The American Government is Aging
by Kendall Gee, Lebanon Trail High School
It’s no secret: the American government is getting older. If Joe Biden is re-elected in the 2024 U.S. presidential election, he will be 82 years old when he takes the Oath of Office for the second time, making him America’s oldest president. If GOP front-runner Donald Trump were to be elected, he would be 78 years old when he takes the Oath of Office (also for the second time), making him America’s second oldest president, only behind Biden. This trend doesn’t only apply to presidents—according to Pew Research Center, the median age of the House is around 58 years, while the median age of the Senate is around 65 years. Although Generation X (born 1965-80) and Millennials (1981-96) are slowly increasing their share of Congress, Baby Boomers (1946-64) continue to dominate both chambers, making up 45% and 66% of the House and Senate, respectively.
Constitutional age requirements for the House (25 years old), Senate (30 years old), and presidency (35 years old) partially explain these high median ages, but even throughout all of the federal government, ages are rising. As Generation Z (born 1996-2010) enters the workforce, few are turning towards the public sector. A report by the Partnership for Public Service found that Gen Z makes up only 1.6% of the federal workforce despite accounting for 9.1% of the entire U.S. labor force. On the other hand, Gen X makes up 41.6% of the federal workforce and only 31.6% of the U.S. labor force. Clearly, older age groups are substantially more present in public service. But why does this matter?
First, keeping the federal government running. Around 30% of federal employees are set to retire within the next couple of years, leaving a gaping hole in the federal workforce that will need to be filled by the incoming generation. Several jobs in the public sector are highly specialized, and if the federal government wants young workers trained adequately in certain skills to replace older workers, an increase in recruitment of Gen Z would be helpful right about now.
Second, ideological differences between generations. Both Gen Z and Millennials hold more liberal views compared to older generations, on issues from government involvement to ethnic diversity to climate change. For example, as Pew Research Center highlighted, around 70% of Gen Z favors more government involvement in key social issues, compared to 49% of Baby Boomers. Theoretically, if younger generations are not represented well in Congress, as indicated by the high median ages, then there runs the risk that neither are their political opinions.
But hope is not lost: Gen Z is invested in the future of their country, flocking towards political participation. Gen Z activists make their opinions on climate destruction and LGBTQ+ rights heard through both in-person protests and social media. The 2022 election had the second highest voter turnout for voters under 30 since the 1970s. And, Gen Z just elected its first member to Congress, Maxwell Frost. The American government may be aging, but America’s youth might just change that.