutions, since U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) chairman John Shad shifted the focus in the early 1980s back onto prosecuting securities law violations. Hostile takeovers also trended upwards during the 1980s from 47 a year in 1981 to 85 a year in 1987.9 One possibility for this rise was the country’s eventual recovery of stagflation and depressed stock prices.
The Yuppies first burst onto the scene in 1984, but rode the wave of prosperity in the incarnation looked at in this presentation only until around 1987.
and the desire to have it all.”
1 “The Year of the Yuppie,” Newsweek in The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics (Simon & Schuster, 2001), 241.
2 Richard Stengel, “Snapshot of A Changing America.” Time Magazine (1985): Time.
4 Schulman, 241.
5 Landon Y. Jones, Great Expectations: America and the Baby Boom Generation (New York: Ballantine Books, 1981), 317.
6 Schulman, 243.
7 Louise Marie Roth, “Engendering Inequality: Processes of Sex-Segregation on Wall Street,” Sociological Forum 19.2 (June 2004): 209.
8 Judith Williamson, “Having Your Baby and Eating It”, New Statesman 15 (April 1988), 45.
9 Martin S. Fridson in Robert B. Toplin, editor, Oliver Stone’s USA (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 2000), 130-131.
10 Paul Loukides and Linda K. Fuller, Beyond the Stars (Bowling Green: Bowling Green University Press, 1990), 106.
Wall Street sign found at Whitman School of Management, “Whitman Today,” http://whitman.syr.edu/HTMLEmail/Dean/whitmantoday/Images/Wall-Street-sign.jpg (accessed November 6th, 2008).
Categories : History 329, Research