“I bet there were people in the Bible walking around complaining about ‘kids today.'”
— Roger Sterling, Mad Men
Whenever someone complains about “kids today,” that person is engaging in one of the favorite pastimes of middle aged and elderly people throughout history. The reasons “kids today” suck is the same as it was in 1950, or 1850, or 1050, or 50; and it’s that the parents and grandparents of “kids today” are forever struggling to make sense of a world they’re understanding less and less as they get older.
Millennials (people born between 1980 and 2000) are the current whipping post for the older demographics, which isn’t surprising, but it is astoundingly audacious considering that Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers combined to tank the global economy, leaving their kids to deal with the aftereffects for, well, generations.
A recent survey conducted by Goldman Sachs provides an insightful snapshot of the state of millennials, which comprise the biggest generation in history and will have a profound impact on the economy going forward.
1) About a third of millennials still live with their parents
While some will attribute this to millennials’ alleged laziness, the economy hasn’t been kind to this generation. The beginning of the rising number of those living with mom and dad coincides with the beginning of the housing crash. That of course led to the Great Recession and the evaporation of 8.7 million jobs that were only just recovered in 2014, with millennials getting hit the hardest.
On top of that, there’s another reason why so many of them are nesting…
2) Millennials are getting crushed by student debt
Universities having been jacking up tuition and fees to help sustain their bloated bureaucracies, and have been doing so at a rate that’s far outpaced inflation:
Again, these figures are already adjusted for inflation, and don’t even include room and board (which you can see here). The student debt burden millennials are facing is unlike anything previous generations have endured.
3) As a result, millennials have less money to spend
With less money to spend, an increasing number of young people are renting, despite property prices being much lower now than they were before the housing crash. This can be explained in part by millennials’ penchant for urban living. As a Nielsen survey found,
“Sixty-two percent [of millennials] indicate they prefer to live in the type of mixed-use communities found in urban centers, where they can be close to shops, restaurants and offices. They are currently living in these urban areas at a higher rate than any other generation, and 40 percent say they would like to live in an urban area in the future. As a result, for the first time since the 1920s growth in U.S. cities outpaces growth outside of them.”
And of course, this preference for urban living means…
4) More young people are renting
One of the dogmas that many people buy into — especially before the housing crash — is that it’s best to buy rather than rent property because buying means taking ownership. But not everyone is ready or even wants to own something that requires serious upkeep and can decline in value due to market forces beyond our control.
Urban living also typically means something else:
5) Only 15% of millennials say it’s “extremely important” for them to own a car
Given that every American city with a population of more than 400,000 has public transportation, having a car is simply not necessary many city-dwellers. In fact, between parking, gas prices, insurance costs, and general maintenance, cars aren’t worth the hassle for a lot of millennials.
6) Millennials get married much later than previous generations
In the 2010s, the median marriage age has risen to 30 years old, which is up markedly from the 1970s median of 23. Whether this development can be attributed to changing economics or changing social mores isn’t clear, but what is clear is that waiting later to be married means that…
7) Millennials are putting off having kids
Detractors of millennials can and will find some ammo in the Goldman Sachs survey to continue knocking millennials, but most criticism of Generation Y tends to ignore the challenges its members face. Then again such criticism is to be expected since bashing younger generations has more to do with disliking change than disliking young people.
Of course, the great irony in bewailing “kids today” is that it inevitably raises the question of who raised them.