The Millennial Economy
The millennial generation hasn’t had it so great. A recent economic analysis reports that since entering the workforce five to 20 years ago, the average millennial has experienced slower economic advancement than any other generation in U.S. history.1 It’s not just a matter of long periods of high unemployment. It’s also because getting that first “real” job during a recession often means a lower entry-level salary that can affect their lifelong earning potential.
Not only that, but millennials can’t seem to catch a prolonged break. They’ve experienced the impacts of 9/11, the Great Recession and now the COVID-19 pandemic — all within the past 20 years.
These setbacks matter to all generations because millennials represent the future of the U.S. economy. As of July 2019, millennials surpassed baby boomers as the nation’s largest living adult generation.2 It’s important that this demographic make inroads in entrepreneurial or job creation endeavors while continuing to advance industries, both old and new. Growth in these areas increase GDP and wealth prospects for the entire nation.
And yet, in contrast to the historical trend of each generation boasting progress faster than the prior generation, this has not necessarily been the case among millennials. On one hand, as of 2018, 40% owned their own homes and 40% of millennial women had children. However, their numbers pale compared to Generation X, among which 45% owned their homes and 53% of women had children at the same age as today’s millennials.3
While millennials constantly seem to be playing catch-up, it’s not a problem of their own making. This generation is the largest to suffer from widespread student-loan debt, the lingering effects of successive economic declines, and substantially increased health care and housing costs during their young adult years.4 Fortunately, these millennial misfortunes have made them a rather practical generation of young adults. Having outgrown their previous reputation as spoiled, entitled teenagers, this demographic actively seeks out employment among established companies. Their top job priorities are flexibility, growth and equal pay.5
Even during the pandemic, they have stepped up to assume roles as first-time homebuyers, accounting for more than a third of residential sales this past July.6
Yet, we all know that the road to success is frequently uneven. The recent pandemic has had a varying effect on young adults. While some have had to move back home with their parents,7 others have taken advantage of their remote-work situation to engage in domestic travel indulgences, working wherever they go.8
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1 Andrew Van Dam. The Washington Post. June 5, 2020. “The unluckiest generation in U.S. history.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/05/27/millennial-recession-covid/. Accessed Oct. 5, 2020.
2 Richard Pew. Pew Research. April 28, 2020. “Millennials overtake Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation.” https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/04/28/millennials-overtake-baby-boomers-as-americas-largest-generation/. Accessed Oct. 5, 2020.
3 Kathy Koch. EY. March 4, 2020. “The Millennial Economy 2018.” https://www.ey.com/en_us/tax/the-millennial-economy-2018. Accessed Oct. 5, 2020.
4 Hillary Hoffower. Business Insider. Feb. 6, 2020. “How the American millennial is overcoming debt, the dollar, and the economy they were handed.” https://www.businessinsider.com/millennials-great-recession-student-debt-affordability-crisis-2020-1. Accessed Oct. 5, 2020.
5 Kathy Koch. EY. March 4, 2020. “The Millennial Economy 2018.” https://www.ey.com/en_us/tax/the-millennial-economy-2018. Accessed Oct. 5, 2020.
6 Realtor Magazine. Aug. 31, 2020. “Millennials Are Fueling Housing’s Rebound.” https://magazine.realtor/daily-news/2020/08/31/millennials-are-fueling-housing-s-rebound. Accessed Oct. 5, 2020.
7 Laura Bogart. Buzzfeed News. Sept. 28, 2020. “Millennials Are Trying To Shake The Stigma Of Moving Back In With Their Parents.” https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/laurabogart/millennials-moving-back-in-with-their-parents-adulting?bftwnews&utm_term=4ldqpgc#4ldqpgc. Accessed Oct. 5, 2020.
8 Olivia Rockeman. Bloomberg. Oct. 1, 2020. “Free to Work Remotely, Young Americans Are Covid Road Tripping.” https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-10-01/covid-news-remote-work-lets-young-americans-take-road-trips?sref=PJUU2CLn. Accessed Oct. 5, 2020.
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