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Baby-boom children of the '50s set the pace for the '80s

Marcy and bob Harris, both 30 and married just last year, will want to buy a house and have a baby sometime during this decade. But for now, they are postponing those steps while both work to try to get ahead financially.

Richard and Elizabeth Dickey, in their middle 20s and just married, together earn more than $24,000 a year. They are already looking for a home in the suburbs where they hope to start a family of three or four children -- a big clan by the standards of their age group.

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Gene bowman is single and in his mid-30s. A year ago he decided it was time he established his home. He bought a summer cottage in New Jersey at a bargain price of $32,500, and he is renovating it on a do-it-yourself basis.

All five of these young adults are members of the post World War II baby boom , that enormous bulge in the US population which was born between 1945 and 1957, filled schools and universities to overflowing in the '50s, '60s, and early '70s , and now are reaching the time for settling down, buying a home, and having children. Numerous demographic studies on these "emerging thirties" indicate they may be the most analyzed and charted generation we have ever known.

The studies say this generation will marry later, have more first babies in their late 20s and 30s, and have fewer children generally. Many will elect to remain single. And many will decide to have but one child. The group will include far more working wives and mothers, but many women will wait to get established in their careers before they start their families.

Many couples will, for various reasons, opt to remain childless.

This age group will produce far more dual- career hoouseholds. And those in the upper levels of two-income affluence will attain a high standard of living and education of children, despite the eroding effects of inflation.

Home ownerships appears to be the No. 1 purchase priority of this group, followed by the consumer goods that go to make home more attractive and comfortable.

Ralph Timm, publisher of House and Garden margazine, commissioned a study of these 31 million "emerging thirties" -- men and women -- who will grow to an estimated 42 million by the end of the decade. He views them as an entirely new breed of sel-assured, educated, and discriminating young people.

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The economic impact of home-owning, two-wage-earning families will be enormous, according to Cy Wilson, vice-president of Management Horizons, a Columbus, Ohio, consulting firm. He says that we will see a strongly renewed emphasis on home, family, family activities, and togetherness, and he expects the temper of the times ahead will be increasingly conservative.

He adds that inflation could diminish spending for such things as dining out, vacations, and entertainment, but he points to survey figures that show that in 1980 21 percent of households headed by 25- to 34-year-olds will have annual incomes of more than $25,000, and 17 percent more will fall in the $20,000 to $ 25,000 bracket.

This group of upward-bound ambitious young people will help set the pace in the 1980s with their values and tastes. Mr. Timm says they are now spearheading the greatest drive for home ownership and home improvement that the US has ever seen.

This publisher also cites the fact that single-person households have more than tripled in the last decade. Single male homeowners, under age 35, jumped by 213 percent in that period, and homes purchased by single women under 35 rose by 141 percent.

Mr. Timm's report also finds people in their 30s to be in the vanguard of remodelers, inner-city revitalizers, and industrial building converters. Their concern, he says, is already seen in more open-space houses, multi-use rooms, and the development of flexible, modular furniture.

In a survey conducted by Apartment Life magazine of 46,000 men and women in the 18- to-34 age bracket, 67 percent of respondents said they wanted home ownership in some form. Over 84 percent said they think of home as a center of life and are willing to work in it and decorate it with individual style.

The Apartment Life survey also showed young people to be more inclined toward marriage than five years ago, less inclined to have children before age 30, and less worried now about sex and divorce.

Vondal S. Gravlee, president of the National Association of Home Builders, states as a record 42 million Americans reach the prime home-buying age of 30 during the 1980s, they will challenge the building industry to produce an estimated 22 million new housing units. Today's median-price home costs about $ 64,000, Mr. Gravlee points out, and mortgage interest rates are approaching 12 percent, which are discouraging figures for many young couples.

Mr. Gravlee foresees new forms of financing becoming available in the 1980s, including expanded versions of the FHA graduated payment mortgage program.This allows for home buyers to make lower monthly payments during the early years of the mortgage and higher payments later when their incomes are likely to increase.

Small families will bolster demand for condominiums, townhouses, duplexes, and other types of clustered and attached houses, he predicts.

A study made by Batten, Barton, Durstine and Osborn Inc. confirms a surprising new acceptance of the smaller, one-child family. It also indicates that 60 ercent of the women of the baby-boom generation would prefer to work outside the home, both before and after having children. Working women included in this survey said that their biggest problem is lack of time, so they were looking for more time-saving innovations, more cleaning and maintenance services , more stores that deliver, and better child-care services for children under the age of six.


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