Charts of the Week: Young Americans; fossil fuels; reforming TANF

Fossil fuels still dominate global electricity generation.

This week’s edition of Charts of the Week draws from new research on the increasingly diverse younger generation of Americans; a new essay on alternatives to fossil fuels; and how to reform TANF, a principle anti-poverty program.

Millennials, Gen Z, and the protests for racial justice

Fig1William Frey writes that both the millennial and Gen Z generations “will be the ones to suffer the greatest economic hardship from the COVID-19 pandemic,” but they have taken to the streets in recent weeks to protest racial injustice after the killing of George Floyd. These generations, Frey observes, are the most diverse in the nation’s history, and by 2030 less than half of Americans under age 50 will identify as white. Frey concludes that “It is these younger, multihued generations that—prior to the pandemic—already accounted for most of the growth of our labor force population and an increasing share of our consumer base.  As their influence grows, they can no longer tolerate past patterns of systemic racism. Their voices need to be heard and their concerns need to be addressed.”

Why are fossil fuels so hard to quit?

Fossil fuels still dominate global electricity generation.

Fossil fuels still dominate global electricity generation.Samantha Gross notes that “the COVID-19 pandemic brought trade, travel, and consumer spending to a near-standstill,” resulting in drops in CO2 emissions and cleaner air in many places. However, she says, “damaging the world’s economy is not the way to deal with climate change.” In her new Foreign Policy Essay, Gross asks how the world can move toward low-carbon energy sources, away from the fossil fuels that still dominate the world’s electricity supply, and explores the history and politics of our energy supply and the challenges for the future.

Strengthen TANF to target aid to neediest families


New research from the Hamilton Project at Brookings offers reforms to the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program, to better help those in need. Jana Parsons reviews the TANF program and proposals, noting how “the most economically disadvantaged have been largely overlooked throughout the fiscal policy response to COVID-19,” and that TANF’s block grant format does not automatically respond to changing economic conditions—unlike its program predecessor, AFDC.  Parsons explains that the proposals “show that more can be done to provide relief for families in need, with TANF as a key and underutilized part of the solution.”