It’s time to stop blaming Millennials for the failing economy.
Yes, we’re not buying homes, yachts or taking other financial risks, but it’s not because we don’t want those things. The fact is, we lack the buying power to be active contributors to much economic growth at this stage in our infantile development.
Yet, we didn’t exactly choose this situation, and we definitely didn’t contribute to the economic chaos. So why all the name-calling from our predecessors?
While it’s standard for any generation to despise its successors, public perception of young people ages 18 to 34, seems slightly ridiculous. I constantly read articles accusing Millennials of ruining the housing market, labeling us “boomerang kids” who consistently return to our parents’ basements after refusing to take out mortgages. We are constantly being referred to as lazy, entitled narcissists who lack ambition. Yet, we are coming of age in the most brutal economic decade since the Great Depression, despite reports unemployment is decreasing.
The United States’ Millennial population is expected to exceed Baby Boomers this year owing to continued immigration, and by 2036 there will likely be more than 80 million of us. I understand why this concept frightens many: The largest generation in history, who should be fiscally maturing, is having the hardest time recovering from the recession, according to a current population survey.
Stephanie Burge, University of Oklahoma associate sociology professor, says the way in which Millennials are having to enter the workforce is unprecedented and difficult.
“Young adults who normally would be the first-time [home] buyers are struggling to find decent paying jobs and are also putting off marriage and having children,” Burge says. “They are also coming out of college with these large amounts of student debt, yet the economy dictates that someone coming out of high school has to have a college degree now.”
The professor, who focuses some of her work on the transition to adulthood, also acknowledges the phenomenon of unpaid internships, which some industries have adopted as entry-level jobs as a consequence of the recession.
“They’re told they have to go work for free somewhere so they can have the work experience on their resume, which is great if they can afford to do that,” Burge says. “But obviously that’s all time that they’re not accruing economic resources and then we’re shocked that they can’t buy houses, cars or get married and have children.”
I recently read an interesting interview featuring Bret Easton Ellis, the novelist renowned for his works such as American Psycho. In it, he accused Millennials of being whiny, narcissists who adopt victim narratives to defend “failure-to-launch” lifestyles. But, American Psycho acts as its own narrative to the benevolence and financial negligence of the late 80s and early 90s, and I suspect if we did live in a way that mimicked the luxurious, white collar lifestyle of novel’s main character, Patrick Bateman, we would be slammed for being too frivolous and having no regard for the future.
Unlike our predecessors who came of age during more comfortable economic times, Millennials have to be fiscally cautious in the economic situation we’ve inherited. Just as the Greatest Generation had to grow and adapt during the Great Depression, we are trying to grasp the realities and consequences of the Great Recession.